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05 Dec 2019

Cyprus Family Law: Family Structures

Under Cypriot Family law, distinct family structures give rise to distinct rights for their members. The structure that confers the most rights arising from the union, to the spouses, is marriage; however, civil partners or unmarried couples also benefit from some rights according to the domestic and European legal frameworks.

Marriage

The applicable Cypriot laws regulating matters relating to contracting and dissolving a marriage are the Marriage Act of 2003 (Law 104(I)/2003); and Law 16(III)/2003 which ratified the UN Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriages. In Cyprus marriage could be celebrated either pursuant to the canon of a religious group or via civil agreement. Marriage is only an available option for unions between a man and a woman, however a civil marriage can be celebrated between individuals of any religious group. The Christian Orthodox church permits unions between roman catholic and orthodox individuals in addition to an all orthodox union, which is called a mixed marriage.

Rights conferred to the spouses in a marriage, include succession and inheritance rights, adoption rights, rights regarding children, migration, property and employment, among others. Contact us for more information with regard to your rights as a spouse under Cyprus Family Law.

Divorce

In the case that the marriage relationship results to a breakdown, Cypriot family law provides for the possibility of a divorce in order to dissolve the marriage union. However, Cyprus has not yet established provisions for uncontested divorce. Hence even in cases where there is a mutual desire of both parties to end the marriage, the Petition for Divorce is filed in the Family Court on behalf of one of the two parties.

The Family Courts of Cyprus have jurisdiction to handle Divorce Petitions which concern couples regardless of citizenship, given that one of the parties or both, have been residing in the Republic of Cyprus for a period of at least three (3) months.

In case the parties have concluded a Religious Marriage, the process for dissolution of the marriage commences by sending a Notice of Intention to File a Petition for Marriage Dissolution to the competent Bishop (the Bishop of the place of residence of either one of the spouses). After a period of three (3) months, the Petition for Divorce may be filed in the Family Court of the city where the parties reside.

Since, as aforementioned, the concept of a no-fault/uncontested divorce does not exist, a reason for a divorce must be listed in the Petition for Divorce. One of such reasons may be the irretrievable breakdown of the marital relationship for reasons which are attributed to the respondent or to both spouses, which makes the continuance of the marital relationship intolerable for the applicant.

Rights of unmarried couples or de facto partners

While Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament was transposed into national law under Law 7(I)/2007 which deals with the free residence and movement of citizens of member-states of the EU in the Republic of Cyprus, and provides under article 4(2)(b) and relevant caselaw recognizes the rights of unmarried couples, in Cyprus there is yet to be a law governing cohabitation without marriage or de-facto partnership. However, property rights of unmarried partners may be invoked by the application of the law of equity and the rules of constructive trusts.

Rights of Civil Partners

In November 2015, Law 184(I)/2015 on Civil Partnerships was passed in Cyprus, giving legal status to a family union under a civil partnership agreement which can be entered into by "two heterosexual or homosexual persons". Article 4 of such law stipulates that the civil partnership carries the same rights as marriage, equalizing the terms "spouse" and "partner" under the law, unless otherwise specified therein; a notable exception is the one relating to the law on adoption. A civil partnership may be dissolved through a common written declaration of the Partners, before the Registrar before whom the Civil Partnership was concluded, in the presence of two witnesses.

Watch this space for our next article on the topics of Adoption, Paternity Disputes and Custody disputes

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