The consequences of divorce
Whether it be by mutual agreement or by court decision, the children are entrusted to one of the parents or to both parents who exercise parental authority, either alone or jointly with the ex-spouse.
Except in the case of alternated custody, and if no agreement has been found by the parents, the parent who did not get the child’s custody has access to the children and welcomes them in his/her home during the periods specified by the judge in the divorce decision.
Maintenance allowances and alimonies
There are two categories:
- Concerning the children
Divorce does not interrupt the legal obligation to contribute to the education and maintenance of children. The parent who does not have custody of the children must pay child support to the other. If no agreement has been found by the spouses, the judge determines the amount of this allowance based on the resources of both parents and on the children’s needs. Child support is indexed on the cost of living and has to be paid until the children can meet their own needs, including after their majority (if necessary). It is usually indexed (the amount varies every year) and may be revised by the Family Court if any changes concerning the needs or the resources have occurred.
- Concerning the spouse
When one spouse does not work or when incomes are very disparate, divorce may create significant imbalances in the lives of the ex- spouses.
In order to rectify this situation, the spouse who has the most substantial incomes may be required to pay the other alimony during the procedure (under duty of assistance) and maybe also a capital after the divorce.
In this latter case, there is a « compensatory allowance ». The judge may order a compensatory allowance in the form of annuity if there are special grounds in the decision (if the spouse cannot meet his/her own needs because of his/her age or state of health) and if it is impossible to produce a lump-sum for the spouse.
The impact on the estate
Divorcing has a significant impact on the spouses’ estate and entails the necessity of splitting the common assets or joint assets between the spouses.
The intervention of a notary is recommended here and is necessary when the couple owns real estate. In fact, sharing a selling price does not always imply two shares of the same value either because of the debts between the spouses that the notary will be able to evaluate, or because of compensation owed by or to the community liquidated by the notary (because of legacies, donations, handed gifts, assets owned before the marriage).
The notary may have to prepare a project during the procedure, either at the request of the parties or by court order within the context of the non-conciliation order.
The fate of donations and benefits between spouses
Divorce does not affect donations between spouses concerning present assets, that is to say, the direct or indirect donations that the spouses were able to consent to each other during marriage. Donations on death and marriage benefits taking effect at one of the spouses’ death can be freely revoked, unless the spouses decide to keep these benefits (which is rarely recommended) or if the judge decides so.
This rule was introduced by the divorce reform and will avoid past difficulties which resulted from spouses having forgotten to revoke their testamentary dispositions or « donations between spouses ».
The family house
One of the spouses, especially the spouse who has custody of the children, can ask to keep the family home.
- In case of lease, this spouse will become sole tenant,
- if the spouses own the house together, the spouse entitled to keep the house must buy the other’s share and ask for preferential allotment
- in certain special cases, it may either be imposed by the judge or decided by mutual agreement between the spouses that the family house remain in joint ownership for a maximum period of five years.
- if the other spouse is sole owner, then the spouse who is entitled to keep the family house becomes the other’s tenant .
If the spouses cannot come to agreement, the judge will rule on the terms of the use and allocation of the family home.
Note that the former family home is legally still considered as such during the divorce proceedings and that in case of sale, the consent of both spouses is required.