In Poland, the grounds for divorce are the complete and irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. The court ruling is necessary when only one of the spouses files for divorce. In this case, it is necessary to determine the degree of fault and the manner in which the other spouse has contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.
Our divorce lawyers in Poland can help individuals who wish to dissolve a marriage. We can help not only with the divorce proceedings in court but also with assistance for the division of property.
The divorce law in Poland
The divorce in Poland can be defined as a way to solve the existing terms of the rights of marriage, by a court decision, at the request of one or both spouses.
Due to the legal significance of the institution of marriage, which requires a formal model of marriage, the divorce is also characterized by a high degree of formalization. This means that the procedure for granting a divorce is extensive and the actual granting of the divorce takes place only after the court proceedings and usually lasts much longer than the procedure of marriage.
The legal grounds for divorce in Poland are regulated in the Family and Guardianship Code.
The divorce procedure in Poland
The divorce in Poland is final upon the completion of the court proceedings. The case is initiated brought as a lawsuit to court. The application for divorce includes a set of documents, among which a copy of the marriage certificate and the birth certificates of the children, when there are minor children. Proof of payment for the court fees must be provided.
The court that will handle the case, or the competent court, is the district one where the spouses had their last home together. In the absence of the base, only the courts in the place of residence of the defendant or the court in the place of residence of the plaintiff can judge the divorce case.
The reason for the divorce in Poland is a spouse who wants a divorce, called the plaintiff, and the other spouse, the defendant.
In the case of divorce, a court hearing is necessary and it will take place behind closed doors. Only the parties, their representatives, and the witnesses participate in this meeting. During the hearing, both parties are requested to present their case and this process is mandatory. They will explain whether there has been a breakdown of the marriage and which is the situation of the minor children.
When or if the court decides that the marriage is salvable, the judge may refer the parties to mediation. This alternative dispute resolution method aims to solve the issues and conflicts between the parties in a manner in which the separation or the divorce can be avoided altogether. If this is not possible, then the mediator will try to solve the terms relating to childcare and property ownership as amicably as possible. One of our divorce lawyers in Poland can give you more options about the alternative non-judicial means of ending a marriage. We can also help you with negotiation proceedings when necessary.
The treatment of minor children and alimony after a divorce
The Family and Guardianship Code grants by numerous provisions the statutory principle of an equal standard of living of parents and children. The spouse who filed for divorce is the one who has the right to claim maintenance for the minor children. The financial situation of the parents does not exempt them from the obligation to provide alimony for the needs of children unless they are deprived of this possibility at all. In some cases, the court may decide that it is in the best interest of the children to limit the parental responsibilities to only one of the parents. If necessary, the court can dictate the express responsibilities of the parent that has a limitation of the care of the children.
Property separation after the divorce
Separate property is a form of property regime, characterized by the absence of a common property of the spouses. Instead, the joint property of the spouses implies common management of the property. It should be emphasized that the personal fortunes are, from the perspective of law, distinct from each other.
In practice, this means that each spouse owns and manages his/her assets completely autonomously, independently of the actions taken by the other individual. This does not mean, however, that spouses are deprived of the possibility of joint acquisition of rights and the joint obligations that arise (for example joint conclusion of the credit agreement, the purchase of an asset).
According to Polish law, there are three main types of separation of property, namely: separate property by agreement, division of marital property under a court ruling and separate property of equalization accomplishments. In almost all divorce cases, the division of property is performed for the joint property: in this case, both spouses have equal shares in the commonly acquired assets and real estate. One or both spouses may request a special court division of property. This means that the court will decide how the assets will be distributed according to the contribution percentage of each of the former husband and wife. The court divorce degree can also establish the manner in which the two individuals will resolve any accommodation issues when they share the same home.
If one of the spouses is in financial difficulty, and if he/she is not the party found at fault for the breakdown of the marriage, a maintenance claim can be submitted. This is established based on reasonable needs and on the income of the other spouse. When, after a divorce decree, the financial situation of one of the spouses (the one who is not responsible for the divorce) is sees as severely damaged, then the other party may be required to provide for the needs of the other. All maintenance obligations case when the spouse who receives them is remarried. When the maintenance payment falls onto one of the spouses but he/she was not solely at fault for the marriage breakdown, then this responsibility ceases five years after the divorce date.
Another legal consequence of divorce is that the spouse who changed his/her surname will revert to the one before this event. This is done by submitting a declaration to the registry office and within three months after the divorce is final.
Separation and marriage annulment in Poland
Separation is another manner in which a marriage can dissolve in Poland and it has the same legal consequences (the change of name, alimony, and division of property) as a divorce. However, an important difference is that the separated spouse cannot remarry, as in the case of divorce. The grounds for separation are the same as in the case of a divorce, namely the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
The divorce procedure is not conditioned upon an earlier separation. One of our divorce lawyers in Poland can give you more information about separation and divorce and can help you with legal counseling if you are considering one of these.
Marriage annulment is a distinct manner in which the effects of marriage are canceled with a retroactive effect. The only exception is the status of the children born from that marriage. The conditions in which marriage annulment applies are the following:
- failure to observe the marriage age: the union is annulled when a spouse if below the legal marriage age (and the ceremony took place despite the fact that the required documents were presented at the time).
- the spouse is incapacitated: this refers to the situation in which a spouse is fully legally incapacitated, is mentally ill or has an intellectual disability.
- unconscious agreement: if at the time of the marriage one of the parties was unable to consciously express his or her will or was under an unlawful threat, irrespective of the reasons.
- the spouses are related: this refers to lineal consanguinity, collateral consanguinity or when they are related by adoption.
When the marriage is annulled because the union took place in bad faith, then the spouse who entered the marriage in bad faith will be the one liable for the breakdown of the marriage. The annulment is generally retroactive and its effects go back to the date of the marriage, however, in some cases the consequences of annulment arise only after the cancellation of the marriage is final (this applies to property in general).
Child custody after divorce in Poland
An important issue to consider for all married couples who are starting the divorce or separation proceedings is how the process will affect their minor children. Upon the completion of the divorce proceedings, the court is the one that determines the custody over the common children and other important matters, such as issues regarding their education, can be solved by the former spouses with the help of mediation.
As a general rule, the court will take into account the best interests of the children and siblings are not separated after divorce. It is possible, when the parents can agree on custody and contact, for the court to take into account a formally executed parental agreement. When this is not the case (when the parents cannot agree), the manner in which custody is exercised is decided solely by the competent court.
The choices for child custody after divorce in Poland can be the following:
leave the child/children with both parents (meaning that both former spouses retain parental authority);
allow parental authority to only one of the parent, as well as limiting the parental duties of the second to only specific issued (such as participating in important decisions concerning the education of the child or the religious upbringing).
It should be noted that these choices also apply in case of the separation of parents who were not married. A special situation arises in those cases in which the parents live separately and/or abroad (or one of the parents lives in Poland and the other one abroad). In this case, the court will decide how parental authority will be best exercised in the interest of the child or children.
Apart from the general powers over establishing parental authority, the court can also suspend parental authority and subsequently deprive a parent of his or her authority due to abuse of such authority or gross negligence towards the child (included here are the parent’s refusal to support the child, a complete breakdown of the bond with the child as well as lack of interest in the child’s life). A parent who lost parental authority still remains obliged to support the child financially. Moreover, the court can decide to restrict parental authority through special orders when the child’s wellbeing is endangered.
An important distinction is made between parental authority and visitation rights. Irrespective of how the court grants this authority after divorce in Poland, it is in the due care of the parents to stay in contact with the child, according to the Family and Guardianship Code. This means that, if the parents cannot agree themselves, the court will determine the visitation rights and schedule so that the child can maintain contact with both parents. The court will take into account the reasonable wishes of the child, as applicable, when determining the manner in which contact with a parent will take place. The parent who has not received custody rights has visitation rights, provided that this is in the best interest of the child. The court may decide to limit the visiting parent’s rights to take the child outside the place of residence or it may decide that the non-custodial parent may only meet the child in the presence of the other parent.
The court reserves the right to change a previously issued contact order, according to the best interests of the child or children. Contact orders issued for a child after the divorce of his or her parents remain in place until the child comes of age (is 18 years old).
Discussing complex matters such as child custody and support is important. Our team of lawyers in Poland can help answer your questions and will assist you throughout the divorce proceedings. We can help parents reach an agreement through negotiation.
Divorce statistics in Poland
offers us a glimpse into the situation in the country through data gathered on the dissolution of marriage by the appropriate court. The following data on divorce in Poland is relevant:
more than 51,000 married couples divorced in Poland in 2020; more than 14,000 compared to 2019;
700 marriages were issued separation during 2020, less than those in 2019.
the number of divorces was 3 times larger in urban areas; the number of separations in the first half of 2020 was twice as high in urban areas, compared to rural ones in the country;
the divorce rate in 2020 was 1.3 ‰.
The reduced number of divorces in 2020 was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic limitations and restrictions, which also included limited court activity to hear divorce and separation cases.
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