One in five marriages in Cyprus will end in divorce. Family law provisions on the island are complicated by changes in the law made in 2003 which means that different laws will apply to those who were married before 2003 and those who were married after 2003. The newer Marriages Law 2003 will deal with divorces of marriage celebrated after 2003 whereas marriages that took place before 2003 are dealt with under the provisions of the Family Courts Law.
In order for a divorce to be dealt with by the Cypriot Courts, the parties must have lived in the Republic of Cyprus for at least three months, nationality is not a factor.
The first matter to be ascertained when seeking a divorce is whether the marriage was celebrated in the Church. In the case that no religious ceremony took place, an application may be made to the Courts to divorce immediately. However, where a Church ceremony has also taken place, the competent Bishop will need to be informed of the intention to divorce before the Registrar of the Family Court will accept the application for divorce in the Civil Court. The only cases where this will not be necessary are in the case of divorces by reason of a spouse declared missing and presumed dead or divorce on the grounds of insanity. Three months from the date of notification of the Bishop will need to pass before the application for divorce in the Civil Court may proceed.
Broadly speaking, in order to obtain a divorce the following grounds may be cited:
- Serious breakdown of the relationship;
- Inexcusable desertion for two years or long periods of absence that add up to more than two years. An invitation to return should have been made;
- Separation for five years;
- Immoral behavior leading to relationship breakdown which makes the relationship intolerable to the applicant;
- Violence within the relationship, physical abuse;
- Imprisonment of the spouse for over seven years;
- Spouse declared dead or missing;
- Inability to have sexual intercourse which existed at the time of creation of the marriage and continues for six months and at the time of application for divorce;
- Refusal of one party to have children against the wishes of the other party;
- Change of religion.
The application to dissolve the marriage will need to be submitted to the Family Court in the province where the parties live. Where a religious ceremony took place, the application must be accompanied by proof of posting notification to the Bishop mentioned above.
The Family Courts will be able to grant exclusive use of the home or possessions pending divorce, but the application for divorce will primarily concern the dissolution of the marriage, matters concerning property disputes and maintenance will need to be settled by means of separate applications.
The Court will deal with the division of property in accordance with the Law Regulating Property Relations of Spouses (Law 232/1991) which provides that in the event of dissolution or annulment of a marriage if the property of one spouse has been increased and this increase has been contributed to in any way by the other spouse then an application may be made by the contributor for a return of a share of the increase.
The contribution will be presumed to be 1/3 of the increase unless a larger or smaller contribution is proved.
Maintenance may also be awarded in according to the provisions of Law 232/1991 in the event that the spouse cannot maintain him/herself because of age, health or where a child is under 18.
The Relations of Parents and Children Law (216/1990) gives mandatory child maintenance provisions and states that parents are jointly responsible for the maintenance of minor children according to their capacity.
Family law is a highly sensitive area of law. Michael Chambers & Co LLC’s team of Family Lawyers is able to advise on all aspects concerning divorce, property settlements, maintenance and custody. If you wish to speak to one of our lawyers in absolute confidence then please contact us.