INTERVIEW: The most frequently asked questions that people make regarding divorces
Stella Georgiadou, lawyer in the Litigation department of A. G. Paphitis & Co. LLC who specializes in family disputes answers to the most frequently asked questions that people make regarding divorces.
A spouse who wishes to apply to the Court for the dissolution of a civil marriage can do that without any prior action. On the contrary, in the case of a religious/church marriage a notification must be first sent to the Bishop stating the reasons/grounds for divorce. According to the relevant legislation, the Bishop will then try to proceed with the reconciliation of the spouses. Nowadays, however, the effort for reconciliation rarely actually takes place. The divorce petition may be filed only after three months have elapsed from the time when the Bishop received the said notification, setting it as a prerequisite to the filing of the petition at the Court.
1. We were married in Cyprus but now I am living with my spouse abroad. Can I apply for a divorce in Cyprus?
According to the Family Courts Act of 1990 (23/1990) in order for the Cyprus Family Courts to have jurisdiction over a divorce case, at least one of the spouses, i.e. the applicant or the respondent, or both, must be Cyprus residents for at least 3 months prior to the filing of the divorce. If none of them resides in Cyprus, then the Cyprus Courts do not have jurisdiction to hear the case.
2. I live in Cyprus permanently, but my spouse lives abroad. Can I apply for a divorce in Cyprus?
Yes, according to the Family Courts Act of 1990 (23/1990), if the Applicant has been residing in Cyprus for at least 3 months prior to the filing of the divorce, then he/she is entitled to proceed with the filing of the divorce in Cyprus. However, in this case where the Respondent resides abroad, the Applicant must first apply to the Court for the leave/permission to serve abroad. Upon issuing of such an order by the Court the Applicant may proceed with the service outside of Cyprus.
3. How long does it take for a divorce to be issued?
The timeline for the issue of a divorce order depends on several factors, the main one being whether the Respondent will file an appearance note and a statement of defence to the divorce application. In the event where the Respondent does not file an appearance note and a statement of defence, the whole procedure can be concluded in a short time, namely in a couple of weeks from the date of first appearance at the Court. Specifically, if the Respondent and/or any appointed lawyer does not appear at the Court on the day when it is first set - even though the divorce petition was duly served to the Respondent – or they appear but state that the Respondent does not wish to file any statement of defence then the Court will set the case for proof. Upon proof of the case by the Applicant, the court order is issued.
In the event where the Respondent wishes to file a statement of defence to the divorce application, then a different route and timeline will follow which of course will take longer. The duration of this procedure is dependent on the time needed by each party to file their pleadings, the filing of any interim applications and of course the schedule and work load of the Court which will hear the case.
4. Should I also appear at the Court or can the divorce be issued without my presence?
Following relevant reforms in practice, the Applicant of a divorce application may not appear at the Court for the issue of the Court order, in the event where the Respondent has not filed an appearance note and the case has been set for Proof. Specifically, an affidavit must be filed on the part of the Applicant confirming and substantiating the reasons for seeking the divorce order. If the Court is satisfied that all the necessary requirements for the issue of a divorce order are met, then it will proceed with its issue. However, in the event where a hearing of the divorce application takes place, the physical presence of the parties is necessary.
5. What are the grounds for divorce under Cyprus Law?
According to Cyprus relevant legislation in order to proceed with the filing of a divorce application the existence of an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” must be proven. There are several grounds on which a divorce claim may be based, including the serious breakdown of the relationship, adultery, violence and physical abuse, insanity continuing for at least three years, imprisonment of the spouse for more than 7 years, separation for over 4 years, unjustified abandonment of the applicant from the other spouse for at least 2 years, change of religion, refusal of the spouse to have children, inability for execution of conjugal duties, spouse declared dead or missing.
6. In addition to the divorce, I would also need to apply for a maintenance/alimony order. Can I do so within the same application/procedure of the divorce?
No, the application for maintenance/alimony as every other application of family nature is a different application and must be filed separately by the Applicant. It will be heard by one Court judge on a different hearing.
A decision of the Family Court for the dissolution of a marriage shall become final after the expiry of the time limit for filing an appeal.
A.G. Paphitis & Co. LLC
Stella Georgiadou | Senior Associate
T: +357 25731000
F: +357 25761004