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The term ‘cohabiting relationship’ is used to describe a situation whereby two people live together and there is an obligation to register this relationship with a public authority, but such a relationship does not create a link between the cohabiting persons in the same way as marriage.
Establishing a cohabiting relationship in Belgium or abroad
1. In Belgium
You must contact the Registrar of the municipality where you and your partner have your common residence. A Belgian Registrar can only record the termination of a cohabiting relationship if it was initially registered in Belgium.
If you want to register a cohabiting relationship abroad, you will have to contact the relevant authority in the country concerned. A Belgian Consulate-General or consulate does not have any authority in such matters.
What is the applicable legal system?
A cohabiting relationship is governed by the laws of the country where the relationship was first registered, even if both partners are subsequently domiciled or habitually resident in another country.
The applicable law determines whether such a registration is possible, its effects on both partners and their property, as well as the circumstances and conditions for terminating the relationship.
Ending a legal cohabitation?
1. In Belgium
Until 10 March 2023, legal cohabitation is terminated:
- Through a written declaration handed over, with mutual consent of the cohabitants, or unilaterally by one of the cohabitants, to the registrar of births, marriages and deaths of the municipality of the residence of both parties or of the residence of either of them.
- When either partner dies.
- When either partner marries.
From 11 March 2023, legal cohabitation is terminated:
- By means of a written declaration handed over, with mutual consent of the cohabitants, or unilaterally by one of the cohabitants, to the registrar of births, marriages and deaths of the municipality of the residence of both parties or of the residence of one of them (1).
- When either partner dies (2).
- When the partners marry each other.
Belgian law provides that from 11/03/2023 a marriage with a third party is only possible after the Belgian legal cohabitation has ended in accordance with the aforementioned points (1) and (2).
If cohabitants are registered abroad and wish to terminate their Belgian legal cohabitation, the FPS Justice recommends that they address their request to the municipality of their last residence in Belgium.
The Belgian consulates have no jurisdiction in this matter.
Cohabitation or a registered partnership is terminated in accordance with the law of the State where it was registered.
Belgian consulates have no jurisdiction in this matter.
Effect of legal cohabitation or a registered partnership on the parentage with regard to a Belgian father?
Under Belgian law, a declaration of legal cohabitation concluded in Belgium or a form of partnership registered abroad before the birth of a child does not establish the legal parentage of the child with regard to a Belgian father. The father must still acknowledge the child in accordance with Belgian law, even if the law of the foreign country where the partnership was registered establishes the parent-child relationship with regard to the child's father ipso facto, regardless of the father's nationality.