Marriage contracts and prenuptial agreements
Belgians residing abroad can turn to the competent local authority to deal with procedures concerning property and family law.
Belgians having their habitual residence in a country outside the European Union can also contact the Belgian consular representative competent for the consular jurisdiction.
A marriage contract is a formal deed in which the future spouses set out the property regime applicable to their marriage as they see fit, albeit within the confines of the law.
If they do not sign a contract, the legal regime shall apply.
The spouses may change their matrimonial property regime during their marriage.
Procedure for drawing up a marriage contract abroad
The contract must be drawn up before the marriage takes place. The parties therefore have to appear before a Belgian notary, who draws up the draft deed with a view to having the actual deed signed by the competent Consulate.
The contract takes effect on the date of the civil marriage.
All marriage contracts must be recorded in the Central Register of Marriage Contracts (CRM).
If a contract is not in accordance with the principle of proportional division or provides for the appointment of an heir, it must also be recorded in the Central Register of Last Wills and Testaments (CRT).
A prenuptial agreement contains all the rules governing the ownership and use of assets during the marriage and the settlement of these assets in the event that the marriage is dissolved.
The prenuptial agreement takes effect on the day of the marriage ceremony and expires on the death of one of the spouses, their legal separation, divorce, the legal division of their assets or the adoption of another matrimonial property regime.
Different matrimonial property regimes
The communal estate regime is based on the existence of three separate estates: the property that belongs to each of the spouses separately and the property that belongs to both spouses together.
In the regime of separate estates there is no communal estate. All assets and liabilities are, in principle, completely separate and each of the spouses manages his or her own property.
These systems are not mutually exclusive. They may be modified by means of special provisions.
The spouses may change their matrimonial property regime during their marriage by appearing before a notary.
Spouses who reside abroad and who wish to change their matrimonial property regime under Belgian law must appear before a Belgian notary to effect any such changes.