Cabinet d'avocats Altea
Cabinet d'avocats Altea
Slide One

Administrative and Constitutional Law
Immigration Law
international Family Law

Slide One

Administrative and Constitutional Law
Immigration Law
international Family Law

previous arrow
next arrow

Recognition in Belgium of a common law relationship registered abroad

Throughout the world, there are common law relationships that are recorded by a public authority but do not have the same effects as marriage. In Belgium, these are known as ‘legal cohabitation’.

The types of relationship registered can be very different from one country to another. Some do not have an equivalent under Belgian law (for example PACS [civil solidarity pact] in France, civil union in Luxembourg and some partnerships in Spain). In these cases, these common law relationships cannot be registered as such by the Belgian authorities. The difficulty can nevertheless be circumvented in Belgium by submitting a (new) registration of a common law relationship on the basis of Belgian law. That is, as a legal cohabitation.

Indeed, the law of the State in whose territory a common law relationship is registered determines:

  1. the conditions for establishing the declaration of common law;
  2. its effects between partners;
  3. the causes and conditions of termination of the common law relationship.

A Belgian judge may however recognise a form of foreign common law relationship which does not have an equivalent in Belgium, for example in order to dissolve it, providing that the foreign law provides for the possibility of a legal dissolution of the relationship. The judge will then apply the said foreign law.

For the Belgian judge to be competent and to be able to receive an application relating to a common law relationship registered abroad, it being either:

  • that one of the parties has his habitual residence in Belgium and that the parties jointly submit the request;
  • or that the party making an individual request has usually resided in Belgium for 12 months before the request is made;
  • or that the last common habitual residence of the parties was in Belgium 12 months before the filing of the application;
  • or that the defendant has his domicile or habitual residence in Belgium when the claim is made;
  • or that the parties agree among themselves on the jurisdiction of the Belgian judge.

Regarding the right to family reunification due to a common law relationship registered abroad, to date, this only applies to registered partnerships from the following countries: 1. Denmark; 2. Germany; 3. Finland; 4. Iceland; 5. Norway; 6. United Kingdom; 7. Sweden (list determined by Royal Decree of 17 May 2007).

However, for family members of Europeans or Belgians who have exercised their right to free movement within the European Union, it is possible to avail themselves of a right to family reunification on the basis of a simple de facto relationship on condition that it is demonstrated that it is ‘lasting’.

For others, in order to claim the right to family reunification in Belgium, when submitting their application the partners must demonstrate that they are legal cohabitants under Belgian law and that they have:

  • either a common child; 
  • or that they have legally cohabited in Belgium or in another country for at least one year without interruption;
  • or they have known each other for at least two years. In this case, they must also demonstrate: 
    • that they have maintained regular contact by telephone, regular mail or email, and 
    • that they have met at least three times during the two years preceding the request, and 
    • whether these meetings total forty-five days or more.

Céline Verbrouck

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Altea brings together lawyers highly specialised in:

- Constitutional and administrative public law;

- Foreign nationals and private international family law.

The firm strives to be accessible.

Altea covers many intertwining areas but the firm’s lawyers all have an interest in defending human rights.


Boulevard Louis Schmidt 56, 1040 Etterbeek - Belgium

+32(0)2 894 45 70