Altea Attorney

Marriage and legal cohabitation


Marriage and legal cohabitation lawyer

Filing an application before local authorities or an embassy to discuss a marriage or legal cohabitation can be a stressful experience when immigration or residence is at stake (visa, family reunification, etc.).

It is reassuring to know beforehand which formal documents are required. This even may be essential. For example, if one of the future spouses doesn’t have the required legal documents in Belgium, a smooth running of the procedures may prevent or hold up the deportation of the individual in the interim period between application and marriage.

As from the first steps of the procedure, investigations are conducted. Contacts between embassies, Civil State Office and the Immigration Office may take place according to the situation. It can be difficult to situate at which stage of the procedure one is, and which risks are associated with every step.

By understanding the control task entrusted to civil state officers and embassies, it becomes easier to prepare for the investigations in a constructive and assertive way. Many errors can be avoided by simply having knowledge of your rights and obligations. For instance, a large age difference between spouses together with the fact that one of spouses does not have a residence permit, does not constitute sufficient grounds to refuse a union, whether it be a marriage or legal cohabitation.

This can also be an efficient mean to reduce the amount of time a procedure takes, as it can sometimes take several months, or even years in case of an application rejection.

Furthermore, it can be interesting to reflect on questions, such as - but not limited to - the following: Should legal cohabitation be favoured over marriage? Is it better to marry abroad when one of the future spouses is not a Belgian citizen? Will a marriage performed overseas be valid in Belgium? Can one marry or declare legal cohabitation in the absence of a residence permit? Which national law will be applicable to my marriage or my divorce? What will be the matrimonial regime? Do I have the right to a visa for family reunification in Belgium?

Altea offers advice by expert lawyers, adapted to your personal situation.

Contact Céline Verbrouck or Catherine de Bouyalski, specialist lawyers in immigration law and international family law, certified by the Order of Lawyers of the Bar of Brussels.

Refusal of marriage or legal cohabitation application

Most of the time, it is possible to avoid a decision of refusal of marriage or legal cohabitation if one correctly prepares the project or reacts appropriately to the investigations or to the decision to (temporarily) halt the further process.

The law regulates the hypotheses that allow to consider a marriage or legal cohabitation to be ‘sham’ or ‘forced’.

Legal action or going to trial might be necessary.

A refusal of marriage or an annulment can also have dire consequences on an application for nationality, or for the visa application for family reunification.

Altea offers advice by expert lawyers, adapted to your personal situation.

Contact Céline Verbrouck or Catherine de Bouyalski, specialist lawyers in immigration law and international family law, certified by the Order of Lawyers of the Bar of Brussels.

Annulment of marriage or legal cohabitation

If a person of good faith has been deceived by their spouse or legal cohabitant, and has sufficient proof to demonstrate this, they can attempt to ask a judge for an annulment of the marriage or legal cohabitation.

The law also provides that the Crown Prosecutor can ask, on its own initiative, for the annulment of any marriage or legal cohabitation it deems to be ‘fake’.

There are other reasons for annulment: for example if the age requirement is not met, if there is bigamy, if the marriage is not celebrated before the competent judge, etc.

In addition to the annulment which can be decided by a civil judge, a criminal judge can also decide to annul the union and impose criminal penalties (imprisonment of 3 months up to 5 years, and fines between 250 and 5000 €). These sanctions are applicable to both ‘sham’ or forced marriages and legal cohabitations.

The penalties also apply to attempts of a sham or forced marriage or legal cohabitation.

The Belgian Nationality Code states that nationality can be refused to those who have undergone a fake marriage. In some cases, Belgian nationality can be revoked.

In practice, we observed that the revocation of Belgian nationality is exercised differently depending on the region. Some judicial districts are more ambitious when it comes to eliminating fake marriage.

With regards to family reunification, the irrevocable annulment of a marriage can constitute an obstacle when one of the ex-spouses applies for family reunification with another third person.

Altea offers advice by expert lawyers, adapted to your personal situation.

Contact Céline Verbrouck or Catherine de Bouyalski, specialist lawyers in immigration law and international family law, certified by the Order of Lawyers of the Bar of Brussels.

mariage