Belgium: Family Law

Belgium: Prenuptial Agreements, Marriage Contracts

The marriage contract

A marriage contract under Belgian law is a formal deed whereby the parties specify the terms of their marriage, but subject to the Belgian rules concerning "public order and common decency." Absent a marriage contract, they are governed by the statutory prenuptial system.

The spouses may change the marriage contract during their marriage.

Procedure for signing a marriage contract

The contact must be drawn up before marriage. The parties must appear before a Belgian notary, who draws up the deed with a view to having it signed by the embassy or consulate. A party who is unable to attend may be represented by a proxy by means of a special  power of attorney executed before a notary.

The contract takes effect on the date of the civil marriage ceremony.

The marriage certificate must provide the following information: date of the contract, the name and address of the notary who drew up the contract, and the type of marriage contract. Failing this, any clauses derogating from the statutory system may not be applied to third parties who engaged in contractual relationships with the husband and wife without knowledge of their marriage contract.

Any transfer of real estate in connection with a marriage contract must be registered with the mortgage registration office.

All marriage contracts must be registered with the Belgian Central Register of Marriage Contracts (CRM).

If an agreement deviates from the proportional distribution rule or provides for the appointment of an heir, it must also be registered with the Central Register of Last Wills and Testaments (CRT).

If one spouse is a merchant, the marriage certificate must be filed with the clerk of the Commercial Court in whose jurisdiction that spouse is listed in the trade register, within one month after the date of the marriage contract.

The prenuptial agreement

A prenuptial agreement should set forth all the rules governing the ownership and use of assets during the marriage and the settlement of those assets in the event that the marriage is dissolved.

The prenuptial agreement takes effect on the day of the marriage ceremony and ends upon the death of one of the spouses, with their legal separation, divorce, the legal separation of their assets or the adoption of another prenuptial agreement.

Different kinds of marriage systems

The statutory system is the system of communal estate of husband and wife comprising only property acquired after their marriage. It applies in the absence of a marriage contract. It is based on three types of estate: a) estate belonging to the husband; b) estate belonging to the wife; c) estate common to the husband and wife. The spouses are independent with respect to their own estates and equal with respect to their communal estate.

The system of separate estates by prenuptial agreement applies only if it has been expressly selected in the marriage contract. Under this system, there is no communal estate. There is, in principle, full separation of assets and debts, and each spouse manages his or her own assets.

These systems are not mutually exclusive. They may be modified by means of special clauses.

During the contract, the spouses may amend the prenuptial agreement before a notary.

Spouses who reside abroad and wish to change their prenuptial agreement under Belgian law must appear before a Belgian notary to effect any such changes. 

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