Poland Divorce & Family Law

Marriage is a significant and formal institution in Poland, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the divorce procedure is equally formal and requires a court to be involved. So how do you get a divorce in Poland? How is child custody decided following divorce? And how are your financial arrangements settled after your marriage ends? Here we answers these questions and more.

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Divorce laws in Poland

Marriage is a formal and legally significant institution in Poland, which means the divorce procedure is equally formal.

The divorce rules are set out in an act of 1964 and in order to divorce there must have been an ‘irretrievable and complete disintegration of matrimonial life’. In real terms this means that there must be a breakdown in the spiritual, physical and economic bonds between you.

You must establish that a return to your married life will not occur, although you do not have to prove that there is a specific cause for this breakdown. The main reasons that cause the breakdown of marriage in Poland are adultery, alcoholism, aggression and violence.

One of you must petition for divorce and there will always be court proceedings. This takes place behind closed doors and only you, your spouse, your legal representatives and any witnesses will be present at the hearings. Both of you must explain whether your marriage has irretrievably broken down, and you must explain the situation of any dependent children.

Even if you can show your marriage has broken down, a court may not grant your divorce if they believe it would be detrimental to the welfare of your children or that it would be against the ‘principles of normal social life’.

Child custody rules after divorce in Poland

If you divorce in Poland, the court must decide on custody arrangements for your child.

If you have reached agreement yourselves, they will approve your agreement if they feel it is in your child’s best interests. This agreement should include:

  • Where your child will live
  • What contact rights the on-resident parent will have
  • What decisions will require a joint decision by both parents
  • How you will communicate with the other parent.

The court can decide that parental authority remains with both parents if you have agreed on arrangements and they believe you will cooperate with each other.

If you can’t agree, the court will make an award. The court can award custody to one parent, simultaneously limiting the authority of the other parent to specific rights in relation to your child (for example, being involved in decisions about your child’s education and health).

In Poland, courts still typically favour mothers when it comes to custody. They generally prefer to award custody to mothers – especially of young children – based on a traditional explanation of the existence of a mother’s greater emotional commitment to her child. The non-resident parent retains rights to contact unless they believe this is not in your child’s interests.

Contact may include visiting your child, taking them out of their normal residence, direct contact and indirect contact through correspondence.

If you petition for a divorce in Poland, you can claim child support. The financial situation of both parents does not exempt one from the responsibility of paying maintenance, meaning that even if you’re on a low income you are likely to still have to pay a share of this to support your child.

Poland is a party to the Hague Convention on the International Abduction of Children and is a signatory to the Brussels IIa regulations. This means that if your child is taken from Poland to another Convention country without your consent, the authorities will work to quickly and safely return your child to Poland.

Similarly, if your child is taken from a Convention country to Poland, you can apply to have them returned to their country of residence.

How a financial settlement works after divorce in Poland

If you don’t agree on the division of your assets following divorce in Poland, the courts can make an award.

They will divide any ‘community property’; namely anything that you acquired during the marriage. This includes income received from working while you were married and income from any marital property. Any property or assets you acquired before your marriage are generally kept separate.

The court will typically equalise assets, and they can either:

  • Award some assets to one party and some assets to the other party. For example, one party may receive shares while the other gets a cash payment. Sometimes this may be spread out in instalments
  • Order that assets are sold, and the proceeds divided.

In court, you can argue that property should be divided taking into account your personal contribution. However, the court will also consider the role of a spouse in looking after children, and the fault of each spouse in the breakdown of your marriage.

Additionally, if you were not ‘at fault’ for the end of your marriage, you can claim maintenance if your standard of living has deteriorated significantly after the divorce. While this award is not considered ‘compensation’, it essentially means that the consequences of the marriage survive after divorce.

Do you need help with your divorce?

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