Although many of Turkey’s citizens are Muslims, divorce laws in Turkey are based on a civil code rather than on Sharia principles. While its divorce laws are broadly in line with other Western democracies, Turkey is not a member of the European Union and so EU regulations don’t apply
So how do you get a divorce in Turkey? How does child custody in Turkey work following divorce? And what about the financial settlements after divorce? Keep reading for our guide to divorce in Turkey.
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The grounds for divorce in Turkey
There are various grounds for divorce in Turkey. The most general is that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. If it is not possible for you to continue being married, then either of you can petition for divorce. The court will look at whether it is possible for you to stay married or grant you a divorce.
Other grounds for divorce that are acceptable in Turkey include:
- Bad treatment or making an attempt on the other spouse’s life
- One of the spouses has committed a crime or lives a ‘dishonourable life’
- Desertion – leaving the marital home for more than 6 months
- Mental illness.
The types of divorce in Turkey
There are two main types of divorce in Turkey:
- Consensual divorce
- Contentious divorce.
A consensual divorce can only take place if:
- You have been married for at least one year
- Both of you attend court and announce your decision to divorce
- A protocol agreement is made and signed by both of you.
This agreement must cover:
- How you will divide your assets
- Who will obtain custody of your child
- Contact arrangements for the non-resident parent
- Who will pay legal expenses
- Whether one of you will receive compensation
- Any alimony/maintenance payments you have agreed.
Even if you agree, the court will only accept your agreement if they believe it is in the best interests of your child and that it is in line with current family laws. If the court does accept the agreement, the divorce will normally take place in just one hearing.
If you can’t agree on your divorce, you must go through the following procedure:
- The person seeking the divorce will apply to the court
- The court hears evidence from both of you as well as any witnesses
- The court issues the final ruling on your divorce.
Child custody after divorce in Turkey
When dealing with a divorce, the court’s primary concern is the welfare of your child.
If you agree on the divorce, the court will approve your agreement if it believes it is in your child’s best interests. If you don’t agree, or the court feels that your protocol is unreasonable, it will make an order. The order will include:
- Where your child will live. Typically, the court will order that children under the age of 6 live with their mother. Above the age of 6 it is still more common for the mother to have custody, but the court can award custody to the father if it wishes.
- Which parent makes both day-to-day and major decisions regarding your child’s education, healthcare, religion and country of residence. Where possible these decisions will remain with both parents, but the court can award this responsibility to one parent if cooperation is not possible.
- Contact arrangements for the non-resident parent. These will generally be non-specific and require the parents to make details arrangements. Children have the right to direct contact with a parent alone (not supervised by the other parent).
- Whether child support is payable, by whom, and how much. The parent with income will generally be asked to pay child support to the age of 18 or another date agreed by both parents.
Turkey is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. This means that if your child is taken out of Turkey to another Convention country, or from another Convention country to Turkey, you can apply to the authorities for their swift and safe return.
Note that the courts in Turkey have a history of failing to comply with the requirements under the Hague Convention. Your child should ordinarily be returned within 6 weeks under the Convention, but in Turkey it can take one year or often longer for a return to take place. Indeed, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled more than once that Turkey has violated the rights of parents by failing to return children who were ‘abducted’ to Turkey.
Financial settlement on divorce in Turkey
The financial settlement after divorce in Turkey depends on the matrimonial property regime that you choose when you marry. Since 2002, the legal regime has been based on ‘acquired property’, meaning that assets acquired by either of you during the time you were married should be split equally on divorce.
Your assets can be divided in kind – for example, they would be split by value so one of you may retain the property and the other would receive investments/cash to an equivalent amount. Alternatively, your assets can be sold and the proceeds divided equally.
You can file a petition for a division of assets until one year after the effective divorce date.
The court can also decide on claims for support and maintenance. Typically, the person with money will support the one without. The amount of support will depend on your personal circumstances.
You can apply for a temporary support payment at the point where a divorce petition is submitted to ensure you are financially stable during the divorce proceedings.
If payments are ordered they will generally remain until the person receiving the money remarries. This is not the case for child support payments which continue even if one of both of you remarry.
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