Recognition of foreign divorce judgments in Poland – process, challenges and practical aspects


Dear Sirs,

In the course of our practice, which is primarily concerned with business law in its broadest sense, we also have the pleasure of taking on topics touching on other areas of law, which is always an exciting challenge for us.

During the performance of an assignment concerning cross-border insolvency proceedings, where part of the debtor’s property was located in Poland and was acquired within the framework of statutory marital joint property, which subsequently ceased to exist as a result of a divorce, the issue of recognition in Poland of a divorce judgment issued by a foreign court by Polish citizens proved to be important. Therefore, we would like to share with you our thoughts on this topic and point out the most important aspects related to it.

As it is well known, some Polish citizens currently have permanent residences abroad, where entire families relocate the main centre of their lives, not infrequently, however, retaining part of their assets (including those acquired under marital joint property), e.g. real estate in Poland. In practice, there are also situations where a divorce is subsequently effected abroad, which results in the need to disclose this fact to the competent authorities, e.g. in order to make an appropriate entry in the land and mortgage registers of the property acquired by the spouses prior to the divorce.  The issue then appears to submit a foreign divorce judgment and to answer the question of whether it is also valid in Poland and under which conditions.

In this context, it should first be noted that the manner of recognition of a divorce judgment, issued by a foreign court, depends on the timing of the divorce judgment and whether it was issued by a court of a European Union member state or by a court of a non-EU member state.

In the case we are discussing, the divorce judgment was issued by a German court, the EU regulations, more specifically Article 30(1) of Council Regulation (EU) 2019/1111 of 25 June 2019 on jurisdiction, the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility and on international child abduction (hereinafter Council Regulation (EU) 2019/1111), were therefore adequate.

Since 1 May 2004, divorce judgments issued by the courts of EU Member States have been directly recognised by the Polish authorities and are only subject to a registration procedure. This means that there is no need for the case to be re-examined by a Polish court, but that a foreign court judgment in a divorce case is fully and directly accepted by Poland. However, a procedure for the registration of such a judgment is necessary, which can be carried out in a Polish registry office or abroad through a consul.

When applying for the registration of a divorce judgement, it is important to identify the competent registry office (USC) and contact it to confirm the extent of the documents required (as practice in this regard is not uniform). Usually, the application for registration is submitted to the head of the registry office which has drawn up the marriage certificate.

The required documents in the registration procedure generally include:

  • a request to the head of the registry office to enter a divorce judgement as an additional entry on the marriage certificate,
  • the original of the divorce judgment which has acquired the decree nisi absolute, accompanied by an apostille, provided that if the judgment was given in proceedings where the defendant did not enter an appearance on the merits, a document establishing that the document instituting the proceedings has been served on him or her,
  • a translation of the divorce judgement, together with the decree nisi absolute, into Polish, drawn up by a sworn translator,
  • valid Polish passport or identity card (to be presented).

However, it is worth mentioning that it happens that some USCs additionally require the presentation of other documents, such as an “original certificate” drawn up by a competent authority of an EU Member State on the form set out in Annex I of the now defunct Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 (replaced by Council Regulation (EU) 2019/1111), even though this is not, in our opinion, necessary.

In the era of high mobility of Poles, who more and more frequently change their place of residence to another country, which is connected with the possibility of issuing judgments by the court of their current place of residence, i.e. a foreign court, the issue described above may have significant practical importance not only in the case of insolvency proceedings, but also in the case of enforcement against property located in Poland (in particular property which was originally covered by marital joint law which ceased as a result of divorce) and in inheritance cases, as well as in the case of an intention to sell property located in Poland (e.g. real estate) previously acquired by spouses who subsequently obtained a foreign divorce judgment. In particular, in the above-mentioned cases it may be necessary to submit a request for the divorce of a spouse who has been granted a foreign divorce judgement. In particular, in the indicated cases, it may be necessary to conduct the above-described registration procedure with respect to the foreign divorce judgment.

If you are interested in our article, we encourage you to contact our law firm for a possible legal consultation.