The binding legal act for EU settling the jurisdiction over divorce claims is the Regulation 2201/03. The Regulation is concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility.

According to article 1 the Regulation shall apply, whatever the nature of the court in civil matters relating to:

(a) divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment;

(b) the attribution, exercise, delegation, restriction or termination of parental responsibility.

The matters referred to in paragraph (b) may, in particular, deal with:

(a) rights of custody and rights of access;

(b) guardianship, curatorship and similar institutions;

(c) the designation and functions of any person or body having charge of the child's person or property, representing or assisting the child;

(d) the placement of the child in a foster family or in institutional care;

(e) measures for the protection of the child relating to the administration, conservation or disposal of the child's property.

The Regulation shall not apply to:

(a) the establishment or contesting of a parent-child relationship;

(b) decisions on adoption, measures preparatory to adoption, or the annulment or revocation of adoption;

(c) the name and forenames of the child;

(d) emancipation;

(e) maintenance obligations;

(f) trusts or succession;

(g) measures taken as a result of criminal offences committed by children.

According to article 3 from the above Regulation  in matters relating to divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment, jurisdiction shall lie with the courts of the Member State

(a) in whose territory:

- the spouses are habitually resident, or

- the spouses were last habitually resident, insofar as one of them still resides there, or

- the respondent is habitually resident, or

- in the event of a joint application, either of the spouses is habitually resident, or

- the applicant is habitually resident if he or she resided there for at least a year immediately before the application was made, or

- the applicant is habitually resident if he or she resided there for at least six months immediately before the application was made and is either a national of the Member State in question or, in the case of the United Kingdom and Ireland, has his or her "domicile" there;

(b) of the nationality of both spouses or, in the case of the United Kingdom and Ireland, of the "domicile" of both spouses.

For the purpose of the Regulation, "domicile" shall have the same meaning as it has under the legal systems of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

In cases where the Regulation 2201/03 could not apply, the international competence of the Bulgarian court shall be determined by the Bulgarian Code for International Private Law.

Under Art. 7 of it, in order for the Bulgarian court to have jurisdiction over the divorce, it is sufficient for one of the spouses (whether it is a claimant or a defendant) to be a Bulgarian citizen or to be a person with habitual residence in Bulgaria. The provisions of both the Regulation and the Code for international private law do not define local and generic jurisdiction.

The court should observe the international competence “ex officio”. Where there is a pending case before a foreign court, the priority rule of the first case should apply.

Prepared by “Valova and Angelova” law firm