By Christos ILIOPOULOS* - Millions of Greeks and people of Greek background live outside the borders of Greece. Many of them are Greek – born, who left the country for a better future several decades ago or even recently. Many others were born outside
of Greece, to Greek parents or grandparents. Among these people, thousands wish to obtain the Greek citizenship and passport, while others have married and divorced and wish to remarry. For these reasons and for many others, a divorce court decision which has been issued by a court in another country needs to be enforced in Greece.
The process to enforce or validate a foreign court divorce decision in Greece requires filing a court petition by an attorney, who will act on behalf of one or both of the persons involved in the marriage and the divorce, or on behalf of one of their children or even grandchildren, who must demonstrate to the Greek court their interest, meaning their legal standing or locus standi, for filing to have the foreign divorce decision recognized in Greece. Usually, proving that the petitioner is about to obtain the Greek citizenship and needs the divorce recognized in Greece, or that he/she wants to remarry, should be enough to prove his/her legal interest to file.
As a standard rule of the procedure, the petitioner must have a Greek tax number called AFM. The petitioner can obtain a tax number in Greece easily and this will not make him or her having to file and pay taxes in Greece, if the petitioner does not have income in Greece. So, obtaining a Greek tax number is not a problem and does not create on its own any tax obligation in Greece. The owner of the new AFM may never use it again, if he does not earn income or own property in Greece.
The foreign court decision must be presented to the Greek court in official form, original or certified and officially translated in Greek, by a Greek lawyer who speaks the foreign language of the court ruling or by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Dept. or by a translator in the foreign country with the stamp of the local Consulate of Greece. In addition, the Greek court must see a statement, either in the foreign court decision itself, or in a separate letter or certificate by the foreign court, stating that the foreign court decision is final, or that it cannot be appealed anymore, or that the time limit to challenge it has passed, or a similar statement. The foreign court decision and the separate document, which states that the divorce is not subject to challenge, must both have Apostille stamps, one for each. In the case of a country where the Apostille convention is not valid, they have to be stamped by the Consulate of Greece of that country.
The court petition is filed by a lawyer at the appropriate Greek court, which usually is the court in Athens, a hearing date is set within a couple of months and the decision is issued in another couple of months. If the decision accepts the petition, the foreign divorce is recognized in Greece, and it can be used as if it was a divorce ordered by a Greek court in the first place.
26 September 2019
. *Christos ILIOPOULOS, attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece , LL.M.