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First preliminary results of the bilocation presumption in the Belgium divorce law reform of 2006

December 12, 2008

On November 5th, 2006 new Belgian divorce legislation on presumptive coparenting and alternating residence and care over the children after divorce came into force in the Belgian divorce courts.

For the Belgian lawtext that was implemented on November 5th, 2006 see:

And for an analysis of the underlying principles on which the new Belgian legislation was based and formulted also see:

For the first time in a Western democratic country the predominant mother presumption in allocating sole care and residency by the family courts to the mother of the children was overturned by law and an equal level playing field and coparenting presumption was introduced and implemented between the divorcing parents, fathers and mothers alike, when negotiating their postdivorce parenting arrangements favoring the joint care and residency presumption over their children after the divorce as the default position instead of the mother presumption and default.

What are the outcomes of first preliminary research into the results of the new Belgian divorce legislation?

At present – known under the short name of “IPOS-Divorcestudy” or under its full name of “Interdisciplinary Project for the Optimalisatiin of Divorcetrajectories (IPOS); Looking ast divorce in a different way” – a longitudinal evaluation and research study is performed and executed in Belgium by the University of Gent in coöperation with the Catholic University of Leuven among new Belgian divorcees themselves, their children and the professions involved in divorce, looking into the results of the new legislation for the parents, children and professions involved in it.

It is a longitudinal research study for several years to come and the first preliminary results were presented at two subsequent symposia in Brussels: The first one being in December 2008 and the second one only last March 25th 2010 (your Edward Kruk was also invited there and gave an excellent presentation). But nothing is really published yet as it is a longitudinal study of several years.

Belgium has two different divorce proceedings to get a divorce:
To understand the first results of the evaluation that were presented in December 2008 (N=1000) you first need to know that in Belgium you can divorce in two different ways: EOT vs EOO

1. EOT:

Divorce by mutual consent and joint application (the divorcees/parents start divorce proceedings in court with an agreed divorce arrangement which is called in Belgium an EOT – “Echtscheiding door Onderlinge toestemming”) is by far the majority divorce proceeding in Belgium.
About 76% of all Belgian divorces are started and ended by mutual consent and joint application (EOT) and 75% of the divorces with children involved are by EOT.

2. EOO:

Divorce by Catastrophic Disruption and adversary application (which is called in Belgium an EOO – “Echtscheiding door Onherstelbare Ontwrichting”)
About 6% of Belgian divorces are started as EOT (i.e. by mutual consent application) to then turn sour and end as EOO (i.e. by adversary application).
And about 17% of Belgian divorces are sour from the start, so they start and end as EOO (i.e. by adversary application)
Taken together 24% of all Belgian divorces are ended by adversary application (EOO) and 25% of the divorces with children involved are by EOO.

>>> It is by the way interesting to know that the first results presented in December 2008 also showed that those Belgian people chosing to divorce by adversary application (EOO) especially have a higher median conflict level about money and property to be divided (conflict level M = 2.84), then the Belgian people chosing to divorce by mutual consent (conflict level M = 2.21).

First IPOS research results that were presented in December 2008 of the new Belgian legislation that was introduced in november 2006:
Now that  you are aware of this difference between EOT and EOO, the first preliminary results presented in December 2008 (total number of divorcing couples researched N=1000, of which N=757 were divorces with children) have shown that since the new Belgian presumptive bilocation or alternating residence legislation was introduced in november 2006 following results emerged:

1. EOT-divorces under the new legislation: 43% (N=245) of all EOT divorces with children (N=569) resulted in court established coparenting or bilocation parenting orders

  • Of the researched divorcing Belgian parents with children (N= 757) divorcing by EOT (N=569) 62% (N= 353) factually have a parenting plan or parenting agreement established by the court in the divorce proceeding, of which 2/3 are coparenting or bilocation arrangements.
  • 43% (N=245) of the Belgian parents divorcing by EOT (N=569) in the new bilocation legislation are now factually agreeing on coparenting and bilocation arrangements for the care and residence of their children after divorce.

2. EOO-divorces under the new legislation: 6,4% (N=12) of all EOO divorces with children (N=188) resulted in court established coparenting or bilocation parenting orders

  • But of the researched divorcing Belgian parents with children (N=757) divorcing by EOO (N=188), only 16% (N=30) factually have a parenting plan requested and ordered by the divorce court in their divorce proceedings,
  • of which again 40% (N=12) are coparenting or bilocation arrangements.
  • So taken together in the end only about 6,4% of EOO divorces (N=12) have a coparenting or bilocation parenting plan established by the court in their divorce

3. When taking the first results of current Belgian EOT- and EOO-divorces under the new legislation since november 2006 together then 34% (N=257) of all Belgian divorces with children (N=757) now result in court established coparenting or bilocation parenting orders under the new legislation

When taking the results of both types of Belgian divorce proceedings (the mutually consented EOT and the adversarial EOO) together, then since the introduction of the new alternating residence legislation on November 5th, 2006 in the Belgian divorce courts:
– 34% (N=257) of all Belgian divorces with children (N=757) resulted in a coparenting or bilocation parenting order by the Belgian divorce courts,
– 17% (N=126) of all Belgian divorces with children (N=757) did also result in a parenting order by the Belgian divorce court, but this was not a coparenting or bilocation order, but a single residence and care with access arrangements parenting order,
– while 49% (N= 374) of all Belgian divorces with children (N=757) did not result in any parenting order at all by the Belgian divorce courts, because such was not requested to the court by the divorcing parents in the divorce proceedings.

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