Iceland Mag

2 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


In Iceland foreign same sex couples can get married, but not divorced

By Staff

  • The right to divorce Iceland has become a popular wedding destination for foreign same sex couples. It turns out getting a divorce is a bit more tricky. Photo/Getty Images.

A same sex couple from Russia and Latvia which got married in Iceland in 2011 have been denied a legal divorce by Icelandic authorities. The reason is that foreign nationals who do not reside in Iceland cannot be granted a legal divorce in Iceland, even though they were married in Iceland. If the couple comes from a country that does not recognize same sex marriages it cannot get a divorce in their country of residence either.

The authorities don't seem to appreaciate this is a problem
According to lawyer Lára V. Júlíusdóttir, who represents the couple, this loophole can cause considerable problems for those affected. She points out that foreign same-sex couples have been encouraged to come to Iceland to get married, despite the fact that Icelandic law does not take into account the fact that same-sex marriages can end in divorce, just like any other marriage.

She tells local news site that she has on several occasions tried to alert the authorities to this problem, but without success. „I have written Althingi (Parliament) as well the Ministry of the Interior, as well as speaking to the Minister of the Interior in person, but for some reason everyone just shrugs their shoulders.“

Foreign nationals who don't reside in Iceland can't get a divorce in Iceland
According to current law either spouse has to have lived in Iceland for at least two years if the couple wishes to apply for a divorce in Iceland. If both parties are foreign nationals and neither live in Iceland the couple cannot get a divorce in Iceland, despite having been married in Iceland. This poses no problem for couples of the opposite sex who can get a divorce in their country of residence, but can pose problems for same-sex couples if they come from countries that don‘t recognize same-sex marriages.

Lára points out that when the laws were changed to allow same-sex couples to register as cohabiting a clause was added to make it possible for foreign same-sex couples who registered in Iceland  to similarly end their cohabitation in a Icelandic court. No similar clause was added when same-sex couples were allowed to marry.

Lára hopes that the Supreme Court of Iceland will rule that the couple’s human rights are being violated by the Icelandic state. The right to marry is defined as a human right according to the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore the right to divorce should be a human right as well.

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