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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EU Residency Rules Don’t Matter in Bigamy Case

(CN) - An heir seeking to annul a dead man's second marriage because he was still married to his first wife may have a case under EU law - just not in the court she chose to file in, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday.

Edyta Mikolajczak sued in a Polish court, claiming to be the heir of one Zdzislawa Czarnecka. Czarnecka married Stefan Czarnecki in Poland in 1937; Stefan died in 1971, and Zdzislawa died in 1999.

However, Stefan married a French citizen in 1956 - apparently before his marriage to Zdzislawa had been dissolved - leading Mikolajczak's petition to annul Stefan's second marriage on grounds of bigamy.

The French wife fought the petition, arguing that Polish courts didn't have jurisdiction over a marriage that took place in France. Meanwhile, Polish law allows for any person with a legal interest to request annulment of a marriage on bigamy grounds.

EU law complicates matters in regard to jurisdictional requirements for requests to annul marriages, requiring a petitioner to have resided in the member state in which they're bringing the action for at least a year or six months if they're a citizen of that member state.

The Polish court therefore asked the European Court of Justice whether the EU's jurisdictional requirements also apply to third parties seeking to annul the marriage of another.

In a 5-page ruling, the Luxembourg-based high court said that Mikolajczak certainly has the right under EU law to bring her case for annulment. However, the court said that the jurisdictional requirements apply only to spouses seeking divorce or annulment.

The court said the regulations are meant to protect the interest of spouses, to reflect that couples move and that in some cases a spouse moves out of the member state and must be allowed to file wherever they move to.

As a third party seeking to annul a marriage where one of the spouses has died, Mikolajczak can't rely on the residency rules and file her petition in Poland where she lives - particularly when the surviving spouse lives where the marriage was conducted, the high court said.

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