Bulgarian family and succession law recognize only one form of couple's relationship:
MARRIAGE between persons of opposite sex.
Marriage is regulated by the Family Code.
Marriage is the only legally recognized form of a family union and limited to persons of opposite sex. Persons living in informal unions (heterosexual or homosexual) enjoy no rights under family or succession law.
Links to applicable regulations
MARRIAGE: Family Code (2009)
SUCCESSION: Law on Succession (1949)
CIVIL PROCEEDINGS: Civil Procedural Code (2007)
CONFLICT OF LAWS: Private International Law Code (2005) (of residual relevance)
Marriage is defined as a voluntary and equal rights union between a man and a woman which has been entered into with the purpose to create a family in compliance with the procedure and the requirements established by law that gives rise to mutual rights and obligations of the spouses. Three key principles of matrimony law may be outlined: (i) validity only of the civil marriage; (ii) monogamy; and (3) heterosexuality. All these key principles are established on constitutional level (Art. 46 of the 1991 Constitution) and they may only be varied by constitutional amendment. Marriage results in the establishment of personal and property relationships between the spouses. The Family Code provides only for the framework of the personal relations between the spouses and leaves to the spouses the possibility to form them according to their preferences. The freedom of the spouses is exercised within the limits of the accepted principles of morality, customs and fairness. Spouses stand on equal footing in marriage and they have rights and obligations of equal quality. The following personal obligations may be outlined: obligation for mutuality, including mutual respect and mutual understanding, fidelity, undertaking common care for the wellbeing of the family in accordance with the individual abilities (financial and otherwise) of each spouse.
The property relationships between the spouses are subject to detailed regulation in Family Code where the spouses are in the position to choose their property regime. Family Code envisages three property regimes between the spouses – statutory property (community) matrimonial regime, statutory separate matrimonial regime and a contractual regime.
The statutory property matrimonial regime is the regime applied by default if the spouses: 1.) have not concluded a valid matrimonial property agreement and have not chosen the separate matrimonial regime; 2.) are under the age of 18 or have a limited legal capacity; 3.) encounter issues which have not been explicitly dealt with in the matrimonial agreement. For the sake of legal certainty and stability the applicable property regime between the spouses is noted in a public electronically held registry. The property regimes between the spouses have the following characteristics:
Statutory matrimonial property regime. This regime represents a joint ownership of all assets, acquired during the marriage. The matrimonial property regime is indivisible. These assets are jointly owned by both spouses, regardless of whose name they were acquired, if acquired by means of a joint contribution by both spouses. The joint contribution of the spouses may take the form of investment of funds and labour, childcare and housework. Joint contribution is presumed subject to proof to the contrary. Each spouse's personal property consists of assets acquired before the marriage and inheritances and gifts acquired during the marriage. Chattels (movable property) acquired by a spouse during the marriage for his or her normal personal use or the exercise of his or her profession are personal property. Cash deposits are personal property. Following the divorce, matrimonial property is transformed into normal co-ownership.
Statutory separate property regime. The rights acquired by each of the spouses during the marriage are held personally by that spouse, but upon termination of the marriage by petition each spouse is entitled to obtain a portion of the value of the rights acquired by the other spouse during the marriage, to the extent that the claiming spouse contributed by labour, by his or her financial means, by taking care of the children, by housework or otherwise. The expense of meeting family needs is borne by both spouses; the spouses incur shared liability for obligations assumed for ongoing family needs.
Contractual regime. Spouses may conclude a matrimonial agreement, an option that is new to Bulgarian family law (since 2009). A matrimonial agreement may be concluded by spouses either before or during their marriage. The matrimonial agreement is limited to stipulations regarding the division of property between the parties, such as: the parties’ rights to the property acquired during the marriage; the parties’ rights to the property they owned before the marriage; the manner in which the property, including the family home, is managed and disposed of; the sharing of expenses and obligations by the parties; the property-related consequences in the event of divorce; the spouses’ maintenance during the marriage and in the event of divorce; the maintenance of the children born of the marriage. A stipulation transforming any premarital property of one of the parties into matrimonial community property is inadmissible. A matrimonial agreement may not contain provisions on pre-death arrangements, except with regard to the spouses’ shares in agreed matrimonial community property upon dissolution. The statutory matrimonial property regime applies to any property relations which are not settled by the matrimonial agreement.
Specific rule applies with respect to disposal of the family home, i.e. when the family home constitutes personal property of one of the spouses, disposal requires the consent of the other spouse unless the two spouses own another home which is co-owned or personally owned by each one of them. In the absence of consent, disposal can take place with the authorization of the district judge if it is established that the disposal is not detrimental to the children who have not reached the age of majority and to the family. This rule is relevant for all types of matrimonial property regimes with the exception of the contractual regime and to the extent something different has been provided in the matrimonial property agreement.
When a divorce is granted, if the family home cannot be used separately by the two spouses, the court will award its use to one of them if he or she has requested this and has a housing need. Where there are children born of the marriage who have yet to reach the age of majority, the court will rule of its own motion on the use of the family home, and may award such use to the spouse who has been awarded the exercise of parental rights, for as long as he or she exercises them.
There are two legal basis of succession – intestate and testate. Testate succession is given priority before intestate succession. The testamentary freedom should not disturb the reserved share of the heirs by law.
In case of testate succession, the surviving spouse and children of the deceased or, in the absence of descendants, the parents of the deceased are entitled to a reserved share. If the testator has descendants, surviving parents or a spouse, the testator may not make a disposition or gift of property adversely affecting their reserved share. The sum total of the reserved shares of all beneficiaries may account for up to five-sixths of the property if the deceased leaves behind a spouse and two or more children. The property other than the reserved share represents the testator’s disposable share. If there is no surviving spouse, the descendants (including adoptees) have the following reserved shares: in the case of one child or that child's descendants: one half; in the case of two or more children or their descendants: two-thirds of the testator's property. If there are descendants and a surviving spouse, the reserved share of the spouse is equal to the reserved share of each child. In this case the disposable share amounts to one-third of the property in the case of one child, one quarter in the case of two children and one-sixth of the property in the case of three or more children. If the testator leaves no descendants, the reserved share of the spouse is one half if the spouse is the only heir or one-third if there are surviving parents of the deceased. The reserved share of the surviving parent or parents is one-third. An heir, having the right to a reserved share, who cannot take in full of said share due to wills or donations, can request their reduction to the extent, necessary to supplement his or her reserved share. This right is given to the heir in its private interest and it is within the discretion of the heir to ask for compensation of his/ her reserved share. Testamentary disposition which infringes a reserved share is not per se invalid.
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DE FACTO FAMILY
De facto (informal) family finds limited legal recognition with respect to certain to tax and other public law related aspects, as well as in the area of civil registration, domestic violence and medical law. However, due to the fragmentation of the regulation and the variety of purposes served by this legal concept, it is not possible to outline de facto family as a separate family law formation.
Informal marital union is irrelevant in intestate succession.
De facto partners may arrange their property relations by means of a partnership contract. This type of contractual agreement is not specifically regulated by law and is governed by general contract law (the Law on Contracts and Obligations).