Division of the matrimonial property in Cyprus

Updated: June 16, 2024

Marriage is the cornerstone of society, and social institutions protect its sanctity. Nevertheless, sometimes, a marriage does not work for various reasons.

Decisions about children and property during divorce can be difficult and complex. This guide explains the legal framework for dividing matrimonial property upon divorce in Cyprus.

Key takeaways

  • The Family Court regulates the property between the spouses.
  • According to Cyprus Law Regulating the Property Relations of the Spouses of 1991 (No 232/1991), the only property to be divided is property one spouse got after the marriage or on the expectation of marriage.
  • The general rule is that one spouse is entitled to one-third of the property the other spouse got during the marriage or on expectation of marriage. The share can be reduced or enlarged upon proof of a more minor or significant contribution.
  • During the divorce, the court may allow one spouse to stay in the matrimonial home with the children. After the divorce, this order will expire.

Applicable legislation, court, and definitions

The applicable legislation is the Law Regulating the Property Relations of the Spouses of 1991 (Law No 232/1991).

The competent court is the Family Court.

The Family Court hears applications for:

Property means any movable or immovable property that any spouse got at any time after or before the marriage on expectation of marriage.

The matrimonial home is the house, apartment, or other structure used as the family’s primary residence and usual family home.

The applicant is the spouse who claims part of the property; the respondent is the spouse against whom the application is made.

The general rules

Under Cyprus law, when it comes to divorce and the division of matrimonial property, specific rules apply:

  • The spouses are independent when it comes to property. They will not have to part with personal assets because of divorce.
  • Under Article 14 of the Law, if one spouse’s property increases during marriage or upon expectation of marriage, the other spouse is entitled to a share. This share is one-third unless a larger or smaller share is proved. The spouse who alleges a smaller or larger share must prove it.
  • The property divided by the court is that which the spouses got after marriage or upon the expectation of marriage. Property does not mean personal property or property the spouse got before the marriage.
  • The court can order discovery of the property belonging to any of the spouses. If the spouse gives false, inaccurate or misleading information, they are in contempt of court.
  • The rights of the spouse who remained in the home taking care of the children and household are recognised in full and amount to contribution. The spouse who stayed at home is still entitled to one-third of the property the two spouses got during the marriage or upon the expectation of it (or even a more significant share upon proof).
  • Any gifts the respondent gives to the applicant count in calculating the total property the court awards to the applicant.

How is contribution proved?

Contribution must be proved if one of the spouses alleges a larger or smaller share than one-third of the property.

Proof can involve testimony, witnesses and documents.

Contribution can be money, payment of bills, personal work in the home, household duties, raising children, organising dinners and events (taking care of the social life), guarantees for mortgages and other loans and generally any form of contribution giving advantage to the other spouse, allowing the other spouse to carry on a profession or business or promoting the family’s welfare.

The matrimonial home

Concerning the marital home, the rules differ during and after divorce.

During divorce, the court can make an interim order allowing one spouse (usually the spouse with whom the children are staying, the resident parent) exclusive use of the home. The welfare of the children is among the court’s primary concerns.

The interim order expires when the divorce is issued. Then, the matrimonial home is divided according to contribution.

However, the order may be extended for a maximum period of two years after the dissolution of the marriage if the case circumstances and equity require it.

Exempted property

There are types of property that are not divided upon divorce. Each spouse can keep them. These types of property are:

  • Gifts, inheritance, or proceeds from gifts and inheritance.
  • Donations and bequests.
  • The property a spouse got before marriage.

Property under both names

Sometimes, the spouses acquire property they place in both their names, such as an apartment or a plot of land.

Such property will be divided in half unless a larger or smaller contribution is proved.

If the spouses have set up a company or business, experts will need to estimate its value.

Time limits

The parties have three years from the date of the divorce to claim property regulation. Counterclaims are allowed. For time limits, the counterclaim is considered to have the same date as the claim.

The claim is not inherited by the applicant’s heirs if the applicant dies unless it has been recognised by contract or filed as an action before the court.

No order for property or reduction of the proportion in some cases

Sometimes, the applicant will fail to get a proportion of the property, or their claim will be reduced. This results from some severe forms of misbehaviour on the part of the applicant, that is, if the applicant has:

  • Been convicted of the murder or manslaughter of the respondent or any of the respondent’s children.
  • Been convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to the respondent or any of the respondent’s children.
  • Deserted the respondent without any reasonable excuse or has neglected to maintain the respondent.
  • Behaved in an excessively cruel or immoral manner.

The bottom line

The family court divides the property one spouse got after the marriage or based on the expectation of marriage. The other spouse will get one-third of the share unless a different share is proven. The parties have three years from the date of divorce to make a claim.

The matrimonial home is shared accordingly, but the court may allow the spouse who keeps the children to stay with them in the house during the divorce and (in some circumstances) for two years after. Some forms of severe misbehaviour on the part of the applicant-spouse will result in failure or reduction of the claim.

Frequently asked questions

What are the property rights of one spouse against the other upon divorce?

A spouse is entitled to one-third of their contribution to the other spouse's property during marriage. The contribution may be indirect, for example, caring for the home and children.

How strong is the one-third presumption of property increase/contribution in divorce cases?

The presumption is “rebuttable”. This means that it is assumed to be one-third unless there is proof that it was higher or lower than that. The party claiming a higher or lower contribution must bring evidence to the Family Court.

Is any property, such as a gift or inheritance given to one spouse, exempted from division?

Yes, gifts and inheritance given to one spouse are exempt from division upon divorce in Cyprus.

How about gifts made from one spouse to the other during marriage? Is the spouse obliged to return them?

A gift transfers property, so the spouse who received it does not have to return it. However, the Family Court will count the value of the gifts when it estimates the property division.

Is the property division claim satisfied by a money order or transfer of property order?

The Family Court can issue both a money order and transfer of property orders, though money orders are more common.

How We Can Help?

We have been serving clients since 1983 with measurable success.
Follow us
Members of:
Cyprus Bar Association The Legal 500