Marriage, Civil Partnerships and Cohabitation in Belgium

Find out about getting married in Belgium including the process involved, the validity of the marriage in other countries and the recognition of gay marriage...

In Belgium a marriage between two people can take place as long as they have both reached eighteen years of age. Belgium was the second country in the world to legally recognise same-sex marriages and the process of getting married, along with the rights accorded to married couples, are the same for heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Minors over the age of sixteen may get married only with the consent of their parents and permission from the courts. Or they may appear before a court themselves to ask for permission to marry without their parents' consent. Permission will only be granted in extreme circumstances, for example, pregnancy.

At least one of the couple must have been resident in Belgium for a minimum of three months. This can be demonstrated by an air ticket, a rent receipt or similar.

  • For more information about marriage for foreigners: Click here
  • To learn more about conditions for marriage: Click here (in French)

The country of origin of both parties is irrelevant as long as one party fulfils the residency requirement and all the necessary paperwork is supplied.

  • For more information about laws applying for couples in Belgium: Click here

Gay and Lesbian Marriages

Since 2003, all rights accorded to a heterosexual marriage are the same in gay marriage (tax, property, inheritance law and the procedure for divorce). The only exception is that when a child is born by a homosexual woman, her partner is not considered to be the second parent. A same-sex couple may adopt children and any children born to a same-sex couple can be affiliated to the non-biological parent by means of adoption.

Recognition of the Marriage Outside Belgium

For EU citizens who have married in Belgium, the marriage will normally be recognised by their country of origin. For same-sex couples this is not always the case as many countries are yet to recognise gay unions. Same-sex marriage is legally recognized in several jurisdictions within the United States. Canada, the UK and some other European countries recognise same-sex marriage.

Since EU citizens have the right to freedom of movement throughout the EU, a spouse and any dependant children should have no issue with regard to immigration; again, for same-sex couples this is not always the case and local laws should be checked.

Where one or both of the partners are not EU citizens the situation varies. Canada, for example, recognises Belgian marriages, but the USA has varying laws governing marriage from one state to another and not all states will accept the validity of the marriage.

Again, if returning from Belgium to a non-EU country where only one partner is a legal resident of that country there may be immigration issues for the non-resident spouse. As the legal situation can be quite complex, contact your own embassy for advice.