14 sep 2021
Statement on Kringvarp Føroya’s news report on foreign marriages and legalisation

News report on Útvarpstíðindi on 8. September 2021 at 06.00 pm.

Information on foreign marriages

The request for a legalisation of a marriage certificate does not mean that the Family Law Administration confirms that the marriage is not in force.

A legalisation attests to the authenticity of the signatures on the marriage certificate but does not guarantee the authenticity of the document’s content.

In connection with Kringvarp Føroya’s news report on foreign marriages, the Family Law Administration wishes to make the following statement.

The Family Law Administration only assesses foreign marriages when the Family Law Administration receives an application for:

  • Separation or divorce
  • Approval of marriage certificate
  • Spousal maintenance, while married 

Separation/divorce

In connection with separation or divorce applications, the Family Law Administration, in some instances, may request the legalisation of a foreign marriage- or birth certificate or that the document be stamped with an Apostille certification.

A legalisation is an attestation from a public authority that the person who has signed the document is genuine and possesses the authority the person claims to have. The legalisation does not guarantee the authenticity of the document’s content. Three different public authorities usually legalise a document (the relevant government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the consulate/embassy of the country where the document is to be presented).

Example:

  1. The relevant government shall legalise the signature of the person who signed the document.
  2. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall legalise the signature of the relevant person from the relevant government (mentioned in point no. 1) who issued the document.
  3. The Danish Embassy/Consulate must legalise the signature of the relevant person from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (mentioned in point no. 2).
     

Apostille certification is a particular kind of legalisation to simplify regular legalisation (see above). If the country in question is a member of the Hague Apostille Convention, it is only necessary to legalise the so-called apostille certification. The foreign ministry where the document was issued certifies official documents with an Apostille certification.

Example:

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must certify the document with an Apostille certification. 
     

Only countries that are members of the Hague Apostille Convention can use this procedure. Find a list of Apostille countries here.

What is the purpose of a legalisation?

The purpose of legalisation is to guarantee that the person who has signed the document is genuine and possesses the authority which the person claims to have. The legalisation does not guarantee the authenticity of the document’s content.

What countries do not require legalisation?

As a main rule, the following countries do not require legalisation: 

  • Europe (however, legalisation of marriage certificates is required from certain countries, such as Albania, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Russia, Ukraine)
  • Turkey
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand

Please note! If it is impossible to legalise documents due to circumstances in the country in question, the Family Law Administration does not require the legalisation of the documents.

The request for a legalisation of a marriage certificate, does not mean that we ascertain that the marriage is not in force.

A legalisation only attests to the authenticity of the signatures on the marriage certificate and does not guarantee the authenticity of the content of the document. 

Recognition of foreign marriages

When the Family Law Administration has received a legalised marriage document, when legalisation of the marriage document has been requested, the Family Law Administration assesses the marriage certificate’s content. The content of other foreign marriage documents that do not require legalisation will also be assessed.

In that context, the Family Law Administration examines whether

  • the foreign authority officiating the marriage has the authority to officiate a wedding.
  • both spouses were present during the marriage ceremony.   

If the abovementioned conditions are met, the marriage is recognised. The Family Law Administration can subsequently grant the spouses divorce or separation, provided that the remaining conditions for separation or divorce are met.

Where can you find further information?

The Family Law Administration is currently producing a section for the website that explains legalisation and Apostille certification and describes how the Family Law Administration usually recognises marriages.

When processing various foreign domestic relations documents, e.g. foreign marriages, the Family Law Administration’s line of procedure is in accordance to “Vejledning om dokumentation for ægtheden af familieretlige dokumenter fra udlandet” ("Guide on documentation of the authenticity of foreign domestic relations documents"), Vejledning nr. 11344 af 30/12/2015. Read the guide in Danish here

Does it ever occur that the family law administration does not recognise a foreign marriage?

The Family Law Administration does not have the statistics, but it rarely happens that it does not recognise a foreign marriage. As stated above, the documents usually only need to be legalised. The Family Law Administration does not know of a divorce case where it has been determined that the spouses are not legally married.

Do you need assistance?

If you are having difficulties procuring a legalised document, we will be pleased to help you.

Procedures concerning applications for separation/divorce

Obtaining a separation and divorce through the Family Law Administration requires that the marriage is legally valid and that the spouses agree on the following

  • separation/divorce
  • whether one or none of the spouses are to pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse, and, in such case, agree on the duration and amount of the spousal maintenance
  • possible compensation for separate property

Please note that a spouse can choose to apply for a separation/divorce to either the Family Law Administration or the Court of the Faroe Islands, as there is parallel authority to process separation- and divorce cases.

The Family Law Administration does not initiate cases on its own initiative. Therefore, both or one of the spouses must submit an application for separation or divorce to the Family Law Administration. According to current law, documents must be attached to the application when submitted to the Family Law Administration.

The relevant documents are:

  • A copy of the marriage certificate
  • A copy of the birth- and naming/baptism certificate of the spouses and joint children who have not attained the age of 18.
  • A copy of possible marriage settlements.

The procedure concerning an application for separation/divorce is that the spouses must provide all of the requested documents in the case to the Family Law Administration, including legalised documents. Subsequently, the spouses are asked to attend a negotiation meeting at the Family Law Administration (a separation- or divorce meeting where terms are negotiated).

The procedure before Kringvarp Føroya demonstrated the rather unfortunate procedure

The Family Law Administration distinguished between whether it was

  • one of the spouses that applied or
  • both of the spouses applied

If both applied:

If not included in the application, both spouses were requested to provide a marriage certificate and/or birth certificate. Once the Family Law Administration had received the necessary documents, both spouses were invited to a meeting concerning the separation or divorce.

If only one of the spouses applied:

Only the applicant was requested to provide a marriage certificate and/or birth certificate, if not included in the application. Once the Family Law Administration had received the necessary documents from the applicant, both spouses were invited to a meeting about separation or divorce. The other spouse (not the applicant) was in this context informed about the applicant’s application.

Procedure after Kringvarp Føroya demonstrated the rather unfortunate procedure

If both apply:

The procedure is unchanged. In other words, it is the same as the one mentioned above.

If only one of the spouses applies:

If not included in the application, the applicant is requested to provide a marriage certificate and/or birth certificate. The other spouse will at this time be informed about the application and asked to provide a marriage certificate and/or birth certificate, if not included in the application – if the person in question agrees to the separation/divorce.

If neither parties provide the Family Law Administration with the necessary documents, the application for separation/divorce is denied. The applicant receives the rejection, and the other spouse is informed about the rejection. Both spouses are advised that if they wish to apply for separation/divorce later, they can use the same application again or put the case before the Court of the Faroe Islands.

We want to thank Kringvarp Føroya for bringing this to our attention.

Concerning deadlines

Kringvarp Føroya points out that the Family Law Administration states that if the spouses fail to provide the requested documents within a month, the Family Law Administration assumes that the spouses do not wish to proceed with the separation/divorce.

It is estimated that a month is usually enough time to acquire the requested documents. If the deadline is too short, the spouses typically request an extension, which they are granted.

 

The Family Law Administration regrets that the previous procedure has led to confusion and worry for our clients. 

Sincerely

The Family Law Administration

+298 20 22 24

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