Proceedings on recognition of foreign decisions

Recognition of foreign decisions in the Czech Republic

Recognition of decisions issued by bodies of another country is governed by EU legislation, international agreements and domestic legislation. However, EU legislation and the provisions of international agreements shall have priority over domestic legislation. Czech legislation, particularly Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law, shall apply to matters not affected by the aforementioned legislative provisions. In a whole series of cases therefore, the recognition of a foreign decision in the Czech Republic is automatic, and therefore no separate decision regarding recognition is necessary (this is explained in greater detail below).



The Supreme Court, based on Sections 51 and 55 of Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law, decides only regarding recognition of legally effective foreign decisions regarding divorce, legal separation, declaration of a marriage as invalid and determination of whether or not a marriage exists, particularly in matters pertaining to determination (or disproving) of fatherhood, if at least one of the parties to the proceedings is/was a citizen of the Czech Republic. More detailed information regarding the conditions and course of the proceedings conducted in accordance with Sections 51 and 55 of Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law, can be found in the section “Act on International Private Law”. However, this approach relates only to decisions not affected by an automatic method of recognition pursuant to regulation Brussels II bis, and/or an automatic method of recognition based on multilateral or bilateral international agreements (see the rules specified below).

Recognition of a decision regarding divorce

Regulation Brussels II bis

Recognition of foreign decisions regarding divorce, separation or declaration of a marriage as invalid at the EU level is governed by Council Regulation (EC) No. 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003, concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000 (hereinafter the “Brussels II bis Regulation”). This regulation, effective as of 1 March 2005, applies to cases when a decision regarding divorce, separation or declaration of a marriage as invalid is issued in another EU member state (other than Denmark). In accordance with Article 21 paragraph 1, decisions are recognised without any special proceedings being required, and under Article 21 paragraph 2 of the Brussels II bis regulation no special approach (proceedings) are required in the case of updating of records regarding marital status in one member state based on a decision regarding divorce, separation or declaration of a marriage as invalid, which has been issued in another EU member state and against which based on the legislation of that other member state an appeal cannot be lodged.

Therefore, it applies among EU member states that a verdict regarding divorce, separation, legal separation or declaration of a marriage as invalid, issued in one member state, is recognised in all other member states without the need for special proceedings and without a special decision being required. Decisions issued by courts in one member state have the same legal effectiveness in other EU member states.

Such decisions and certifications issued regarding them do not require legalisation or other formalities. A submitted decision be accompanied by an official translation into Czech, but not an Apostille or super legalisation clause (for details see “Recognition of foreign public documents in the Czech Republic”).

Although decisions of courts of EU member states (with the exception of Denmark) based on the Brussels II bis regulation are recognised without the need for special proceedings and without a separate decision, either of the parties involved may request the issuance of a decision regarding recognition or non-recognition of a foreign decision by a Czech court (Article 21 paragraph 3 of Regulation No. 2201/2003). Such request regarding issuance of a decision regarding recognition or non-recognition of a decision is nonetheless only facultative, and therefore it does not represent an essential condition for recognition and/or enforcement of a decision. A court may decide to refuse to recognise decisions regarding divorce, separation or declaration of a marriage as invalid (see Article 22 of the Brussels II bis Regulation). Under Article 21 paragraph 3 of the Regulation, each member state is required to notify the Council of the EU of which courts will have jurisdiction for hearing and discussing requests for recognition of decisions by bodies of other member states. In the Czech Republic, district courts have jurisdiction for the particular proceedings (Section 16 paragraph 2 of Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law).

A list of countries to which the Brussels II bis Regulation applies:
Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Austria, Romania, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, UK, Spain, Sweden

International agreements

In cases not affected by the Brussels II bis Regulation (Denmark and non-EU countries), it is necessary to determine whether or not a decision is governed by any international agreements; in this particular case these are bilateral agreements regarding legal assistance and the Hague Convention governing recognition of decisions regarding divorce. Decisions governed by the Hague Convention are recognised automatically in the Czech Republic under established practice, without the need for a special decision regarding recognition.

Countries that are parties to the Hague Convention governing recognition of decisions regarding divorce (except for the EU member states to which the Brussels II bis Regulation applies):
Albania, Australia, Denmark, Egypt, Moldova, Norway, Switzerland
(situation as of 29 March 2016, a current list of contractual states can be found directly at the website of the Hague Convention)

Besides the Hague Convention governing recognition of foreign decisions regarding divorce, bilateral agreements regarding legal assistance apply, which as a general rule also govern issues related to recognition of decisions. Some of these agreements specify that decisions are recognised without conditions needing to be fulfilled. In such cases, the recognition of a decision does not require any further proceedings before a domestic court. In the case of other agreements, however, further proceedings regarding recognition conducted before a domestic court are expected.

Bilateral agreements regarding legal assistance, which enable automatic recognition of decisions, have been entered into by the Czech Republic with the following countries:
Albania, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine

In the case of these countries, the recognition of a decision regarding divorce is automatic, and no further decision regarding its recognition in the Czech Republic needs to be issued.

However, in the case of other bilateral agreements, which do not establish automatic recognition of a decision regarding divorce, it is necessary to proceed in accordance with Section 51 of Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law, and to conduct proceedings regarding recognition before the Supreme Court.

Act on International Private Law

If a decision that was issued in a country to which neither the Brussels II bis Regulation nor the specified international agreements apply is to be recognised, then it is necessary to proceed in accordance with Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law. The provisions of Section 51 of that Act state that legally effective decisions regarding divorce in the Czech Republic are recognised based on a special decision issued by the Supreme Court at the request of a party to the proceedings or at the request of someone who proves a legal interest.

Therefore, if recognition of a decision is governed by the Act on International Private Law, then the recognition of the decision is not automatic. In order for recognition of the decision it is necessary to file a request with the Supreme Court, which shall issue a decision regarding recognition of a foreign decision regarding divorce.

It is essential to point out that pursuant to the provisions of Section 52 of the Act on International Private Law, in a situation in which during the decisive period all parties to the proceedings were citizens of the country in which the decision was issued, such legally effective foreign decision shall automatically have the same effects as if it were a decision issued by a Czech court. A similar situation shall occur if the foreign decision is recognised in the home countries of all parties to the proceedings. In such cases, no further proceedings regarding recognition shall be required.

A submitted request for recognition of a foreign decision subject to recognition by the Supreme Court must be accompanied by:

1. A court fee of CZK 2,000 (a duty stamp in this value).

2. A document declaring that at least one of the parties to the proceedings was at the time of issuance of the decision regarding divorce a citizen of the Czech Republic (Section 51 paragraph 1 of Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law). A certificate of state citizenship issued by a relevant authority is usually expected (Section 44 of Act No. 186/2013 Coll., on state citizenship of the Czech Republic and on amendment of certain other acts). It is also possible to present a valid national identity card or passport of a Czech citizen (photocopies of the pages showing the validity of the passport), if citizenship is being certified at the time of the divorce (a document certifying citizenship is not currently sufficient).

3. A foreign decision regarding divorce (or invalidity of a marriage), as an official transcript or certified copy, in its full wording, including an explanation with a clause regarding legal effectiveness obtained by a body that issued the foreign decision (if such clause has been issued). The decision may need to be accompanied by an Apostille, or its super legalisation may be required (for more details about the requirements for obtaining an Apostille or higher verification through super legalisation, see “Recognition of Foreign Public Documents in the Czech Republic”).

4. The marriage certificate regarding the marriage that has been dissolved based on a foreign decision should be submitted with the request for recognition of a foreign decision regarding marriage (particularly regarding divorce or invalidity of a marriage).

5. The request for recognition of a foreign decision which instead of an explanation refers to the factual details contained in the request (action) or in the record of the hearing shall be accompanied by transcript (copy) of the request (action), which was filed with a foreign court and/or a copy of the record of proceedings conducted at a foreign court.

6. If the person filing a request for recognition of a foreign decision is represented based on a power of attorney, the power of attorney authorising the representative to act on the plaintiff’s behalf before the Czech Supreme Court shall be submitted. Representation based on a power of attorney is beneficial in particular if the person who submitted the request is located abroad, to where it would be necessary to deliver correspondence via diplomatic missions of the Czech Republic and bodies of the foreign country responsible for mediation and provision of international legal assistance.

All documents in a foreign language used for proving the details contained in the request for recognition of a foreign decision will need to be accompanied by a certified translation into Czech (a list of official translators can be found at each regional court, including the Municipal Court in Prague).
If the necessary documents are not attached to the request, then the person requesting the recognition of the foreign decision (or that person's representative) shall be called upon by the Czech Supreme Court to submit (add) them.


The senate of the Czech Supreme Court shall discuss the request for recognition of a foreign decision without the need for a hearing to be ordered. A written copy of the Czech Supreme Court’s decision regarding recognition of a foreign decision in the Czech Republic shall be delivered to the person who requested recognition of the foreign decision or to his/her representative, who is representing him/her based on a power of attorney.

If the request does not contain all of the necessary details, the court shall ask the plaintiff to add to it. However, such circumstances can prolong the process for the party to the proceedings. In some cases, foreign decisions cannot be recognised. Such cases include those in which a Czech court has exclusive jurisdiction, or in which a foreign court's jurisdiction is insufficient, or in which proceedings are already being conducted in the Czech Republic regarding the same matter and such proceedings were commenced before the proceedings in the other country where the decision was issued, or if a legally effective decision of a Czech court exists regarding the same matter or recognised decision from another country, or if the party to the original proceedings has been deprived of the opportunity to participate properly in a hearing, or if such foreign decision would conflict with public order.

Recognition of a decision regarding determination or disproving of fatherhood

The Brussels II bis Regulation does not apply to foreign decisions regarding determination or disproving of fatherhood [See Article 1 paragraph 3 letter a) of the Regulation], nor does any multilateral convention. However, bilateral legal agreements regarding legal assistance as well as the Czech Act on International Private Law do apply to them.

Bilateral international agreements

Some bilateral agreements regarding legal assistance specify that decisions are recognised without conditions needing to be fulfilled. In such cases, the recognition of a decision does not require any further proceedings before a domestic court. In the case of other agreements, however, further proceedings regarding recognition conducted before a domestic court are expected.

Bilateral agreements regarding legal assistance, which enable automatic recognition of decisions, have been entered into by the Czech Republic with the following countries:
Albania, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Hungaria, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine

In the case of a decision regarding fatherhood issued in these countries, recognition is automatic in the Czech Republic, and no further special decisions regarding recognition are necessary.

However, in the case of other bilateral agreements, which do not establish automatic recognition of a decision, it is necessary to proceed in accordance with Section 55 of Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law, and to conduct proceedings regarding recognition before the Supreme Court.

Act on International Private Law

If it is necessary to recognise a decision that was issued in a country with which a bilateral agreement on legal assistance expecting automatic recognition of a decision has not been entered into, then it will be necessary to proceed in accordance with Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law. This Act, in the provisions of Section 55, states that for recognition of legally effective decisions regarding determination or disproving of parenthood, if at least one of the parties to the proceedings is a citizen of the Czech Republic, Section 51 of the Act shall apply similarly. The provisions of Section 51 of that Act state that legally effective decisions regarding divorce in the Czech Republic are recognised based on a special decision issued by the Supreme Court at the request of a party to the proceedings or at the request of someone who proves a legal interest.

Therefore, if recognition of a decision is governed by the Act on International Private Law, then the recognition of the decision is not automatic. In order for recognition of the decision it is necessary to file a request with the Supreme Court, which shall issue a decision regarding recognition of a foreign decision regarding divorce. During recognition of a decision regarding parental status, Section 52 of the Act on International Private Law shall apply similarly. If all of the parties were citizens of the country where the respective decision was issued, then the decisions shall be recognised without further conditions being required (Section 55 paragraph 2 of the Act on International Private Law).

A submitted request for recognition of a foreign decision subject to recognition by the Supreme Court must be accompanied by:

1. A court fee of CZK 2,000 (a duty stamp in this value).

2. A document declaring that at least one of the parties to the proceedings was at the time of issuance of the decision regarding determination of fatherhood a citizen of the Czech Republic (Section 55 paragraph 1 of Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law). A certificate of state citizenship issued by a relevant authority is usually expected (Section 44 of Act No. 186/2013 Coll., on state citizenship of the Czech Republic and on amendment of certain other acts). It is also possible to present a valid national identity card or passport of a Czech citizen (photocopies of the pages showing the validity of the passport), if citizenship is being certified at the time of the proceedings..

3. A foreign decision regarding determination or disproving of fatherhood, as an official transcript or certified copy, in its full wording, including an explanation with a clause regarding legal effectiveness obtained by a body that issued the foreign decision (if such clause has been issued). The decision may need to be accompanied by an Apostille, or its super legalisation may be required (for more details about the requirements for obtaining an Apostille or higher verification through super legalisation, see “Recognition of Foreign Public Documents in the Czech Republic”).

4. The request for recognition of a foreign decision regarding determination or disproving of fatherhood must be accompanied by the born child’s birth certificate.

5. The request for recognition of a foreign decision which instead of an explanation refers to the factual details contained in the request (action) or in the record of the hearing shall be accompanied by transcript (copy) of the request (action), which was filed with a foreign court and/or a copy of the record of proceedings conducted at a foreign court.

6. If the person filing a request for recognition of a foreign decision is represented based on a power of attorney, the power of attorney authorising the representative to act on the plaintiff’s behalf before the Czech Supreme Court shall be submitted. Representation based on a power of attorney is beneficial in particular if the person who submitted the request is located abroad, to where it would be necessary to deliver correspondence via diplomatic missions of the Czech Republic and bodies of the foreign country responsible for mediation and provision of international legal assistance.

All documents in a foreign language used for proving the details contained in the request for recognition of a foreign decision will need to be accompanied by a certified translation into Czech (a list of official translators can be found at each regional court, including the Municipal Court in Prague).
If the necessary documents are not attached to the request, then the person requesting the recognition of the foreign decision (or that person's representative) shall be called upon by the Czech Supreme Court to submit (add) them.


The senate of the Czech Supreme Court shall discuss the request for recognition of a foreign decision without the need for a hearing to be ordered. A written copy of the Czech Supreme Court’s decision regarding recognition of a foreign decision in the Czech Republic shall be delivered to the person who requested recognition of the foreign decision or to his/her representative, who is representing him/her based on a power of attorney.

If the request does not contain all of the necessary details, the court shall ask the plaintiff to add to it. However, such circumstances can prolong the process for the party to the proceedings. In some cases, foreign decisions cannot be recognised. Such cases include those in which a Czech court has exclusive jurisdiction, or in which a foreign court's jurisdiction is insufficient, or in which proceedings are already being conducted in the Czech Republic regarding the same matter and such proceedings were commenced before the proceedings in the other country where the decision was issued, or if a legally effective decision of a Czech court exists regarding the same matter or recognised decision from another country, or if the party to the original proceedings has been deprived of the opportunity to participate properly in a hearing, or if such foreign decision would conflict with public order.

Recognition of foreign public documents in the Czech Republic

A public document is a document issued by a public power body within the scope of its authority or a document declared by law as a public document. The person or entity who issued the public document is usually confirmed by an official stamp of the issuer and a signature of the issuer’s authorised representative. In order for a public document issued in another member state to have power as evidence also in the Czech Republic, then pursuant to the provisions of Section 12 of Act No. 91/2012 Coll., on international private law, it must be accompanied by the required verification. In practice two possible methods of verification are used: super legalisation and Apostille; an Apostille, unlike super legalisation, represents a simplified form of higher verification (see below). If so stipulated by an international agreement or by a directly applicable EU regulation, the recognition of foreign public documents may be entirely automatic without the need for further procedures.

Relief of a foreign public document from a requirement for higher verification

A public document may be recognised automatically, without further verification being required, if the country that issued it has entered into a bilateral or multilateral agreement stipulating relief from the requirement for verification.

In the Czech Republic’s case, such bilateral agreements have been entered into with the following countries:
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Belgium (only for documents related to a court request), Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro, France, Georgia, Croatia, Italy, Yemen, North Korea, Cuba, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Portugal, Austria, Romania, Russia, Greece (only for papers related to a court request), Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Syria, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia (only for documents within the scope of international judicial cooperation), Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam

We will also encounter relief from the requirement for verification in the case of multilateral international agreements, such as in the case of the Hague Convention regarding recognition and enforcement of decisions regarding maintenance obligations. Several pieces of EU legislation contain similar relief from the requirement for verification for judicial and other public documents within the scope of their applicability. In the case of judicial cooperation in civil matters, provisions that can be mentioned include Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU) No. 1215/2012 of 12 December 2012, on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters (Article 36), Council Regulation (EC) No. 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003, on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgements in matrimonial and parental responsibility matters (Article 52), or Council Regulation (EC) No. 4/2009 of 18 December 2008, on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations (Article 65).

Apostille

An Apostille is used for public documents which have not been relieved of higher verification requirements, if they have been issued in a country which is a party to the Convention of cancellation of the requirement for verification of foreign public documents. Public documents are defined by that Convention as documents issued by a court body in the country, documents issued by administrative bodies, notarial documents and official confirmations. An Apostille involves confirmation of the authenticity of a public document by the country in which the document was issued (unlike more complex super legalisation, see below). It is possible to refer in detail to the website of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mzv.cz), where more information can be found regarding Apostille.

With the exception of some of the countries with which the agreement on legal assistance was entered into, the Convention regarding Apostilles also applies to these countries:
Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Botswana, Brazil (from 14 August 2016), Brunei, Burundi, Cook Islands, Chile (from 30 August 2016), China (only Hong Kong and Macao), Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, Grenada, Honduras, India, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Japan, South Africa, Cape Verde, Kazakhstan, Colombia, South Korea, Kosovo (from 14 July 2016), Costa Rica, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Morocco, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Germany, Nicaragua, Niue, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Greece, El Salvador, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States, Suriname, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland Sweden, Tajikistan, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela
(situation as of 29 March 2016, a current list of contractual states can be found directly at the website of the Hague Convention)

Super legalisation

If the public document was issued in a country other than one of those specified above, its applicability in the Czech Republic shall be governed by the provisions of Section 12 of the Act on International Private Law, which stipulate that a document issued by a court, notary or body in another country has legal effectiveness as evidence in the Czech Republic if it is accompanied by a required form of verification. Super legalisation is a more complex but universal procedure, which is used when neither relief from higher verification nor use of an Apostille is applied. It involves the verification of a document not only by a domestic body of the country where the public document was issued (or multiple bodies, and finally usually the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), but also by a diplomatic mission of the country where the public document will be used. An example is the recognition of decisions by Canadian courts, since Canada is not a party to the Convention on Apostilles, and therefore super legalisation is necessary: therefore, a decision by a court in the Canadian province of Ontario must be verified by the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and by the Czech Embassy in Canada.

It is possible to refer in detail to the website of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mzv.cz), where more information can be found regarding super legalisation.

The application for recognition of a foreign decision must be submitted in the Czech language on the following form:

Form DIVORCE
Form PATERNITY

Note:
The application submitted must include (in case of the recognition of a foreign decision on the divorce/invalidity of marriage and determination of paternity:
- name, surname, date of birth, birth number and residence of the applicant,
- the court (or other authority) issuing the decision, seat of the court, country, date of the decision and its reference number,
- contact details of the petitioner or his/her representative (phone number, e-mail address),
- information whether an appeal has been filed against the foreign decision concerned,
- which party to the procedure was a citizen of the Czech Republic at the time of the main proceedings,
- date of signature, place of the signature, signature of the petitioner.

In case of the recognition of a foreign decision on the divorce/invalidity of the marriage, the following shall also be stated:
- who was married, his/her birth surname, date of birth and residence,
- date on which the marriage was concluded, the granting authority, its seat, country,
- a summary of the divorce (invalidity) of the marriage, the person who filed the petition, the date since spouses are not living together and whether they shared a household, the reasons for the decision on the divorce (invalidity) of the marriage, whether the children were born in the marriage and whether they were consider to be minors at the time of the decision (if so, specify their names and dates of birth) and what was the decision on their upbringing and maintenance for the post-marriage period,
- annexes submitted to the petition - a transcript (copy) of the decision on the divorce (invalidity) of the marriage; other documents, if the decision refers to them instead of a reasoning, a marriage certificate, a proof of the nationality of at least one of the participants at the time of the decision (i.e. at the date of the issuance of the divorce decree), a copy of the identity card or passport, a certificate on the citizenship of the Czech Republic, written authorisation for the person who will be the representative of the petitioner in the procedure for the recognition of a foreign decision.

In case of the recognition of a foreign decision on the determination of paternity, please also specify:
- name and surname of the man who has been found to be a father/denied paternity,
- name and surname of the child to whom paternity was found/denied, date of birth,
- name and surname of the mother, birth surname, date of birth,
- annexes submitted to the petition - a transcript (copy) of the decision finding or denying the paternity with a translation into the Czech language, other documents, if the decision refers to them instead of a reasoning, a proof of the nationality of at least one of the participants at the time of the decision (i.e. at the date of the issuance of the decision finding or denying the paternity whose recognition is proposed), a copy of the identity card or passport, a certificate on the citizenship of the Czech Republic, written authorisation for the person who will be the representative of the petitioner in the procedure for recognition of a foreign decision, the birth certificate of the child who is concerned in the proceedings on the determination of paternity.