GREECE: ARE GREEK WOMEN AFRAID TO DIVORCE THEIR HUSBANDS?
Greece is front and center in the international news lately due to its trouble with “debt” and the expected bailouts from the IMF and its other European neighbors, i.e, the European Union. Got me to thinking about divorce in Greece and so I did a little bit of research on the subject. Added to that, I read an article in this week’s NYT A Family Portrait of a Greek Tragedy. There was one quote that jumped out at me:
Upward of 75 percent of Greek businesses are family-owned. Most are small and rely on family labor, which is as flexible as it gets — in practice, no minimum-wage or maximum-hour laws apply. Women often work for their husbands without salary, and divorce laws don’t effectively ensure the divorcing spouse’s stake in the family business or remuneration for the work she put into it — meaning it’s very difficult to leave a marriage.
It seems divorce puts Greek women at a particular disadvantage? What is Greek law on the subject of divorce?
The current legal source for divorce in Greece is the Hellenic Civil
Code Book No 4, Chapter VII Divorce, Articles 1438-1446 and the
Hellenic Code of Civil Procedure (Articles 16, 592-613 and 681B), as
well as the legislation of the E.U. Reg. No. 1347/2000….(Prof. Dr. Achilles G. Koutsouradis
Faculty of Law, University of Thessaloniki, September 2002)
In perusing a report by professor Koutsouradis, it is clear that, for the most part, Greek law purports to treat both parties in a divorce democratically. There is no indication, as suggested in the Times piece, that women are so disadvantaged due to the familial make-up of businesses in Greece, or for any other reason. On the contrary, the law seems to strive for equality and equity…But the article in the NYT led me to believe that, unlike countries like Great Britain or even here in the United States, that Greek women often decline to end a bad marriage because they are likely to come out of the marriage destitute, sort of like women in the Middle East, in countries like Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Could this have been a bit of exaggeration on the part of the Times?
HOW ARE ASSETS DISTRIBUTED IN A GREEK DIVORCE?
In a divorce, each of the spouses is entitled to recover the movable property which belongs to him or her, or which is presumed to belong to him or her even if it has actually been used by both spouses or only by the other spouse, provided the other spouse does not rebut the presumption; this is so even if the item might be considered necessary to the other spouse. If a spouse in possession of an item refuses to hand it over to its owner, the owner may bring an action in rem, an action for possession, or an action invoking the law of obligations. After dissolution of the marriage a spouse who is the owner of the family home may bring an action in rem or an action under the law of obligations against a spouse who is making use of the home. Joint ownership is ended by the divorce, and each of the spouses receives what he or she is entitled to under the rules on joint ownership and the distribution of common property. Where an item of property was acquired by one of the spouses during the marriage, the other spouse has a claim to a share in it. –(By Jeremy Morley, International Divorce Attorney)
Hme…plus, the Hellenic Code has provisions for a spouse who cannot support him or herself. And, amendments that occurred to the Code in the Eighties specifically made the laws gender neutral….Ok. So what was the original question? Are Greek women afraid to divorce their husbands? Perhaps, because of the situation in Greece right now with the country on the precipice of economic apocalypse, perhaps women are a bit afraid to rock the boat and leave a marriage for certain economic uncertainty as a single person; and perhaps that is what the NYT article was hinting at? If so, this would make Greece like just about every other country right now, including the United States where divorce rates have fallen due to the recession, as both parties are experiencing trepidation of being single in a bad economy.
But, I have to say, based on the current laws of Greece, the Hellenic Civil Code and other European Union legislation that Greece follows, I see no particular reason why Greek women more than any other, should be afraid to divorce their husbands, or would be at any greater disadvantage just by the mere fact that she is Greek.