Marriage property contract in Bulgaria was introduced as an institute of Family Law with the entry into force of the new Family Code on 1 October 2009. The general rules for contracts in the Obligations and Contracts Act also apply to issues, left unresolved by the Family Code. Marriage settlement is a novelty in the Bulgarian legislation that allows the spouses to choose between three regimes of their property either before or during the marriage:
- Matrimonial community property – MPC introduced in the old Family Code from 1985.
- Separate Property regime.
- Prearranged in a marriage agreement.
Marriage property contract is essentially a contract between present or future spouses whereby they negotiate mutual rights and obligations of strictly financial nature and thus settle some or all material relations between them during marriage and after its eventual termination. Spouses married before the introduction of marriage settlement on 1 October 2009 under Bulgarian law may also conclude a marriage contract. The freedom of negotiating the marriage property contract is limited. Its content covers arrangements concerning only property relations between spouses. In article 38 of Family Code are listed some of the possible terms:
- the parties' rights on property that is acquired during the marriage;
- rights of the parties on their possessions before their marriage;
- management and disposition of property;
- contributions to the costs and obligations;
- financial consequences in the event of divorce;
- alimony of the spouses during the marriage and in the event of divorce;
- child support during the marriage;
- other property relations.
Any terms regulating personal relationships are not valid. The inclusion of arrangements concerning the legal consequences in case of death is also inadmissible and invalid. According to Art. 39, para. 1 of the Bulgarian Family Code the marriage property contract is to be signed personally by the parties (spouses) in writing with notarized signatures and content. If the contract is used to transfer title to property or to establish new or transfer existing property rights over immovable property, it has to be registered in the Bulgarian Land Registry. The marriage property contract takes effect from the date of the marriage and yet, if it is concluded during the marriage, it comes into force:
- on the date of the signing of the agreement;
- on a date explicitly specified in the contract;
- with retroactive effect - on the date the marriage had been concluded. In that case, the stipulations of the marriage property agreement do not affect the rights acquired by third parties before the conclusion of the contract.
Amendment of the contract is possible at any time but it must be concluded in writing with notarization of content and signatures as mentioned above. Grounds for termination are:
- by mutual consent;
- by the court after a claim of one of the spouses;
- upon termination of the marriage/divorce (except stipulations regulating the consequences of termination).
In addition to these specific grounds for termination of the marriage property contract under the Bulgarian law, the grounds under Art. 87, para. 1 of the Obligations and Contracts Act (termination by the court) are applicable as well, if that does not contradict to the Bulgarian Family Code and the principles founded on good morals and justice under Bulgarian law.