Divorcees can now be ‘unmarried’ in civil register

Summary

People who are divorced or widowed will soon be able to change their official civil status to unmarried if they choose

‘Stigmatising’

People who are divorced or widowed will soon be able to change their civil status to ‘unmarried’. Previously they were listed in the population register specifically as ‘divorced’ or ‘widowed’.

The federal house interior affairs committee approved the proposal in order to give people a choice of how they wanted to be referred to. Often after many years, people don’t want to think of themselves as divorced or as widowed but simply as not married.

In the event of another marriage, for example, “the civil servant has to read out that he or she was ‘previously divorced’,” explained MP Carina Van Cauter (Open Vld). “That can be confronting and stigmatising.”

She emphasises that people don’t have to make the change in their civil status if they don’t want to. “They have a choice. They can remove the term ‘divorced’ if they want to and start with a clean slate. But people who are widowed might be more inclined to keep their status. It’s up to them.”