The end of Love and the Law. A study of Congolese, Indian and US migrants’ access to divorce and separation in Belgium.
In Europe, policymakers promoted the introduction of an increasing number of policies to limit third country nationals’ access to available services and rights. Officially designed to protect nationals, a variety of legal and non-legal instruments today govern not only migrants’ (im)mobility to their new destinations, but also several domains of their everyday life once arrived there. Within such increasingly constrictive environment, one area of migrants’ lives which is especially impacted by restrictions is family life. Since immigration based on family ties started accounting for the greatest share of legal entrances in Europe - and most of the affluent world - national and Communitarian legislators imposed new laws and regulations to limit such opportunity. Today, the right to live a fulfilling family and love life abroad is no longer granted for many groups of third country nationals living in Europe – or willing to reach it. An intrusion of law into the most intimate spheres of migrants’ life which impact also the dissolution of marital relations, as multiple restrictions apply also on migrants’ access to divorce or separation.
Moving from this angle, this investigation concentrates on Congolese, US and Indian migrants living Belgium to spot whether and how national and European laws have an effect on their willingness and ability to access divorce, separation, or the end of legal cohabitation in the country. For this purpose, it is necessary to spot those specific legal instruments which operate on migrants to regulate both directly or indirectly their love and family life in Belgium. Here, one core task is then to analyse how third country nationals with different resident permits experience the end of their marital life while in the country. Concurrently, it is also important to study whether to divorce, separate or end a legal cohabitation affect one or both partners’ right to remain in Belgium. Besides analysing how specific institutional strategies and frameworks impact migrants’ family and love life abroad, by giving voice to migrants here the goal is also that of bringing to the surface those everyday strategies developed by migrants and their partners to counter, resist or exploit these direct and indirect restrictions.
By means of a variety of qualitative data collection techniques, this work develops thus top-down-bottom-up. It does not only bring to the surface how institutions impose restrictions on migrant most intimate choices, as it combines this analysis with an in-depth view on migrants’ everyday strategies to pursue their love and family objectives in Belgium. As such, semi-structured interviews with specialists and stakeholders - including family lawyers or judges - and a series of participant observations carried out in those public spaces where restrictions are implemented on migrants and their families
– e.g. the family tribunal, or municipal offices - are combined here with a series of life-history interviews with migrants who have divorced or separated – or, who have planned to do so.
– Dr Giacomo Orsini, CIRFaSe
– Prof. Laura Merla
– Professor Jacques Marquet (UCLouvain)
– Dr Majella Kilkey (University of Sheffield)