Divorce in Spain

Getting a divorce in Spain

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In the unfortunate event that you need to file a divorce in Spain, here's a guide to divorce procedures in Spain.

Getting a divorce in Spain is a relatively straightforward process provided both parties agree on the appropriate arrangements for children and assets. The divorce law in Spain is no-fault, meaning that it is not necessary to cite a reason in order to obtain a divorce. It only requires a petition from one of the spouses. Non-Spanish nationals can obtain a divorce in Spain if they or their spouse is a Spanish resident or a Spanish national.

The divorce rate in Spain places it among the mid-range of European countries. Divorce is actually a relatively recent phenomenon in Spain and was only introduced to the country in 1981. Since then figures have shown a steady increase in the incidence of divorce. In 1990 nine years after it was made legal, the divorce rate was 0.6 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants. This increased to 0.9 divorces per 1,000 people in 2000 and rose substantially to 2.2 divorces per 1,000 people in 2010. This is set against an average of 2.0 for the 27-member EU.

Getting a divorce in Spain

Once the divorce is granted, the parties to the marriage can remarry legally. Both parties will immediately lose any marital inheritance rights and widow's pension rights, as well as those obligations directly derived from their marriage. In addition, any joint financial liabilities the couple has in relation to third parties are terminated. However, the divorced parents still keep their duties with regard to their children.

Spanish courts generally award alimony only where one of the spouses is clearly disadvantaged economically as a result of the divorce. A typical example would be where one spouse has given up a career to look after the children. Alimony awards vary but are generally between 15 – 40 percent of the higher income.

Where younger children are concerned, custody is awarded to the mother in most cases, unless there are factors that demonstrate this would not be in the best interest of the child. In recent years the courts have paid greater attention to considering awarding joint custody. If the couple agrees to share visitation rights the judge will take this into account.

Regarding the division of assets, the rules are affected by where the couple is living. In Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, Balearic Islands and the Basque Country, ‘Separción de Bienes’ is the default system. This allows a couple to retain ownership of items that they brought with them into the marriage. Where joint purchases were made during the marriage they are divided according to the contribution made by each party. Court rulings have also attributed a financial value to non-financial contributions, such as doing domestic chores or raising children.

In the other Spanish regions, ‘Sociedad de Gananciales’ applies, where all assets acquired during the marriage are considered to belong to both spouses equally, unless they are ‘private goods’. Dual ownership would apply to rental income, businesses and goods bought via installments from the ‘matrimonial pot’.

How to get a divorce in Spain

You may get divorced in Spain only if you comply with any of the following requirements:

  • If you and your spouse are Spanish residents at the time of filing for divorce.
  • If you and your spouse are Spanish nationals, in case of divorce by mutual agreement, wherever you are located.
  • If you are the plaintiff and are a Spanish national and living in Spain.
  • If you are the defendant and are a Spanish resident (regardless of your nationality)

 

The spouses may divorce by mutual agreement when they have been married for at least three full months. Whenever the parties ask the judge for a divorce order, a proposal of governing convention (convenio regulador) must be attached to the petition. It is not necessary for the couple to have been legally separated for any period of time before filing for divorce.

In certain cases a party may petition for a divorce without waiting for the three-month period. This would apply when there is a proven danger to the life, physical integrity, liberty, moral integrity or sexual liberty or indemnity of the petitioner.

Types of divorce in Spain

Uncontested divorce
The procedure for getting a divorce is quickest when both parties agree to the dissolution of the marriage. Along with the claim the parties shall present the governing convention (convenio regulador). This is the contract of agreement covering the following issues:

  • Cohabitation and custody arrangements for any children, including visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.
  • The sum that has to be paid for children's alimony.
  • Any compensation allowance or alimony that, if any, shall be made by one of the spouses in favour of the other spouse.
  • Use of the family dwelling.
  • The manner, if any, in which the spouses continue to contribute to family expenses.


The marriage certificate and the birth certificates of the children are always required, as is the intervention of a legal representative (Procurador) and a Spanish lawyer.

The power to grant a divorce rests with the judge, who also has the authority to approve the governing convention. Assuming there are no unforeseen issues, an uncontested divorce can be concluded within a few weeks.

Contested divorce
In this case the divorce petition is filed by only one of the parties to the marriage, sometimes known as a ‘contentious’ divorce, and the court procedure is long and somewhat complex. If the parties fail to agree on the governing convention, it may require negotiation and communication between lawyers and the production of third party evidence.

Depending on the circumstances, before starting the divorce procedure, provisional measures may be set up in order to make property settlement, child custody, spousal support and alimony arrangements.

The marriage certificate and the birth certificates of the children are always required, as is the intervention of a legal representative (Procurador) and a Spanish lawyer.

A contested divorce can take anywhere from a few months to a more than a year.

Outcome of the divorce

The sentence determining the divorce will be filed to the Spanish Civil Registry. This sentence can be appealed. The parties may apply for the modification of the measures established by the sentence, and such modification shall be made by means of a subsequent judicial dictum.


Expatica

Please note these are only general guidelines and not definitive statements of the law. All questions about the law's applications to individual cases should be directed to a Spanish lawyer.

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5 Comments To This Article

  • Kristen posted:

    on 29th March 2017, 15:02:10 - Reply

    Hello,

    I am a U.S. citizen in desperate need of some help regarding the Spanish Civil Court.

    I moved to Spain in 2012 and got married to a Spanish citizen, became a resident and had our son in Madrid in 2013. Our marriage unfortunately did not work out and we decided to get a divorce in 2015. My son and I moved back to the U.S. the same year. In 2016, my husband and I came up with an agreement regarding our divorce and custody of our son and signed the papers in front of a lawyer June 14, 2016. The papers stated that our 3 year old son would do his first year of school in Spain while I got a steady income, home and our life together here in the U.S. He came and spent the summer and the month of December with me in the U.S. and returned to Spain to finish his school year in January 2017. In June 2017, I would assume full custody and he would move to the United States to live with me and his father would get visitation over the summer and Christmas holidays. I went to Spain in October 2016 and spoke with a judge regarding the papers and signed them again in front of her. My husband apparently did the same thing a few weeks later. They told me I would receive a copy of the finalized papers or, if for some reason something in them needed to be changed, I would also be notified at my address here in the United States, which I provided them with in October when I signed the papers. Since then, I have asked him almost daily if he has heard anything about them getting completed. He keeps telling me he has not heard anything back and I am beginning to worry. The lawyer told me when I signed them it would take at most a couple of months for them to be finalized. My husband assures me nothing has changed and my son is coming in June and everything is still going according to plan, but something does not seem right. This is my son and my heart aches for him missing him every single day and I really need to know the status of these papers. I cannot sleep and having him come home is all I think about every second of every day. I desperately need some help from someone, anyone that can tell me how I can figure out what is going on with the papers. I cannot speak Spanish well enough to call and navigate through the Spanish Civil Court and explain who I am and what is going on. Please, please help me figure out what I can do. I have waited patiently, but painfully for an entire year to get my son back home and I have to know that these papers are finalized.

    Please let me know if you have any information at all that could help me.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Lynn posted:

    on 3rd November 2015, 15:39:43 - Reply

    I was married in england and divorced in spain. Now I want to get remarried (not in spain) but I I don't understand what paperwork I need from spain to prove my divorce. Please help

  • leighton posted:

    on 28th January 2015, 12:57:18 - Reply

    I was wondering how or if wayne was able to get this other piece of paper and if he could tell me what it is as we need the same. many thanks
  • Lynne Cottam posted:

    on 2nd October 2014, 17:22:31 - Reply

    i would like to know,if Spanish lawyers can work for husband and wife who are seperated. I now live back in England,and my husband is still in Spain. He is selling our house,and using the lawyer I wanted.
    He is very trustworthy,so I would like to use him also. Help please
  • wayne posted:

    on 20th May 2014, 15:56:29 - Reply

    i have been divorced from a spanish girl for a few years now after 8 years of marriage and thought i had all the documents proving that i was divorced, as i am getting remarried this year i had them all translated into english so that there wouldn't be a problem. had them all sent away by the registry office but have just been told that only for spanish divorces there is an extra thing that is needed, the registrar didn't know exactly what it is so i'm a bit stuck, has anyone else had a similar problem.
    plesae help