MADRID - People may marry for love, but divorce is about money, as Spain's deepening economic crisis is making clear.
This year's slowdown and the credit crunch affecting banks are cutting divorce rates, said Madrid divorce lawyer Antonio Prada.
Divorce rates are estimated to be down 30 percent so far.
"It has become extremely difficult for couples wanting to divorce to sell their home at a reasonable price, and the crisis is also making it harder to maintain two separate households," Prada told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
As a result, couples which no longer have anything to say to each other stay under the same roof, developing what Prada termed as "new forms of living together".
Divorce rates went into a clear decline earlier in 2007, when the meltdown of Spain's key property sector and the international economic conjuncture put an abrupt end to more than a decade of uninterrupted growth.
Growth has now plunged from 3.8 percent in 2007 to close to zero, and unemployment has soared past 10 percent. Prices of used housing dropped by more than 10 percent in the first nine months of this year, according to the property valuation company Tinsa.
Although the government has plans to inject up to EUR 150 billion into the financial system to shore up banks, the deepening economic crisis could discourage divorces further, said analysts.
"Couples which intended to divorce may even stay together permanently," Prada said.
"The economic crisis would thus help to preserve marriages" in cases where the partners have at least friendly relations, he added.
However, there are couples who cannot stand the sight of each other and are resorting to "internet divorces" based on standard contracts supplied by law firms charging low fees.
This does not necessarily lead to happier times for those involved though.
"Contracts supplied over the internet always create problems, because they do not deal with the details of dividing property, child custody and other specifics in each individual case," Prada warned.
Since Spain legalised the divorce procedure in 1981, the number of divorces has increased steadily with more than 100,000 couples untying the knot annually.
In 2005, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government made divorce easier.
However, Prada said the reform did not increase divorces on a large scale, because its main novelty - the abolition of the concept of the guilty party - was already being applied in practice.
While the economic slump is turning estranged couples into reluctant flatmates, it is having a similar impact on parents and their adult children.
Rising unemployment and difficulties in obtaining mortgages or credit to launch businesses is making increasing numbers of people aged more than 30 years stay with their parents or return to the family home if they have left.
Arroyo added the family still plays an important role in Spain as compared to northern or central Europe, which offers more social benefits to young people seeking to become independent from their parents.
text: dpa / Sinikka Tarvainen
Expatica November 2008
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