HEALTHPLAN MAGAZINE

Getting A Divorce In Spain Expat Tips

Life can be traumatic at times, and not what we hoped for, but if you find yourself needing to file for divorce in Spain, you'll be pleased to learn that it is a relatively straightforward process. Divorce rates in Spain are average among European countries, although the idea itself is relatively new, since the procedures were only introduced into the country in 1981. Naturally enough since then divorce figures have steadily risen. In 1990 the rate stood at 0.6 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants and had risen to 2.2 divorces per 1,000 people in 2010. The EU average for divorce is 2.0 per 1000 people.

You will be able to obtain a divorce in Spain if you or your spouse is a Spanish resident or a Spanish national. Divorce requires a petition from just one of the spouses, however, Spanish divorce procedures go much more smoothly when your partner agrees with you on a number of important matters. These include the organisation of appropriate arrangements for children and disposal of your joint assets. The divorce law in Spain is 'no-fault', meaning neither of you have to give a reason for the divorce and no blame is attached.

Getting a Divorce in Spain

As you would expect, once your divorce has been granted you are free to remarry legally. Bear in mind that both partners lose any marital inheritance rights and widow's pension rights, along with those obligations directly derived from the marriage. Divorced parents must still keep their obligations with regard to any children, but any joint financial liabilities you have together in relation to third parties are terminated.

How to Get a Divorce in Spain

You will need to meet the following requirements:

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

Spouses are entitled to divorce by mutual agreement after they have been married for at least three full months. They present a proposal of governing convention (Convenio Regulador) attached to their petition to a judge. It is not necessary to have been legally separated up to the point of filing for divorce.

There are exemptions to the three-month rule, where there is proven danger to life, physical integrity, liberty, moral integrity or sexual liberty or indemnity.

Types of Divorce in Spain

Uncontested Divorce

You will require the services of a legal representative (Procurador) and a Spanish lawyer. An uncontested divorce is the most straightforward, and is the quickest way to dissolve the marriage. Along with the Convenio Regulador you will outline the arrangements for any children, including visitation rights of the non-custodial parent, and the sum that will be paid for children's alimony. If alimony is being paid to a partner this will need to be made clear, as will the proposed use of the current family dwelling, and how spouses will continue to contribute to family expenses.

You provide the court with the marriage certificate and the birth certificates of your children.

The judge can conclude divorce proceedings within a few weeks.

Contested Divorce

In the event of a contested divorce, where only one of the parties is filing, the procedure is more complicated and can take much longer. Where the parties fail to agree on the governing convention, this requires negotiation and communication between lawyers along with the production of third party evidence. A contested divorce can take more than a year to settle.

Alimony

In general, Spanish courts will only award alimony where one spouse is clearly disadvantaged economically as a result of the divorce, perhaps where one partner has given up their job or career to look after the children. The amount awarded will vary, but tends to be in the region of 15 – 40 percent of the higher income.

Welfare of children is paramount. With younger children, custody is usually awarded to the mother, unless factors mitigate otherwise. It is increasingly common for the courts to award joint custody, where a couple agrees to share visitation rights.

In Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, Balearic Islands and the Basque Country, 'Separción de Bienes' is the default system where the division of assets is concerned. 'Separción de Bienes' allows a couple to retain ownership of items that they brought with them into the marriage, and joint purchases made during the marriage are divided according to the contribution made by each party. Court rulings may also attribute financial value to non-financial contributions, such as housework and chores, and raising children etc.

'Sociedad de Gananciales' applies in the other Spanish regions. Here, all assets purchased or acquired during the marriage belong to both spouses equally. Dual ownership applies to rental income, businesses and goods bought via instalments.

After the Divorce

Once the judge has agreed the divorce, it is filed with the Spanish Civil Registry. You can appeal and have the terms of the divorce modified if you wish.

Cost of a Divorce in Spain

The cost of getting a divorce in Spain can vary considerably and will depend on whether it is an uncontested divorce or not. If it is an uncontested divorce, things are a lot easier and prices can start from as little as €120 per spouse.

Where the divorce is contested and there are disagreements with the governing convention or for example where young children are involved, costs can be considerably more and could reach around €3,000 or more.

The more complicated the split, the greater the legal fees are likely to be.