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Marriage and Divorce

Spain - Marriage and Divorce


It is possible to have either a religious or a civil marriage when you are in Spain and getting married there means that the marriage is also recognized in other countries. The minimum age for marriage is 16 but those who are under the age of 18 will need to have permission from a parent or guardian. If there are doubts about a person’s mental capability then the Civil Register doctor will need to be consulted in order to declare that both parties are capable of making the decision themselves. The requirements for residency and the documentation required will vary slightly in each region.

In order to have a civil marriage in Spain the couple involved must have a certificate of permission to marry (certificado de capacidad matrimonial) which is obtained at the Civil Registry. This can only be given if the couple fulfil all the requirements. In some instances this certificate can also be given by a district court or the local town hall. Documentation required will normally include valid passports or ID card, original birth certificates (with a Spanish translation if needed), the certificate of permission to marry and copies of any divorce or annulment documentation if this applies, proof of residency and a certificate which shows that you have been resident in Spain for a minimum of 2 years.

When this application has been filed the Banns (edictos) are posted at the town hall. Expats making this application will also have the Banns posted at their consulate office. The marriage can take place 21 days later. The application can take up to 45 days to process before the Banns are posted. The civil ceremony can take place in the town hall or the courts. It is usually the Mayor or a councillor that performs a civil ceremony. A certificate is issued which shows all the details of the wedding.

If you would prefer to have a religious ceremony you will find that Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Islamic ceremonies are recognised as valid by the state. There is no requirement to have a civil ceremony first. The certificate of permission to marry should be applied for first. All religious ceremonies should be performed by a licensed marriage officer and the marriage should be registered in the same way that a civil marriage should. It is usually the case that a person needs to prove that they are of that religion (producing baptism certificates and other proofs) before they will be permitted to have a religious ceremony.

All marriages need to be registered within a week of the ceremony taking place. For this it is necessary to go to the Civil Registry (registro civil) if you have had a religious ceremony, although the person conducting a civil ceremony will be able to register the marriage on your behalf. If you choose to marry at the district court then the registration takes place at the same time.

Same sex couples are permitted to marry in Spain and this has been the case since 2005. The same residency rules, documentation requirements and registration are required as for other ceremonies. It should be noted that a same sex union may not be recognised in all countries. This is a civil ceremony as there are some churches which do not recognise same sex unions.

If a marriage comes to an end there are two types of separation. A de facto separation is where a couple choose to live apart but remain married until such time that they decide to divorce or one partner dies. De facto separation can also take place if one partner simply leaves. The second type of separation is judicial separation and this can be either by mutual agreement or as litigious separation. Mutual agreement sees the couple requesting a legal separation, after at least 3 months of marriage has passed and this is a quick and easy process. Litigious separation is when one spouse chooses a judicial separation and this can be a lengthy process depending upon the circumstances of the couple.

A divorce by mutual agreement can be obtained after 3 months of marriage but only by mutual agreement. There is no longer a requirement for a minimum length of separation before a divorce can be obtained. There are different types of divorce in Spain. An uncontested divorce is done by mutual agreement and is relatively quick. A contested divorce is filed for by one of the parties and can take some time to complete, depending upon the circumstances.

In order to obtain a divorce in Spain at least one of the couple should be a Spanish resident or national. An annulment can be obtained on a number of different grounds such as when bigamy is involved, if one partner has been pressured into getting married, if the marriage has not fulfilled all the legal requirements or if one partner has had a hand in the death of a previous partner.

In all cases the judge presiding will take into account any children of the marriage, financial arrangements and division of assets.


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