I married my British partner five years ago, but unfortunately we’ve decided that it’s not working and want to get divorced. How do we do that here?
Filing for divorce anywhere is a stressful and painful process, but for anyone not living in their native country it can be an even more complex and daunting task. However, if this is the path that you choose to take, it’s important to get to grips with Spanish law. Divorce was only made legal here in 1981 and although welcomed in many parts of society, the process was lengthy with an average completion time of two years and the requirement of a long ‘temporary’ separation before divorce could even be applied for.
No change to these laws was made until Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero introduced radical reforms in 2005. His aims were to clear the significant backlog of cases, create a maximum waiting time of six months and encourage shared custody of any children. Additionally, it’s no longer necessary to be legally separated for a certain period of time to be able to file for divorce. Once Zapatero’s ‘divorcio express’ bill passed, the number of Spanish divorces rose by a staggering 74.3 percent between 2005 and 2006.
International couples can get divorced in Spain relatively quickly. The legal requirements are that they have to have been married for a minimum of three months and one of the partners has to be a resident here. All divorces in Spain take place at a Juzgado de Primera Instancia and you’ll need a lawyer to appear in court on your behalf; for this, you have to get a power of attorney (poder general para pleitos), which you can obtain from any notario and normally costs between €30 and €40.
The paperwork needed is quite extensive. You have to present your marriage certificate, obtained from the city you were married in. If this is in Spain, you can get the certificate from the Registro Civil; you can also request one at the website, www.mjusticia.es. Also required is a written statement citing the reasons for the divorce, and a convenio regulador, which is a contract covering the liquidation of assets, child visitation rights and details of alimony. You will need to supply details of any joint bank accounts and information on your economic situation: for instance, tax return forms (declaración de la renta) and pay slips (nóminas). If the liquidation of your joint assets hasn’t been agreed beforehand then a judge will decide this for you. Some judges will also ask for a certificado de empadronamiento or proof of residency in the family home. You also need the birth certificates of any children.
Finally, you should be aware of the practice of ‘applicable law’: this means that the judge can apply the law of the country in which the majority of the marriage took place. If you have lived in the UK for most of your married life but filed for divorce in Spain, the judge can choose to apply the divorce laws of the UK.