Getting a divorce as an expat in Spain explained


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There are many reasons couples decide to get a divorce. It’s a stressful and upsetting time for most, without having to deal with paperwork, fees and appointments, in addition to how it may affect your children, the division of property and more. If you are an expat in Spain, depending on your circumstances, you may be worried about how getting a divorce could affect and impact your residency and status.

It is essential that you arm yourself with all of the appropriate information and knowledge when getting a divorce in Spain. Fortunately,y the Euro Weekly News has put together this guide to help you through the divorce procedure, complete with the requirements, costs, legalities and more.

The good news is that filing for divorce in Spain is quite a simple process. However, you will want to make yourself aware of all the procedures you need to follow in order to dissolve your marriage or civil union. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about getting a divorce as an expat in Spain.

An overview of divorce in Spain

In 2020, Spain had Europe’s second-highest divorce rate, just behind Portugal. In that year, there were 85.5 divorces for every 100 marriages – a huge and quite surprising statistic. Nevertheless, it has been steadily decreasing recently, going from 103,290 in 2011 to 77,200 in 2020.

Spain only legalised divorce in 1981, so the practice is truly a very recent development. Under his dictatorship, the late Francisco Franco outlawed divorce for 40 years. But even before then, it was hugely frowned upon in this largely Catholic nation.

The surge in Spain’s divorce rate, according to many conservatives, is the result of a change in traditional gender roles. However, the biggest increase was actually sparked by the introduction of the express divorce bill in 2005. The measure streamlined, expedited, and lowered the cost of divorce in Spain and, as a result, there were 74.3 per cent more divorces in the year after the introduction of express divorces.

When societal, monetary, and legal barriers to divorce were lifted, divorcing couples chose this option over merely separating and coexisting. The separation rate decreased by 70.7 per cent as a result.

getting divorce in spain
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The legal grounds for divorce in Spain

As long as you and your partner can agree on arrangements for any children and assets, getting a divorce in Spain is a reasonably simple process. Spain has a no-fault divorce legislation, which means you don’t need to give a reason as to why you want a divorce.

It simply needs a petition from you or your spouse and a minimum of three months of marriage. Due to the fact that marriage confers the same legal rights to inheritance and property, Spain’s divorce rules apply equally to heterosexual and gay couples.

What do I do if my visa depends on my marriage?

If either you or your spouse is a Spanish resident or a Spanish citizen, or if at least one of you lives in Spain regularly, you can get divorced in Spain even if you are not a Spanish national.

If neither you nor your partner is Spanish, you can choose which international law you want to get divorced under. You can apply to get divorced in Spain under the law of your home country (if that’s where you now reside), or under the laws of Spain. However, if you are no longer living in Spain at the time of your divorce, then your partner must apply to initiate the proceedings.

You must follow these steps if you want to remain in Spain and your visa is dependent upon your marriage.

As soon as your divorce is official, you should let the administration know, and let them know which of the following requirements allows you to keep your residency in Spain:

  • You have been married for at least three years (as long as you both lived together in Spain for at least one of those years).
  • You now have legal custody of your children.
  • Despite not having custody, you are still granted visitation rights.
  • You experienced domestic abuse or human trafficking from your spouse while you were married.
divorce in spain expat
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The two types of divorce in Spain

There are two types of divorce in Spain: uncontested and contested. So, what are the differences between these two types of divorce?

Uncontested divorce

When both parties agree to the terms and arrangements, the divorce process in Spain will be completed more quickly. There is a fast-track mechanism for speedy divorces in various cities (divorcio por mutuo acuerdo). With an express uncontested divorce, you are both allowed to employ the same attorney to create your agreement (convenio) and present the paperwork to the court at the same time.

The judge has the authority to approve the terms and grant the divorce. An uncontested express divorce may be finalised in a matter of weeks if there are no unforeseen complications. An uncontested divorce in Spain can take two to three months without the fast-track option.

Contested divorce

Only one of the parties submits the divorce petition in a contentious divorce. This typically indicates that the procedure is drawn out and difficult. If the governing convention cannot be agreed upon by both of you, legal counsel will need to be consulted, and third-party testimony may also be necessary.

Depending on the specifics of each case, preliminary arrangements may need to be made about the division of assets, child custody, and spousal support. A disputed divorce may take a few months to more than a year to complete.

divorce spain
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How long does it take to get a divorce in Spain?

Divorces that are really straightforward and include no children can be completed in as little as four to six weeks.

The time of the process is extended if you have children because the public prosecutor will be involved in making sure their interests are upheld.

If there are children involved, it may take four to six months if there are no conflicts between the parties, but uncontested divorces may take up to a year or longer.

The process of getting divorced in Spain step by step

Before requesting a divorce in Spain, no specific duration of legal separation is required. You must, however, have been married for a minimum of three months. If you have been married for a shorter time than this, you may in extremely rare circumstances be able to file for divorce, but only if you can show that your life is in danger, you face violence, or your liberty, moral integrity, sexual freedom, or indemnity are in danger.

Finding a local divorce lawyer who will ask the judge for a divorce order should be your first step. They will create a proposal governing convention (convenio regulator).

The contract of agreement outlined below addresses the following topics:

  • Cohabitation and child custody agreements, including the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights.
  • The amount that must be paid as child support.
  • Any compensation or reparation payments that, if any, must be provided by one of the spouses in the other spouse’s favour.
  • Use of the family home.
  • The spouses’ future contributions to the family’s expenses, if any.
divorce spain
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Documents needed to get divorced in Spain

You will typically need to gather the following documents to get a divorce in Spain:

  • Marriage certificate.
  • Birth certificates of the children (if any).
  • Certificate of empadronamiento of one of the parties.
  • Convenio regulador.

Any foreign documents (such as your children’s birth certificates if they were born outside of Spain) must be translated into Spanish up to three months before submission. The translations must also have an official seal, known as the Certificate of Apostille of the Hague (apostilla de la Haya).

Costs associated with divorce in Spain

Although the cost of a divorce can vary, it is generally affordable in Spain. It typically costs between €700 to €1,500, which includes all necessary paperwork, a Procurador, and other fees. Contrarily, a difficult and intricate divorce is more expensive. Depending on the length of time and the circumstances, they often start at €1,000 and go up from there. Choosing a local divorce attorney over an overseas one will help you spend less money during the drawn-out process.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories. Remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Written by

Laura Kemp

Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at