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Getting a divorce in Spain as an expat

Getting a divorce in Spain as an expat

Getting a di­vorce in Spain needn’t be difficult so long as both parties can agree on the all-important matters of child custody and the division of assets. The conditions under which a non-Spanish national can obtain a divorce in Spain are that either they or their spouse is resident in Spain; their spouse is a Spanish national; or the chil­dren live in Spain.

Spouses may di­vorce by mu­tual agree­ment when they have been mar­ried for at least three full months. It is not ne­ces­sary for the couple to have been leg­ally sep­ar­ated for any period of time be­fore fil­ing for di­vorce. In cer­tain cases a party may pe­ti­tion for a di­vorce without wait­ing for the three-month period.

Where younger chil­dren are con­cerned, cus­tody is usually awar­ded to the mother. However, joint custody is now becoming a more common outcome of divorce proceedings in Spain. Span­ish courts gen­er­ally award al­i­mony only where one of the spouses is clearly dis­ad­vant­aged eco­nom­ic­ally as a res­ult of the di­vorce. 

Types of divorce in Spain

Uncontested divorce: The application for divorce by mutual consent may be made before the “Letrado de la Administración de Justice” (judicial secretary), notary public or the Court of First Instance. As part of the application the parties must present a con­tractual agree­ment addressing the fol­low­ing:

Co­hab­it­a­tion and cus­tody ar­range­ments for any chil­dren, in­clud­ing vis­it­a­tion rights of the non-cus­todial par­ent.

Any com­pens­a­tion al­low­ance or al­i­mony, if any, to be paid by one spouse to other.

Use of the fam­ily dwell­ing.

The man­ner, if any, in which the spouses con­tinue to con­trib­ute to fam­ily ex­penses.

An un­con­tested di­vorce can be con­cluded quite quickly. However, in cases where one of the spouses does not want to divorce or if both want to but they do not agree on the outcome, the divorce will be contentious. 

Contested divorce: In this case the di­vorce pe­ti­tion is filed by only one of the spouses. It may re­quire ne­go­ti­ation between law­yers and call on third party evid­ence. A con­tested di­vorce can take any­where from a few months to more than a year to complete. Both parties will have to at­tend a Court hear­ing.

Whichever way the spouses choose to seek a divorce (judicial or notary), they must be assisted by a practicing lawyer. And, in the case of legal proceedings, they will have to be represented by an attorney.

In addition to divorce, Spanish law also acknowledges a separation procedure. Under a separation judgement the marriage is not definitively dissolved. This means that the spouses can live together again in a marriage at any time. In a separation, all subsequent matters, such as childcare and use of the family dwelling must be presented. If no such agreement is presented, the court will independently determine the measures it deems appropriate. 

Please note these are only general guidelines and not definitive statements of the law. All questions about the law’s applications to individual cases should be directed to a Spanish lawyer.

Voting and running for office in Spain

Voting and running for office in Spain

A little-known fact among expats living in Spain is that if you are a full-time resident in the country you are entitled to vote in local and European elections. An even lesser known fact is that you can actually stand as a candidate in local elections and even run for mayor. All EU citizens have “the right to vote and stand as a candidate in municipal and European Parliament elections regardless of whether they are a national of the EU country in which they reside,” the European Commission confirms on its website.

However, only around 54 percent of EU citizens are aware of this provision, according to a 2016 survey. 

If you want to participate in local politics in Spain, the first thing you need to do is to get registered on the municipal census (empadronamiento) at the local ayuntamiento or town hall. This will allow you to register on the Spanish electoral lists and vote in municipal and European elections.

Voting in Spain

You can vote and stand as candidates in the municipal elections under the following conditions: 

That you be a national of a Member State of the European Union 

That you be registered on the municipal census in Spain and domiciled in the municipality where you want to vote.

That you be at least 18 years old

You will need to provide the town hall with a written declaration stating your nationality, address in your home country and your right to vote there. Except in special cases, in order to vote, you must register before the end of the year preceding the poll.

And that’s it!

It’s worth mentioning that registering to vote in Spain doesn’t mean having to give up your right to vote in your country of origin. Some Member States allow you to cast your vote overseas, whereas others, like Ireland, require that you return home to vote in person. 

Standing for election

According to an EU website “Nationals of another EU country must be resident in the EU country where they wish to stand as a candidate and comply with the same conditions as set out for nationals,” However, the website adds “No person may stand as a candidate in more than one EU Member State at the same election.”

Spain reported the highest number of non-national candidates standing in municipal elections: 1,913 in polls before 2018. And unlike many other EU member states, in Spain, nationals from other EU countries can even run for higher offices such as mayor.

The requirements for standing as a candidate are the exact same as those required to vote, on top of which, of course you will need to register your candidacy with the relevant authorities.

Getting married in Spain as an expat

Getting married in Spain as an expat

An exchange of vows between a loving couple, whether in a civil or religious ceremony, always makes for an unforgettable occasion. What the guests assembled on the day don’t see is the huge amount of planning that goes into it. While planning and preparation is a part of every wedding day, it’s especially true for expats who want to get married in Spain, due to the need to provide certain documents from your country of origin, on top of the usual administrative procedures that need to be completed with the local authorities before the big day. 

To help make sense of it all, Sonneil has compiled this guide to getting married in Spain as expats.

Be aware, first of all, that one of the two future spouses must be resident in Spain and be registered with the municipality closest to the couple’s place of residence, and both must be at least 18 years old. In the case of marriage between an EU citizen and a citizen from outside the EU, a special check is made before marriage is genuine and not being used to obtain a residence permit.

Same-sex marriage has been allowed in Spain since 2005. Same-sex couples enjoy the same marital, legal, inheritance and adoption rights as heterosexual couples.

Civil wedding

The first step is to contact the closest Registro Civil (Civil Registry) to your place of residence in Spain. They’ll provide you with the required document (marriage licence) to obtain a wedding date. To secure this, you will need to present:

  • Your NIE, your passport or identity card as well as photocopies
  • Your birth certificate. Be aware that non-EU nationals must have this document legalised by their consulate and their foreign ministry.
  • A certificate of empadronamiento stating your place of residence during the last two years or since you entered Spain (you can obtain it from the nearest municipality). At least one of the two fiancés must have resided in Spain in the previous 2 years
  • A sworn declaration of civil status
  • In the case of a divorcee, copies of the marriage and divorce documents
  • In the case of a widow, a copy of the marriage and death certificate
  • A civil marriage application form, completed and signed

These documents must be apostilled in your country of origin and translated into Spanish by a professional translator.

The marriage licence is only valid for six months, meaning you must submit it to the Junta Municipal (city council) within this time. 

Church wedding

If you want a church wedding, contact the local parish at least 3 months in advance. Accompanying your marriage licence, you will also need to provide baptismal certificates issued at least six months before the date of the wedding. 

As a general rule, marriage at the district court or the municipality is free. But if you prefer to get married in a church, a donation of around 300 euros is customary. Church marriages do not require legal procedures, but you will still need a certificate of baptism issued at least six months before the wedding.

Once you have celebrated your marriage, you are required to register it with the registry office which will give you a family record book called Libro de Familia. 

With that, all that remains is to live happily ever after.

Five best festivals on the Costa Blanca

One of the most notable differences between life in Spain and life in the UK is the bewildering amount of festivals and public holidays in the Spanish calendar. To somebody raised outside Spain, it can seem that every other day some festival or other is taking place. In fact, in any given year, there are more than twenty public holidays throughout the country, some of which are only celebrated in certain regions while others are nationwide. Below is Sonneil’s list of the five best festivals to be enjoyed on the Costa Blanca. 

Moros and Christians

The festival of Moors and Christians celebrates the reconquest of Spain by the Catholic monarchy after 700 years of Muslim rule in 1492. The reconquest is celebrated annually throughout Spain, but the cities of Valencia and Alicante have a particularly strong association with the tradition. Locals dress as either Moors or Christians for the occasion and re-enact battles. The two groups fight it out in the streets, which are filled with noise and smoke, watched by thousands of spectators. In contrast, in mid-August, Dénia celebrates the festival of Moors and Christians as a tribute to the coexistence of cultures, highlighting the virtues of tolerance and multiculturalism.

San Juan

The fires of St. John (Fuegos de Sant Juan) announce the arrival of summer. At midnight, the city of Alicante offers a magnificent firework display and papier-mâché statues are burned during a ceremony called the Cremá de la Hoguera. In the afternoon, everyone heads to the beach to share a picnic and barbecue grilled sardines or meat. This is followed by the customary midnight swim, which is said to wash away bad luck and invite good fortune.

Las Fallas

The Costa Blanca celebrates the famous Las Fallas festival in March, during which giant satirical statues of celebrities or politicians are carried in procession through the streets before being burned. It is the most important festival of the Valencian community and attracts thousands of tourists each year. While Valencia itself has the most spectacular Fallas celebrations, there are also festivities in Benidorm, Calpe, Denia, and Gandia among others. 


Carnival is perhaps most famously associated with Brazil; however it is in fact widely celebrated throughout the Latin world, including the Costa Blanca. Starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday in the Christian calendar, Carnival serves as one last blowout of excess and debauchery before the austerity of Lent. In Benidorm, where the biggest parade takes place, thousands of people turn out to watch the giant decorated floats and dance to the marching bands. 

Tres Reyes

This is one of the most anticipated days of the year for children as it is when the Three Wise Men come bearing gifts. At this time of the year the streets are still decorated with Christmas lights, and the squares are filled with Nativity scenes carol singers. On the night of the epiphany, January 6, The Three Kings arrive on their camels loaded with presents and throw sweets and treats out to the thousands of children assembled along the parade route. Experiencing this deeply rooted Spanish tradition is an absolute must.

Five best golf courses on the Costa Blanca

Five best golf courses on the Costa Blanca

The Costa Blanca is a paradise for golf lovers with 21 courses – including 3 pitch and putt – several of which were designed by some of the most famous names to grace the game. With most of the courses situated along the coast, you can make the most of the warm Mediterranean climate and hit the fairways all round. Below is just a selection of some of the Costa Blanca’s best golf courses.

Las Colinas

Located at the southern tip of the province of Alicante, near Torrevieja, Las Colinas Golf and Country Club has been ranked among the top 100 golf courses in Europe by Golf World magazine. Designed by the renowned North American landscape architect, Cabell B. Robinson, it’s a true championship course, with the sole aim of offering the best services and amenities to ensure that every player has a unique experience.

La Finca

The La Finca golf club lies in natural surroundings of great beauty and with fantastic views. Its facilities are open to those who want to play golf in the heart of nature while being able to enjoy the beaches, sailing clubs and a host of other facilities and services just a few minutes away. Several lakes with running water and reed beds along the course add beauty and difficulty to the game, and have made the course the home of a wide variety of migratory water birds, such as ducks and egrets, while the interior of the course is home to olive and palm trees, thus creating a beautiful backdrop of vegetation with a distinctly Mediterranean flavour.

Don Cayo

Founded in 1974 but completely redesigned in 2006, this 9-hole course offers spectacular views, especially on the third hole which takes in the bay of Altea, north of Benidorm and the 7th, where you can make out the Sierra Bernia mountains surrounding the Marina Baixa. It is very attractively designed, and the location makes this an unbeatable place for a round of golf. It is a semi-private club that is open to the public, with members and green fee players both using the course.

La Sella

Located south of the city of Denia, this 27-hole gem is the work of the great José Maria Olazabal. Built in three 9-hole pitches between 1990 and 2010, the La Sella golf course has hosted the Ladies European Tour on four occasions. This impressive course dotted with pine, almond and carob trees, boasts of wonderful views of the mountains and the Mediterranean. 

Oliva Nova

Created in 1992 by the Spanish legend Severiano Ballesteros, the Oliva Nova links course is spread over 50 hectares. The course, located in a huge residential complex, meaning it is surrounded by homes, but it is nonetheless very attractive. Water is constantly at play on this highly technical 18-hole course that alternates between short holes and much longer holes. Only holes 1, 2, 13 and 14 are free of water hazards but the wind remains a very important element throughout the course. 

Islands of the Costa Blanca

The Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza may be the largest and most famous of Spain’s Mediterranean islands, but they aren’t the only ones. Indeed, the Costa Blanca is host to three beautiful island treasures of its own that are well worth a visit. Here is Sonneil’s guide to the islands of the Costa Blanca.

Benidorm Island

Peacock Island, journalists’ island, the island of Benidorm, or simply L’Illa to locals, the small triangular rock off the coast of Benidorm is a must visit for nature lovers. Measuring just 350m in length by 260m in width, its stand out feature is a 70m high cliff on its southside. The islet forms part of the Sierra Helada Nature Park, owing to its rich flora and fauna both on land and in its surrounding waters.

Situated just two and a half nautical miles from the coast, facing the Canfali headland that divides Levant and Poniente beaches in Benidorm, the uninhabited island has a bar and restaurant to attend to the needs of many daily visitors.

It can be reached by ferry from Levante Beach, with boats leaving every hour and take about 20 minutes to reach the island. The ticket price includes a trip on the

AQUASCOPE, a specialised boat with an underwater viewing deck that allows to take in the view beneath the waves. The Aquascope takes you on a short ride around the island, lasting about fifteen minutes during which you can see starfish, squid and huge shoals of fish, all at eye level.

Back on dry land, Benidorm island can be explored on foot along a guided path to the summit where you can take in the impressive views of the Benidorm coastline.

Tabarca island

Tabarca Island is a 2km long, 400m wide marine reserve situated 16km off the coast of Alicante. The island was once a refuge for Barbary pirates, before King Carlos III ordered it to be confiscated and fortified on behalf of the Crown in the 18th Century. He repopulated it with fishermen from Genoa whom he had rescued from the hands of the pirates and were being held captive in the Tunisian city of “Tabarka”.  

The only inhabited island in Valencian Community, its population fluctuates between a few dozen in winter and a few hundred in summer, when about 3,000 visitors a day arrive on the island. The annual influx of visitors is largely thanks to its main beach which is one of the most beautiful in the Alicante area. Other sites of interest include the walled old town and picturesque port area.

The island of Tabarca can be accessed from Alicante, Santa Pola, Guardamar, Torrevieja and Benidorm by boat. From Alicante the journey usually lasts about 45min and costs around 18 Euros. 

Portichol island

The Island of Portichol is located in the municipality of Javea in the Marina Alta region of Alicante province.

A peculiarly round and hilly island, Portichol is located just off the Javea coast, to which it is connected by a strip of land submerged about 3 m beneath the water, called an isthmus. It only takes five minutes to reach from Javea port and the surrounding waters are highly rated by divers thanks to their pristine quality.