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:
custody arrangements for any children, including visitation rights of
the non-custodial parent.
allowance or alimony, if any, to be paid by one spouse to other.
Use of the family
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
The marriage licence
is only valid for six months, meaning you must submit it to the Junta Municipal
(city council) within this time.
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.
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
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
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
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 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
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.
With more than 200 km
of coastline and some 170 beaches it’s no surprise that the Costa Blanca offers
some wonderful diving opportunities, especially on its rockier northern coast.
In the months of June
to October, the average temperature of the water is more than 20 degrees. In
the months of February and March, the sea is at its coldest, with an average of
14 degrees Celsius.
The water is
relatively calm, free of dangerous currents and home to a highly diverse
underwater life. Apart from the Mediterranean fish, you can find rays, sea
horses, crabs, octopus and moray eels. Sunfish visit the Costa Blanca coast
from late spring onwards and in September and October sardine and barracudas
heat along the coast. There are also rich and colourful seagrasses to be
observed. Lister below are Sonneil’s top five diving locations on the Costa
The Tabarca Marine
Reserve, off the coast of Alicante, was the first such reserve to be
declared in all of Spain in 1986 and occupies 1,400 hectares around the entire
island. Being one of the few protected marine spaces, it makes for one of the
most incredible diving locations on the Costa Blanca and boast of a
particularly rich biodiversity beneath the waves. As for its flora, the Posidonia
Oceanica seagrass prairies stand out, and as for the fauna, fish such as
grouper, gilthead and even some specimens of loggerhead turtle frequent these
waters. Of course, diving in the Tabarca Marine Reserve is prohibited without
first getting permission from one of the authorised dive centres in the
About 2.6 miles from
the port of Denia, lies the remains of a cargo ship, commonly known as El
Vaporet, which sank at the end of the 19th century. The considerable depth, the
likely presence of currents and reduced visibility, make it advisable that only
those with considerable experience undertake the dive and only under optimum
conditions. A wealth of fish life inhabits the ruins of the ship, including
sardines and lobsters.
The island of
Portixol is a nature reserve with a popular bird sanctuary, that also has much
to offer under the water. Its rocky bottom, covered with seagrass, is inhabited
by several species of perch, eels and damselfish. The odd squid can also be
seen. The water is easily accessible from the pebble beach, which is close to
the main road, just down some stairs.
Located in the town
of Javea, this beach is considered one of the best in Spain. It is a dream
location where sea and mountains combine perfectly. Thanks to its turquoise
waters, the experience of diving here is unmatched. In La Granadella we can
observe white sands alternating with posidonia plains, in which we can see
octopuses, dorados, nacra molluscs and other underwater species. In addition,
the beach is shallow and calm, so it is ideal for those divers who are taking
their first breaths underwater. La Granadella is also an unbeatable place for
other activities such as sea kayaking.
El Peñón de Ifach
This beautiful dive
takes place on the north side of the Peñón de Ifach, in Calpe, and is characterised by its rocky
bottom and the huge arches that have formed in some of the rocks. In this area
we can find some of the largest octopuses to inhabit the Costa Blanca, and
numerous yellow-crusted anemones. Bream, moray eels, groupers and croakers are
also to be seen. This is a deep dive, so it will be necessary to have a certain
level of diving experience.
There is a reason
that some 70,000 British pensioners have chosen to retire in Spain. There are the amazing golf courses, complemented by its food and climate,
which have been recognised by the World Health Organisation as the best in the world
in terms of offering a healthy lifestyle. Not to mention that the cost of
living in Spain is around 30-40 percent lower than in the UK, meaning that your
monthly pension payments go significantly further in Spain than in the UK.
Besides all of this,
there’s the fact that common membership of the EU made it almost as easy to
retire in Spain as to retire in the UK. Obviously that’s all going to change
with the UK set to depart from the bloc; however, the Spanish government has
been eager to address the concerns of the British expat community in Spain. To
this end Madrid announced in March that Britons living in Spain will be able to
apply for a “foreigner identity card” before 31 December 2020 to
prove their legal residency status. Once this is obtained, expats should find
their access to services like healthcare and social security largely unchanged
regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without an agreement.
notwithstanding, what are the administrative steps to be taken to settle down
to retire in Spain?
First you need a
residence permit, to get this you need to register at your local Oficina de
Extranjeros who will then issue you with the permit. Once you have this you can
register on your local town hall’s census (padrón), which brings a variety of
benefits including the right to vote and free or discounted access to services
such as sports centres and libraries.
Retirees living in
Spain who are in receipt of a UK State Pension can choose to have their monthly
payments paid into either UK or Spanish bank account. For the second option,
you’ll need the international bank account number (IBAN) and bank
identification code (BIC) numbers for your Spanish account.
If you have a private
or workplace pension plan in place it is advisable to talk to a financial
advisor before leaving the UK. They will look at the various pension funds and
investments available to you as well as tax efficient options for structuring
your assets and funds.
To retire on a modest
salary in Spain, you might plan to spend around €17,000 a year, but to retire
comfortably it would be good to have around €25,000. If you’re willing to
budget and live cheaply, as little as €15,000 yearly will do.
Emergency cover in
Spain is available to anyone, whether you are an EU or non-EU citizen. To
qualify, if you live in Spain and receive a UK state pension or long-term
incapacity benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You will need an
S1 form, which must be obtained in the UK and certifies that you are of
retirement age and have paid all the necessary social security taxes in the UK.
You will then be entitled to the same benefits as a Spanish national.