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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.