One of the most common petitions we get at COMO is for information regarding civil unions. Call it what you wanna call it – pareja de hecho, pareja estable no casada or unión de hecho – civil union numbers in Spain have jumped in the last decade, and it’s a common step for foreigners hoping to achieve permanent residency and the right to work.
But what differentiates it from marriage, if anything?
Both matrimonio and pareja de hecho laws are subject to family law in Spain and are open to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. However, there are large differences between the two in regards to your rights as a foreigner. Perhaps one of the most obvious differences is that marriage is a national law as laid out in the Boletín Oficial del Estado (BOE), whereas pareja de hecho laws depend on the Autonomous Community in which you and your partner live and their individual decrees.
The other important differences have to do with adoption, inheritance and taxes, though it should be noted that each region in Spain will have slightly different interpretations of pareja de hecho. When possible, it’s always best to consult your autonomous community’s official ruling if you’re considering or already form a pareja de hecho.
Both marriage and civil unions have the same basic foundations: to give order and rights to stable partnerhsips between two people who do not intend to terminate the relationship. You must prove both parties are of legal age, not already in a marriage or pareja de hecho and not blood relatives of first or second degree (oh, and you can’t have been convicted of the murder of a former partner – we’re dead serious).
You should also enter into the relationship freely and of sound mind.
Both options allow you, as a foreign excomunitario, to work and enjoy social security benefits, among other rights granted to family members of EU citizens. Married couples are referred to as cónyuges, whereas those who are pareja de hecho are called conviventes in Spanish law.
The Fine Print: Typically speaking, marriage will give you more rights as a non-EU citizen – you can apply for a passport sooner, which will grant you the right to vote in elections. Here are a few other privileges granted to married partners:
- Defunción: Should your partner die without a will or testament, the married partner, called the supervivente or survivor, has the right to property or possessions. If you’re in a pareja de hecho, you may have to prove how long you’ve been registered before you can claim such rights. High-risk jobs, such as policemen and soldiers, are exceptions to the rule (and be aware that there are small differences if no will is involved, depending on your comunidad)
- Widow or Widower’s pension (pension de viudedad): with marriage, it’s automatic (so long as the pension is not higher than Social Security’s established limit) whereas pareja de hecho will require at least five years of partnership in your comunidad‘s registry to claim a pension.
- Taxes: Married couples are allowed to file jointly; but in most cases parejas de hecho have separación de bienes and tick the soltero box on their returns.
- Honeymoon time: Sorry, PDHs – you don’t get your 15 days paid vacation after the resolución of your paperwork, unless you negotiate it yourself. Married couples do have the right to enjoy two weeks off.
What’s not different?
- Children in common: both marriage and pareja de hecho clearly lay out the rights and obligations of the parents and the laws which protect minors. The differences come into play when there is a divorce or ruptura of the pareja de hecho.
- Adoption: Absolutely no restrictions here, so form your pair and adopt a pet or a baby!
- Pensión compensatoria: Alimony is not automatic with pareja de hecho because finances are considered separate. However, if both of your names appear on a deed or proof of purchase your comunidad will have the final say in how the couple must divvy up items acquired during your time together.
Is pareja de hecho right for you, or should you head straight for the altar?
Unfortunately, we can’t answer that question for you, but we can say that sometimes pareja de hecho is faster and simpler… sometimes the opposite. If you’re considering PDH, nab our brand-new, all-inclusive eBook, Pareja de Hecho in Spain: A Step-by-Step Guide to Legalizing Your Love.
In it, you’ll find information regarding documentation you’ll need to present and how to obtain it, comunidad autónoma-specific information for each of Spain’s 17 regions (and a few cities), FAQs, sample timelines and contact information for registries in every rincón in Spain. It’s chock-full of useful information but easy to use and up-to-date with the newest PDH laws.