These days it becomes more popular for couples to cohabit without even the intention of getting married. Nevertheless, couples often want to put their relationship on a more solid, practical and lasting footing. With the “pareja de hecho“, a legal status that a couple can apply for and that requires them to have a long-lasting relationship in which they have lived together for at least 12 months, Catalonia has granted couples legal protection even if they are not married.
However, as with marriages, cohabiting couples can also separate if, for example, the love is over or living together becomes unbearable.
There are various ways to end the validity of a civil partnership:
- If one member of the couple has passed away
- by mutual agreement (in the case of unmarried couples a simple notification to the register is sufficient)
- by the simple and unilateral decision of one partner, if he/she notifies the Register of Civil Partnerships
- if there is a de facto separation of more than 6 months
- when one of the partners marries.
If there are children, joint property or claims, the separation becomes complicated.
If one of the partners is financially worse off when a couple separates, a “restorative pension” can be agreed upon to compensate for this. If no agreement can be reached, a judge may also be called upon to award it.
When it comes to children, a verbal agreement is usually reached in which the former partners decide on who will take care of the children, the visits of the other partner and how the children’s expenses will be shared. Since this kind of agreement is only possible if there is a good understanding between the parents it is better to agree and carry out a legal procedure to establish who has custody, visitation of the other party and child support.
If the house was bought by both of them, each member owns half of the property. If there is no agreement, a judge can be asked to divide the estate, and he/she will also decide who should stay in the house.
When there are common children, housing will be enjoyed by them and the parent left in their care, even if he/she is not the owner.
If the house where the common-law couple lived together is rented, both can stay holders of the rental contract. If only one is listed as the owner the law provides for the possibility of transferring the lease under the same conditions and with the same rights to the person with whom the holder cohabits, provided that the relationship has lasted at least two years or there are joint children.
If the couple separates by mutual consent, the assets can be distributed verbally or through a private document, if there is no common real estate. If they shared real estate or if they agreed an economic regime, the distribution would be made by means of a public deed. If the couple does not reach an agreement for the distribution of its patrimony and has common goods, it will have to go before the judge.
Written in collaboration with Natalie Efiamarho