Don’t forget your family when moving to Spain

Don’t forget your family when moving to Spain

Originally from Antwerp, I moved to Barcelona last summer with my family to build a new life under the Catalan sun and Gaudi’s architecture in my favourite city, Barcelona. After having completed all the relevant formalities in order to obtain the NIE document, town hall registration, declaration of existence with the tax services and social security offices, I thought I could finally sit back and relax, when I received a request for consultation from our Consulate: “Are Belgians who made a declaration of legal cohabitation or who have signed a cohabitation contract protected in the same way in Catalonia?
In Antwerp, where we lived before, we had taken the necessary steps to benefit from legal cohabitation by simply making a declaration at city hall. Thus, in Belgium, our partnership was protected: we were both enjoying some rights and obligations such as the protection of the family home and the obligation for each of us to contribute to the costs of the household. However, once arrived in Spain, I did not question the validity of our legal cohabitation… until today.
Being a lawyer and merely after a few investigations, I realised that things in Spain were not as simple: our legal cohabitation as such was simply not recognised. On the other hand, the Spanish legislator has provided protection to non-married couples by means of the “pareja de hecho” or “pareja estable”. Spain wouldn´t be Spain if it weren´t for the different types of regimes in each of the Autonomous Communities: some have no specific legislation at all, whereas others – like Catalonia – have specific regulations. I was not out of the woods and realised I was doomed to studying the applicable conditions for Catalonia.
After meticulously examining all the rules of non-eligibility, going from non-emancipated minors, to married people, and married people in pairs with a third person, I finally found a way to make our relationship recognised: either after 2 years of living together in Spain (damn, I just arrived), or after the birth of a common child, or through an authentic deed in front of a notary public. The latter gave us the possibility to determine the rules that best suited us in the deed of cohabitation.
I chose for the signing of a deed in front of a notary public because it gave us immediate protection as well as the possibility to determine the rules of our partnership as we wanted it such as, for instance, the solidarity with regard to the debts of the household. When signing the deed, the notary public informed me that the family home and household goods were entirely protected: no one can dispose of them.
In addition, Catalan law foresees the possibility of “prenups” or agreements regulating a possible separation, just as in American series. While it is “better to be safe than sorry” the couple can establish, beforehand, the rules that will apply in case of a possible separation, such as the allocation of real estate, a compensatory allowance or parental authority. Without such an agreement, it will be the judge who decides on the grounds applicable to the divorce (parental authority, compensatory allowances, alimony, family home, distribution of goods, etc.).
On a lighter note – “Always keep the best for last” – such an agreement can also be signed in order to foresee the effects that will apply in the event of the death of one of the partners. This is often the case when acquiring real estate in order to determine the effects in the event of death. If you do not dispose of an agreement of the kind and one of you dies stumbling from the top of the ramparts of Montjuic, your partner will be entitled to your domestic effects (clothes, furniture, household goods), the use of the home and even a widow’s pension if the statutory conditions therefore are fulfilled (minimum of two years of official life together before death).
In conclusion, I strongly advise our young couples coming from the “flat country” to formalise their relationship and secure their family situation. Before enjoying your Estrella and some tapas under your sombrero, think about settling your family affairs in order to do the siesta in all tranquillity.

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