Distribution of Matrimonial Assets following divorce in Spain

Property assets after divorce in Spain: distribution of common assets depends on economic regime of the marriage, assets shared or separate.

property assets divorce spain

All you need to know about property assets when divorcing in Spain

Following our exhaustive Divorce in Spain Overview, we offer this deep insight on one of the toughest issues after marriage end: what needs to be done with matrimonial assets, once common and now probably in dispute? Keep reading…

The Application of Spanish Law

Typically, Spanish law is applied where a foreign national is resident in Spain and married to a Spanish national. Also, a married couple who are foreign nationals and who are habitually resident in Spain, may also request that a Spanish court applies Spanish law to their divorce application. If the divorce is a mutually-agreed ‘fast-track’ divorce then Spanish law, by definition, applies.

Property assets divorce Spain: the rules relating to the distribution of marital assets govern what will happen to the shared matrimonial home, how any shared assets will be split etc.

So, here we shall look at how Spanish courts assess the legal issue of division of matrimonial assets. Specifically we will consider the following matters:

  • The different ‘types’ of marriage in Spain
  • Division of Assets in ‘Separación de Bienes‘ type arrangement
  • Division of Assets in ‘Sociedad de gananciales‘ type arrangement
  • What are private assets?
  • The matrimonial home
  • Division of Assets Process in a Contentious Divorce

Different Economic Relationships in Spain

The first step is to determine under which system of economic relations the marriage has existed.

In Spain, there are two standard economic types or systems of marriage: ‘separación de bienes’ and ‘sociedad de gananciales’.

Unless specifically chosen by way of public document signed in front of a notary, the type of marriage is determined by default and usually depends upon which autonomous community or region the couple are resident once married.

Division of Assets Under Separación de Bienes

This, or a variation of it, is the default choice in Catalonia, Aragón, Navarra, Balearic Islands and Basque Country.

Where a couple are married under ‘separación de bienes’ then each spouse is considered to own that which they brought into the marriage i.e. owned before they were married as well as that which they have acquired during the marriage either by purchase, inheritance or gift.

They may dispose freely of such goods and assets as they wish.

So, where the couple purchases an asset, say a car, and one pays 75% of the cost while the other spouse pays the remaining 25% then upon divorce they would be entitled to a percentage of the value of the car based upon the percentage that they contributed to the purchase price.

If it is not possible to determine which of the spouses is the owner of a particular asset then it is split 50-50.

In terms of contributions made towards the cost of assets, recent court rulings suggest that the spouse who stays at home to look after domestic chores, raising children etc, may have a financial value attributed to that work.

Division of Assets Under Sociedad de Gananciales

This is the default position in the remaining Spanish regions and has the effect that all goods and assets acquired during the course of the marriage and which are not considered to be ‘private’ goods, are to be considered as belonging to both spouses equally.

Examples of goods and assets to be included in the matrimonial ‘pot’ would be:

  • Goods obtained by the work or industry of either spouse.
  • The benefits, income or rents obtained from other goods owned by either spouse even if considered to be ‘private’ goods.
  • Goods obtained by using common funds whether for the use of one or other of the spouses.
  • Businesses and companies founded during the course of the marriage where common funds are used.
    If both private and common funds are used then the ownership is split in the ratio in which they were bought.
  • Goods purchased initially with common funds that require instalments to be paid later such as hire-purchase will be shared even if the instalments are paid by one of the spouses.

So the income and pension of either spouse may be considered to belong to the matrimonial ‘pot’ and would be potentially divisible between both spouses upon dissolution of the marriage.

However, while all of the previously-mentioned assets are shared equally, those assets considered to be ‘private’ are not and may not be divided between both spouses upon a termination of the marriage.

Take a look to this Wikipedia article (ES) if you want to learn more about Bienes Gananciales.

Property assets divorce Spain – Private Assets

Those assets which may not form part of a matrimonial ‘pot’ are known as ‘private’. These would include the following goods:

  • Those rights and assets possessed before the marriage (even where funds considered ‘common’ to both spouses are used to pay later instalments – with the exception of the matrimonial home, fixtures and fittings),
  • Those rights and assets obtained during the marriage without payment e.g. inheritances or gifts received by a particular spouse
  • Those rights and assets obtained in exchange for a private asset belonging to one of the spouses
  • Rights that may only be transmitted via inheritance
  • An award for personal damages or damages to private assets
  • Clothes and personal belongings not of ‘extraordinary’ value
  • Equipment necessary for the carrying-out of a trade or profession unless these are an integral part of a common enterprise
  • Assets acquired with an initial payment by one of the spouses even though later instalments are paid using common funds

The Matrimonial Home

The matrimonial home is a special type of asset and is dealt with separately here: The Marital Home After Divorce

Process of Division of Assets in Contentious Divorces

The manner in which marital assets are to be divided may be contained in the ‘Convenio’ agreement where such agreement exists or decided judicially in the case of a contentious divorce where no agreement has been reached between the spouses.

Where there is no agreement, the judge directs the spouses to meet on a specified date to draw-up an inventory of the matrimonial assets.

Failure to appear at this meeting will be taken to mean agreement with the inventory proposed by the other spouse.
Where there is disagreement as to whether an asset should be included in the inventory of matrimonial assets or as to its value then this is set-aside to be resolved by the judge.

Once the inventory is agreed or decided upon by the judge and the declaration ending the marriage is made then either of the spouses may request division of those assets which appear on the inventory.

This request should be accompanied by a proposal as to how the assets should be divided – taking into account the norms established by civil law in this regard.

Having received the request to divide-up the assets both parties will receive an invitation to meet with a court official within 10 days so as to reach an agreement as to the distribution of the assets.
As before, failure to attend will be deemed acceptance of the other spouse’s proposal.
A failure to agree will necessitate a ruling that an expert arbitrator be appointed to decide on the matter.

We propose reading now our divorce in Spain opening article, which draws a bigger picture and opens doors to more specific matters within the topic.

Related Services

22 Lawyers Offering Divorce Services in Spain

Testimonials for our Divorce service
  • Bailey Marks
    Bailey Marks, Jaen

    Alvaro was the best choice of a lawyer I could have made. He was thorough and his experience was evident during the entire custody process.

    He was always available to answer my concerns and made me feel secure with each step of the legal process, and we achieved a better result than I expected.

    Dec 04, 2020
  • Maja Alberte Bache
    Maja Alberte Bache, Almeria

    I can fully recommend Alvaro - he patiently explained the procedures - and trustfully led us through it as well ulfilled the case in the best possible way. Thanks

    Sep 09, 2020
  • Richard Flawn
    Richard Flawn , Alicante

    I Found Jose very professional and knowledgeable regarding my divorce proceedings and would gladly recommend him.

    May 31, 2020
  • Stephen Harris
    Stephen Harris, Fuengirola

    My solicitor here in Spain did get me a divorce as requested and tried his best to get it recognized in the U.K. unfortunately this has proved impossible. My solicitor here probably not aware of the difficulty at that time but did his utmost best.

    May 14, 2020
  • Havin Omed
    Havin Omed, Madrid

    I was satisfied with all of services above. Especially his responses so good.

    Jan 17, 2020
  • Michelle
    Michelle, Murcia

    I’m very happy with the way Maria dealt with everything,I would definitely contact Maria if I ever needed her services again 😃

    Nov 27, 2019
  • Eamonn Gomez
    Eamonn Gomez, Madrid

    Francisco and Carmen did a great job handling my divorce. In this difficult time for me, they handled the issues with understanding and flexibility.

    Francisco was very good in court and he could defend well against all the challenges made to the pre-nuptial contract my husband and I signed, so that it was upheld in full.

    Sep 29, 2019
  • Eamonn Gomez
    Eamonn Gomez, Madrid

    Francisco was extremely helpful, he couldn't have done more.

    Sep 07, 2019
  • Tina Shiels
    Tina Shiels, Fuengirola

    Alvaro was very helpful and went above and beyond to try to help me in my situation as I needed it to happen as fast as possible.

    Even whilst he was on holiday he was in touch and made things happen. would definitely recommend!

    Sep 06, 2019
  • Marion Brennan
    Marion Brennan, Alicante

    At every stage of our family case, Jose Antonio has been knowledgeable and thorough, very professional while remaining kind and supportive and ensured that we took the right steps for a positive outcome.

    I would highly recommend Jose Antonio for legal representation.

    Jun 29, 2019
  • Robert Cunningham
    Robert Cunningham, Mallorca

    Rosa was absolutely first class. She made a very difficult time in our lives a lot easier and for that I could not be more grateful. Thank you Rosa

    May 20, 2019
  • Keisha
    Keisha, Valencia

    Inmaculada was professional and also demonstrated compassion and understanding during this difficult period in my life.

    Apr 03, 2019
  • Wayne
    Wayne, Valencia

    Francisca was very informative and helpful. She handled my divorce professionally and made it easy for me throughout the process.

    Highly recommend and reasonable fees. Thank you, Francisca!

    Mar 16, 2019
  • Wayne Cherry
    Wayne Cherry, London, England

    Francisca was very informative and attentive to all of my inquiries and concerns. I would definitely be going back to her if needing her services again and would recommend her brilliant services.

    Mar 09, 2019
  • Candy
    Candy, Cadiz

    Francisco was very responsive, supportive and understanding.

    Unfortunately, I had to use another lawyer who has helped me in another case.

    Feb 11, 2019
  • Colin Wilson
    Colin Wilson, Australia

    Overall it was great. Rosa always answered all questions asked and provided clear, concise and well explained answers.

    When there was a delay in responding she did offer an apology which was appreciated. Rosa always instilled a sense of confidence that she knew exactly what was going on, what I was asking, and what the applicable law was.

    When not a Spanish local and dealing with her remotely, this provided great comfort in a sensitive matter.

    Oct 30, 2018
  • Julie Smith
    Julie Smith, Torrellano

    I can't compliment my solicitor enough.

    From our initial meeting right through to my ultimate divorce (with no unpleasant surprises the entire duration of the entire process), he immediately responded to my many enquiries, always had mine and my daughter's best interests at the forefront of any considerations and was well worth every penny of his extremely reasonable fee.

    Excellent value for money, totally approachable and very professional and understanding. I highly recommend him and will continue to retain his services for other matters in the future.

    Apr 20, 2018
  • Robert Davies
    Robert Davies, Mallorca

    Very supportive and clear on producing a suitable divorce settlement.

    Efficient, understanding and professional.

    Mar 12, 2018
  • D slocombe
    D slocombe, Spain

    Jose is very friendly and understanding.

    I am very satisfied and I would you use the same lawyer again in the future.

    May 19, 2017
  • Louise Kirby
    Louise Kirby, Alicante

    Jose Antonio is a very dedicated lawyer. He ensures he has a deep understanding of the case and provides excellent advise on a range of issues.

    He has often replied to queries out of hours and works hard to provide the best outcome for his clients.

    His service is outstanding and I would highly recommend him.

    Feb 15, 2017
  • Stanley Jones
    Stanley Jones, Llano del Camello

    I am very satisfied with Oliver, he was very helpful and always happy to assist.

    I would definitely use the same lawyer again in the future.

    Jan 17, 2017
  • CW
    CW, Ibiza

    Very knowledgeable and supportive from the outset.

    Made to feel very comfortable and nothing was too much trouble. Very highly recommended.

    Nov 22, 2016
  • Kate Godbehere
    Kate Godbehere, Granada

    From the outset, Rosa was extremely professional, approachable, efficient and competent. Her level of English is extraordinary, something very much appreciated as it made life easier for me during an inherently difficult time.

    Her correspondence was always relevant, detailed, simply and clearly explained and expressed. Rosa was kindly, matter of fact, calm, patient and always reassuring.

    Her pro-active, intelligent, thoughtful and knowledgeable advice helped very much during a particularly delicate and worrying stage of the process.

    Feb 25, 2016