Puerto Rico Family Law

Different Stages of Divorce in Puerto Rico:
  • Divorce: is the stage where the marital union is dissolved.
  • Division of marital assets: The court divides assets and liabilities (debts).
  • Child Custody: Where visitation/ timesharing and legal custody of any minor children is decided.
  • Child Support: The court will set proper child support for any minor children. (maximum age of 25 years)
Requirements for Divorce:

To divorce in Puerto Rico the parties must have at least one of the causes listed above, which are contained in the Civil Code of Puerto Rico, to file. One of the parties needs to file a divorce case against the other party, notify it and then proceed in court to substantiate the causes for the divorce.

In many the cases, at least one of the parties needs to live in Puerto Rico for at least one year before the filing of the civil action. All cases and stages are usually filed separately, unless part of the mutual consent cause.

Procedure for Divorce in Puerto Rico:

After the case is filed, one party notifies with a process server or in some instances through mail or publication, and the notified party receives a period in which they have to answer the complaint for divorce. If a party doesn’t answer, the case can and will proceed against them. This is usual referred to as default in the United States, in Puerto Rico it is called “Rebeldía”. This should be avoided at all costs, because the non-defaulting party will be able to request a lot of things that could be objected or at the very least proven in court before assigned.

After the Answer period, the court can call a hearing to see if the parties can work things out. This is called a “Vista de Conciliación”. Afterwards the court will proceed with a full hearing where testimony is taken and evidence is introduced. Again if one party doesn’t attend, the party will not be challenged and usually will be accepted by the court.

Attorneys fees:
In a Puerto Rico divorce, attorneys fees are not usually awarded unless the other party was found to be abusive. frivolous or with a flagrant disregard to the truth. These terms are used here for descriptive purposes, because the legal standard to prove attorneys fees as a punishment is determined case by case by a Puerto Rico court.

Divorce in Puerto Rico is very different from divorce in other states. The reason being is that Puerto Rico Divorce law is based on Spanish Law, while divorce in other states is based on U.S. Common law, which comes from England. There are a lot of differences within these two systems.

Divorce actions in Puerto Rico have very different phases. While a divorce in New York or in Florida would resolve issues between the parties in one case. In Puerto Rico, the divorce cases involves several different and distinct cases. In Puerto Rico, a divorce action involves only the dissolution of the marital union. Meaning, the divorce case in Puerto Rico will end the marriage but will not dive into other areas such as the division of the marital assets and child custody. In Puerto Rico, unlike other places, divorce has different causes.

Some of the causes of Divorce are:

  • Adultery,
  • Abandonment,
  • Separation for more than 2 years,
  • Cruelty (Injurias graves), impotence,
  • Insanity,
  • Felony conviction of one of the parties,
  • Mutual consent and
  • Irreconcilable differences (“Ruptura Irreparable”)
Division of Marital Assets:

After the divorce, you must file independently for the next stages. If the parties had any property they need to file a case for the division of the marital assets. During this stage, all the property the parties accumulated during their marriage will be divided. The division will include all the debts as well. This is a separate case from the divorce proceeding. The case involves a type of legal entity that is not used often in the United States. This entity is called the “Sociedad de Bienes Gananciales”. The SBG or Sociedad de Bienes Gananciales is like a tenancy in common or like a family owned company, where the shareholders are the spouses. Everything that is accumulated during the marriage is considered to be a part of the sociedad de bienes gananciales. All the assets and liabilities are held in this entity and during the divorce and division of the assets the court dissolves it. The dissolution of this entity is what allows for the spouses to receive their portion of the assets directly after the case ends. If property is not divided in this phase, one has to refile to reopen the case and divide that portion that was left undivided.

Child Custody in Puerto Rico:

Child Custody in Puerto Rico involves a judge deciding who will be the primary caregiver for any minors from the relationship. It can be a part of a divorce case in some limited instances or it can be a standalone case not involving divorce, where the parents never married. The court will evaluate evidence to determine with whom shall the minors live with. There are many factors involved in deciding who the children will live with and the court will use the best interest of the child standard. The court will award legal custody or “Patria Potestad”to one or both of the parents, depending on the circumstances.

Legal Custody or “Patria Potestad” is the power to make important decisions in the minor’s life. These include medical treatment, religious affiliation, where the children will live, where they will get their education, etc.

In addition to legal custody or “Patria Potestad”, the court will determine physical custody of the minors. Physical custody is with whom the kids will physically reside with. This can be with one parent or with both. (50/50 timesharing of physical custody)

The court will usually order a home study from the Department of Families in Puerto Rico to investigate each parent’s home. The study will be submitted to court where the judge will take it under advisement when deciding custodial issues.

As part of this process the noncustodial parent will get visitation. This is a time schedule ordered by the court for the parent to share time with the minor(s). Non-compliance by either of the parties can lead to contempt. (Contempt can be a punishment or an order to force compliance by the parties)

Child Custody issues tend to take a long time to decide and is usually a very complex process. Our Puerto Rico divorce lawyers work everyday with the courts and with the agencies in Puerto Rico so they are very familiar with the process. Call for a consultation with our Puerto Rico divorce lawyers today for more information.

Child Support:

One of the final stages in a case is the petition for child support. Child support is awarded in Puerto Rico by using regulations to set the amount to be paid by one or both of the parties. Child support in Puerto Rico is based on the parents need as well as the capacity of the parties to pay the support. The amount is awarded for the benefit of the children and is usually given to the parent that has physical custody. That custodial parent receives the child support and uses it for the benefit of the minor(s).

In Puerto Rico, child support takes into account the income from the parent’s spouse. If one or both of the parents have a spouse, the spouse’s income is factored into the amount the parent will pay for child support. This is very different than in other states and is one of the reasons it is very important to have a child support lawyer in Puerto Rico that knows the system well.

A Puerto Rico Child Support Lawyer will help you make the best case so your needs and the needs of your children are met. We have seen cases where people are assigned a huge amount of child support when they really shouldn’t have and small amounts when they should have gotten a lot more. Making that case is one of the most important matter in your life and your kids’ life. Call us know to make an appointment to discuss your Puerto Rico Child Support case.