Below you will find basic information about divorce laws in Puerto Rico.
What are the requirements to file for divorce in Puerto Rico?
In order to get divorced in Puerto Rico, you have to meet one of the following requirements:
- You have lived in Puerto Rico for at least one year immediately before filing the divorce petition; or
- The cause (ground) for divorce occurred in Puerto Rico or when one of the spouses was living in Puerto Rico.*
* 31 L.P.R.A. § 331
What are the grounds for divorce in Puerto Rico?
Below is a list of the grounds (reasons) for divorce that are acceptable in Puerto Rico:
- One of the spouses commits adultery;
- One of the spouses is sentenced to prison for the conviction of a felony, except if s/he gets a suspended sentence;
- One of the spouses is a chronic alcoholic or uses drugs regularly and excessively;
- Cruel treatment or serious insults against the other spouse;
- Abandonment of the other spouse for more than one year;
- Total sexual impotence that is incurable and that began after the marriage;
- The attempt of a spouse to corrupt or prostitute the children;
- The husband's proposal to prostitute his wife;
- Separation of the spouses for an uninterrupted period of time of more than two years;
- Incurable insanity of one of the spouses for more than seven years that began after marriage;
- Mutual consent, filed together through an ex parte petition; and
- The irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. (Note: Unlike the grounds listed in numbers 1 – 10, above, this ground is considered a “no-fault” ground and so the judge can order the divorce based on this ground regardless of whether your spouse objects or not.)*
For mutual consent (#11, above), the parties don't have to explain to the court the reasons for the separation but they do have to indicate in the divorce petition and affidavit that they have agreed on the following points:
- Physical and legal custody of the children of the marriage;
- How the relationship will be between the parents and the children (for example, the schedule for visitation, the responsibilities each parent will have, etc.);
- Child support; and
- Distribution of property and debts.**
* 31 L.P.R.A. § 321
** See the government website, La Rama Judicial de Puerto Rico
Can I get alimony?
Alimony is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse. As part of a divorce, the judge can award alimony to a spouse who doesn’t have enough money to support himself/herself. The judge will decide how much alimony will be paid, how long it will last, and from where the alimony will be paid (e.g., salary, other income, property).
In determining how much alimony should be paid and for how long, the judge will consider:
- Any agreements reached by you and your spouse;
- Your ages and states of health;
- Any professional qualifications and the likelihood of employment for you and your spouse;
- Past and future commitment/dedication to the family;
- How you or your spouse contributed to the professional, commercial, or industrial work of the other;
- The length of the marriage and how long you and your spouse lived together;
- The financial resources and the financial needs of you and your spouse; and
- Other factors relevant to the circumstances of the case.
If there is a substantial change in the situation, income, or wealth of either spouse, the judge might modify (change) the alimony ordered. Alimony can also be revoked (ended) if it becomes unnecessary, or if the person receiving the alimony re-marries or lives with a new partner.*
* 31 L.P.R.A. § 385
What are the basic steps to get a divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps that a person may have to follow to obtain a divorce:
- First, you or your spouse must meet the residency requirements of the state you want to file in.
- Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
- Third, you must file the appropriate divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse - for the exact rules for serving the papers, contact your local courthouse or an attorney.
- Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then s/he will have the opportunity to file papers telling her/his side. In his/her response, the other party may express his/her opinion challenging the divorce, asking that it be granted under different grounds or letting the judge know that s/he agrees to the divorce. If your spouse contests the divorce, then you may have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. Also, if a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. (Speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers before you can continue with the divorce.)
- Fifth, if there are property, assets, a pension, debts, or anything else that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, then these issues may have to be dealt with during the divorce or else you may lose your chance to deal with these issues. The issues may be worked out during settlement negotiations and incorporated into the divorce decree or in a series of court hearings during the divorce. Custody and child support may also be decided as part of your divorce.
Where can I find additional information about divorce?
We hope the following links to outside sources may be helpful. Please note that WomensLaw has no relationship with any of these organizations and so we cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information contained on their websites.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has free information packets about different topics related to domestic violence available, including "Managing Your Divorce: A Guide for Battered Women." You can also find additional information packets about other related topics on their website.
Rama Judicial de Puerto Rico provides additional information (in Spanish) about the residency requirements which must be met to get a divorce in Puerto Rico, along with the basic divorce process, and grounds for divorce in Puerto Rico.