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Know the Laws: Puerto Rico

UPDATED June 28, 2012

Basic information about divorce in Puerto Rico.

back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce in Puerto Rico?

Below is a list of the grounds (reasons) for divorce:

  1. One of the spouses commits adultery;
  2. One of the spouses is sentenced to prison for the conviction of a felony, except if s/he gets a suspended sentence;
  3. One of the spouses is a chronic alcoholic or uses drugs regularly and excessively;
  4. Cruel treatment or serious insults against the other spouse;
  5. Abandonment of the other spouse for more than a year;
  6. Total sexual impotence that is incurable and that began after the marriage;
  7. The attempt of a spouse to corrupt or prostitute the children;
  8. The husband's proposal to prostitute his wife;
  9. Separation of the spouses for an uninterrupted period of time of over two years; and
  10. Incurable insanity of one of the spouses for more than 7 years that began after marriage.*
You can also get divorced by mutual consent. This usually happens when both spouses decide they cannot live together any longer. In this case, the spouses do not have to explain to the court the reasons for their separation, but they do have to show the judge, along with the divorce petition, that they have agreed on the following points:
  1. Physical and legal custody of the kids;
  2. How the relationship will be between the parents and the kids;
  3. Child support; and
  4. Distribution of property and debts.**
* See 31 L.P.R.A. § 321
** See the government website, La Rama Judicial de Puerto Rico

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back to topWhat 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 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

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back to topWhat 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 in most states:

  • 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, which may include a no-fault ground such as irreconcilable differences.
  • 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.  This may be called “contesting the divorce.”  If s/he contests it, then you may have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out.  If your spouse does not disagree with anything, then s/he may sign the appropriate divorce papers and send them back to you and/or the court (depending on your state).  If your spouse agrees with everything and signs the papers, this may be called an “uncontested divorce.”  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 is 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 may also be decided as part of your divorce.

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back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce?

We hope the following links to outside sources, provided in Spanish, may be helpful.

Rama Judicial de Puerto Rico provides additional information 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. 

Leyes de Divorcio y Matrimonios has a lot of information on divorce, including information about annulment and the property rights that individuals have when dividing assets with their spouses.

WomensLaw is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites.  We provide these links for your information only.

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