Below, you can find information about Puerto Rico divorce laws. You will find more information about divorce, including the risks of taking your children out of state while a divorce is pending, on our general Divorce page. To watch brief videos about divorce in Spanish with English sub-titles, go to our Videos page. Lastly, learn more about the court process on our Preparing for Court – By Yourself page.
What are the requirements to file for divorce in Puerto Rico?
What are the grounds for divorce in Puerto Rico?
Can I get alimony?
What are the basic steps to get a divorce?
Where can I find additional information about divorce?
In order to get divorced in Puerto Rico, you have to meet one of the following requirements:
- You have continuously 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.1
1 Art. 424- 2020 Puerto Rico Civil Code
Puerto Rico has the following acceptable “no-fault” grounds (reasons) for divorce:
- mutual consent, filed together through an ex parte petition in court or through a legal document prepared by a notary public;
- the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, filed in court by either party; and
- the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, filed through a joint ex parte petition in court or through a legal document prepared by a notary public.
For the mutual consent ground, the parties don’t have to explain the reasons for the separation but they do have to indicate their agreements on the following matters:
- physical and legal custody of the children of the marriage;
- how the relationship will be between the parents and the children, including things such as the schedule for visitation, the responsibilities each parent will have, etc.;
- child and spousal support; and
- distribution of property and debts.1
Note: When filed jointly, the irretrievable breakdown ground does not require that the spouses agree on the issues mentioned above, but they do have to make a list of the marital property and debts. Separate actions can be filed for child/spousal support, custody/visitation, and distribution of property and debts.2
1 Art. 425- 2020 Puerto Rico Civil Code
2 Art. 429- 2020 Puerto Rico Civil Code
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, such as from the spouse’s salary, other income, property, etc.
In Puerto Rico, a judge can order “pendente lite” spousal support. This is a temporary support order that lasts only while the divorce process takes place. The amount ordered will be based on the paying spouse’s economic capacity while still covering the basic and essential needs of the spouse who is receiving it. It can also cover legal expenses related to the divorce process.1
As part of the final divorce order, the judge can order temporary spousal support:
- for a specific amount of time;
- until the awarded spouse is able to take care of him/herself; or
- until the awarded spouse has enough assets to cover his/her own needs.2
In determining how much alimony should be paid and for how long, the judge could consider, among other factors, the following circumstances related to both spouses:
- any agreements reached regarding alimony;
- your ages and mental and physical health;
- academic, professional, or vocational training and the chances of securing secure employment;
- responsibilities related to caring for family members;
- contributions made to the other spouse’s professional, commercial, or industrial work;
- the length of the marriage and how long you and your spouse lived together;
- the financial resources and the financial needs of each 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 change (modify) the alimony ordered. Alimony can also be ended (revoked) if it becomes unnecessary or if the person receiving the alimony re-marries or lives with a new partner.2
1 Art. 454- 2020 Puerto Rico Civil Code
2 Art. 466- 2020 Puerto Rico Civil Code
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps that a person may have to follow to obtain a divorce:1
- 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.
1Note: Under certain circumstances, someone can obtain a divorce in Puerto Rico through a notary public. Please see the What are the grounds for divorce in Puerto Rico? section for more information.
Because this is a recently enacted law, the Puerto Rico Judicial Branch website (in Spanish) has not been updated yet. However, you can still find useful information including divorce forms to be filed. Please keep in mind this website is in Spanish.