Capsule Vocabularies: Terminology of Spanish Divorce Proceedings

Although Spain has what may be described as “no fault divorce” (divorcio no causal), and one spouse needn’t allege grounds for divorce (causas de divorcio) against the other, divorce proceedings follow ordinary civil procedure. Thus in contested divorces (divorcios contenciosos) the spouse initiating the proceeding (the demandante) “sues” the other spouse (the demandado) by filing a petition for divorce (interponiendo demanda de divorcio).

Translation mistakes may result from the failure to recognize that the terminology of civil procedure is not commonly used in divorce proceedings in Anglo-American jurisdictions where specific, less “contentious” terms are preferred in this and in other family proceedings. In that regard it should be noted that a demanda de divorcio is often not a “complaint,” but rather a “petition for divorce.” The spouse initiating the divorce is a “petitioner,” rather than a “plaintiff” or “claimant” (demandante).” Likewise, the spouse against whom divorce is sought is called the “respondent,” rather than a “defendant” (demandado). And in this context estimar la demanda de divorcio would be translated as “to grant a divorce,” while sentencia de divorcio is widely known as a “divorce decree.”

Some of the basic vocabulary concerning divorce proceedings in Spain is provided below:

  • divorcio—divorce
  • divorcio judicial—judicially-decreed divorce
  • causas de divorcio—grounds for divorce
  • divorcio causal; sistema causalista—fault-based divorce
  • divorcio no causal; divorcio sin alegar causa—no-fault divorce
  • divorcio contencioso—contested divorce; defended divorce (UK)
  • divorcio no contencioso—uncontested divorce; undefended divorce (UK)
  • divorcio de mutuo acuerdo—divorce by mutual consent
  • “divorcio exprés”—expedited divorce*
  • demanda de divorcio—divorce petition; petition for divorce
  • demandante—petitioner
  • demandado—respondent
  • estimar la demanda de divorcio—to grant a divorce
  • sentencia de divorcio—divorce decree

*Informal expression denoting a mutually-agreed expedited no-fault divorce proceeding introduced in the Ley 15/2005 divorce reform, requiring no separation period and that may be filed after only three months of marriage.

Source: Rebecca Jowers, Léxico temático de terminología jurídica español-inglés. Madrid: Tirant lo Blanch, 2015, pp. 720-721.

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