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Marriage and DivorceBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Panama - Marriage and Divorce
Expats will also need to provide two witnesses to the marriage. These cannot be members of the family and if the witnesses are also expats they must produce their passports which prove they are legally in the country. Occasionally an expat may be required to produce a birth certificate which has been translated into Spanish. The translation of the document must be validated by the Panamanian authorities.
Expats who are marrying a Panamanian citizen will have the right to residency in the country as well as a work permit. For this to apply the wedding must take place and be registered in Panama. The necessary applications must then be made to the appropriate authorities to obtain the relevant documentation.
If you have cohabited with the same partner for a period of five years or more then you can ask a judge to declare this to be a ‘de facto’ marriage, but you will be expected to provide evidence of the relationship, which may mean calling witnesses to testify on your behalf or providing documentation such as bank statements.
When you marry in Panama any property you acquire during the marriage is considered to be jointly owned by you and your spouse, unless you have organised a pre-nuptial agreement. Pre-nuptial agreements are legal in Panama and should detail exactly what each partner would be entitled to in the event of a marriage breakdown.
Those who are in a same-sex relationship cannot marry in Panama, even if they have done so in another country this union cannot be registered in Panama and will not be legally recognised, so couples in this situation have no legal rights in the event of a relationship breakdown and should draw up legal documentation which covers their property ownership while they are in the relationship.
Those who have a marriage registered in Panama must divorce in the country if they choose to end the marriage. Divorce laws often lean in favour of the wife, particularly if the couple have children. Maintenance payments for children are counted per child and take into consideration the cost of living, education costs and other needs and payments may continue until the child is 25. Alimony payments for the spouse are calculated so that the spouse can continue to live a good lifestyle and payments continue until he/she remarries.
A couple can be granted a mutual consent divorce if they are both in agreement that the marriage has come to an end, but there are other types of divorce which are available in Panama. A unilateral divorce is the type granted if only one spouse wants to end the marriage. The third type of divorce is a unilateral divorce which granted if one spouse is considered to be at fault for the marriage breakdown. For this type of divorce a person can sue immediately without the need to wait for a set period of time.
There are numerous grounds for divorce. These include abandonment, drug addiction, infidelity and alcoholism. The family code of Panama lists a number of reasons why a divorce might be obtained. Acts of violence, psychological damage, attempts to turn a spouse to prostitution, a separation for a two year period or simply mutual consent are all considered to be grounds for ending a marriage.
A divorce in which the couple cannot agree on the process is called a contentious divorce and can be a very long process. This will involve a trial in court and you may find that you need a translator if you do not speak fluent Spanish. An expat is able to begin divorce proceedings in their home country, even if the marriage took place in Panama. In some countries this will mean that the non-Panamanian gets a favourable hearing and will benefit more than they would if they divorced in Panama.
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