Times change, and with them, the ways in which we relate… also as a couple. Some decades ago, marriage was the only effective option to formalize a relationship – at least in the face of the State – and to protect our rights. Over time, another, increasingly popular path has emerged: the domestic partnership, or as it is called in Catalonia, the stable couple. However, both ways are by no means equivalent in rights and obligations. In addition, there are legal differences between the different autonomous regions: these have a quite broad scope to regulate the effects, as well as the requirements for a domestic partnership to be established. So, in this post, we will focus on the case of domestic partnership in Catalonia and its differences with regard to marriage in this region. If you have any questions, you can turn to me without obligation, and I will help you choose the best option for you and your partner.
The regulations that we have to consider – and the ones you should consult in case of doubt – are, on the one hand, the Civil Code of Catalonia (specifically, Law 25/2010, of July 29, of the second book of the Civil Code of Catalonia, relating to the person and the family) and, on the other hand, Decree-Law 3/2015, of October 6, on the modification of Law 25/2010, of July 29, of the second book of the Civil Code of Catalonia, relative to the creation of the Register of Stable Couples, and Order JUS / 44/2017, of March 28, which approves the Regulation of the Register of Stable Couples of Catalonia.
The most important thing to know is that, in the case of Catalonia, unmarried couples are in luck: its Civil Code and the rest of applicable regulations equalize the rights and obligations of stable couples with those of conventional marriages in relation to inheritance, joint children, family reunification and financial compensation for work when a separation occurs. Most of the differences between a marriage and a stable couple are evident in aspects of state legislation regarding taxation, widow’s pension and work permits. Not so in all the regions. In fact, in many of them, the differences are much greater, which places them at a disadvantage.
When is there a stable couple in Catalonia? Requirements
Article 234-1 of the Catalonian Civil Code ensures that two people (can be male or female, indiscriminately) who lead a common life analogous to the marriage are considered stable partners in any of the following cases:
- a) If the coexistence lasts more than two consecutive years.
- b) If during the coexistence, the couple has a joint child.
- c) If they formalize the relationship in a public deed.
Therefore, all sentimental couples who match any of these three requirements can apply to all the provisions (rights and obligations) in Article 234.
It must be borne in mind that in cases B and C, there is no minimum time required for cohabitation to acquire the status of a domestic partner. In the first case, the sentimental relationship with a coexistence of more than 2 consecutive years must be proven and justified by both members of the couple (providing the city registration at the same address).
It is also important that, in spite of the fact that the three situations described provide the status of domestic partnership, in practice, living in a stable couple may have further requirements for the exercise of certain rights. For example, to obtain a widow’s pension in case of death of the partner, it is not enough to have a joint child, but it is also necessary an immediate and uninterrupted coexistence for not less than 5 years, as the Social Security Law requires, which must be accredited either before a notary or by its registration in the Registry of Domestic Partnership.
As for the termination of domestic partnership, in Catalonia, this occurs for the following reasons:
- a) Cessation of cohabitation and life in common.
- b) Death or declaration of death of one of the partners.
- c) Marriage of any of the partners.
- d) Common agreement of the partners formalized in public deed.
- e) The wish of one of the partners formally notified to the other one.
The termination of domestic partnership implies the withdrawal of the consents and powers that any of the cohabitants has granted in favour of the other. Of course, in anticipation of the cessation of coexistence, the cohabitants can agree in a public deed on the effects of the termination of domestic partnership.
After the cessation of cohabitation, the cohabitants can also agree on the effects of the termination of domestic partnership. In the case of agreements reached after the cessation of cohabitation, both partners, or one of the partners with the consent of the other, may submit to the approval of a judicial authority a proposal of agreement that would include all the effects that the termination must produce with respect to the joint children and/or between the partners.
Differences between domestic partnership and marriage in Catalonia
There are different areas where we can classify the effects of the stable couple status in Catalonia:
- Matrimonial Regime: As in marriage, unmarried couples have total freedom when it comes to agreeing on the economic regime that best suits them, whether it is marital property or separation of property. However, the main difference is that the couple cannot be taxed in a joint declaration of Personal Income Tax. This is because this tax depends on the State (that is: it is not established by Catalonian regulations, where marriage and a stable partner are equated).
- Inheritance management: In principle, each member of the couple conserves and administers their assets separately or privately (both their prior possessions and what they acquire individually once the stable couple status has been formalized). However, to perform any act of disposition (for example, in case of a sale or mortgage) on the family or common home, even if it belongs to only one of the partners, the consent of the other partner is required.
- Taxation: In regard to all the taxes that depend on the Generalitat of Catalonia, domestic partnership is equal to a marriage. The Inheritance and Donations Tax, for example, provides important bonuses when the one who inherits or receives a donation is the spouse or, by analogy, a domestic partner. However, in regard to state taxes, civil partnership and marriage are not equal. The most striking difference is related to the Personal Income Tax, which is mentioned above.
- Widow’s pension: Let’s return to a case of state regulations: in order to be eligible for a widow’s pension, the General Social Security Law considers as domestic partnership, with an analogous affective relationship to the conjugal one, for those who are not prevented from getting married, have no marital bond with a third person and are able to accredit by a corresponding city registration a stable and valid coexistence for a period of not less than 5 years, immediately after the death of one of the partners. In April 2017, the Registry of Domestic Partnership of Catalonia was created, guaranteeing that all citizens have access to this register, regardless of their place of residence, and that up to that date, there were municipal records. Now, with the creation of the Registry mentioned above, all citizens of Catalonia are given the opportunity to register as a stable couple and to comply with the requirements established by current legislation to receive the widow’s pension. However, stable partners, in addition to having to comply with formal requirements, must also meet income insufficiency requirements.
- Paid holiday leave, better for marriages: Almost all collective agreements provide for a minimum of fifteen days of vacation pay for workers when they get married. And very few provide the same right to the workers that acquire the status of domestic partnership, even if they do it in a formal way by registering in the corresponding public registry.
- Compensation for death: The Criminal Code recognizes that a partner of a stable couple can receive compensation in case of death of the other partner or for material and moral damages arising in cases of, for example, traffic accident (always considered that death proceeds of crime).
- Joint children and adoption. As for joint children, there is no difference between a stable couple and marriage in regard to the rights and obligations with respect to them: child care and custody, maintenance, pensions, the visitation regime in case of separation or inheritance rights of the children. A stable couple also has similar rights in case of adoption, thanks to the latest legislative reform on this matter – Law 26/2015, of 28 July on the modification of the system of protection of children and teenagers – specifying particularly that homosexual couples united in domestic partnership have full rights to adopt children.
- Healthcare rights: The right to healthcare is recognized both for a spouse, in the case of marriage, and for a partner cohabiting with the right holder. In these cases, it is necessary to prove a minimum coexistence of one year with the right holder.
- Compensatory allowance and compensation for work: In the Catalonian Civil Code it is ensured that, “if a partner has significantly contributed to the home, more than the other partner or has worked for the other without compensation or with insufficient compensation, this is entitled to financial compensation for this dedication as long as at the moment of the cessation of coexistence the other partner has obtained a higher asset growth”. The situation, therefore, is equated to that of marriage.
- Maintenance: Similarly, “if the stable couple is dissolved, any of the cohabitants can claim a maintenance benefit if needed to adequately meet their support, in one of the following cases: cohabitation has reduced the ability of the applicant to obtain income, or if they have custody of joint children, in circumstances when their ability to obtain income is reduced.
- Inheritance and Successions: If one of the partners of the couple dies without a testament, the Catalan Civil legislation establishes that the survivor has a position equal to that of a spouse. Thus, they will be entitled to the universal usufruct of the inheritance and, if there are no children, they will be the direct heir of the deceased, with preference to his parents. Specifically, Aragon, Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque Country, Navarre and the Balearic Islands equate inheritance rights with those of marriage.
- Residence permit for foreigners: The establishment of a stable couple, provided that one of the members is a citizen of the EU, can contribute to obtaining residence rights in the Spanish state in favour of the other partner.
- Leases: The Urban Leasing Law requires two consecutive years of coexistence or joint children in order for the member of the couple who does not hold the lease to be eligible for the subrogation of the rental contract.