So, you are thinking about getting married in Costa Rica! Congratulations! I am a marriage attorney in San José and will gladly assist you both. Our country is beautiful, and having a civil marriage is easy. Same-sex marriage is legal and valid. Same sex marriage, has been legal for several years now. However, to get married in Costa Rica, there are civil marriage requirements you must take into consideration. I am writing this article as a marriage lawyer to cover this subject for you.
You should know, that if you don´t understand Spanish, the notary public must translate the marriage act to you. The notary must also attest, that he did this, in the act itself. If this is not done, you run the risk of having act be rendered as null and void. But don´t worry! I am fully fluent bilingual attorney, so your marriage will be ironclad.
I will perform the Costa Rica marriage as a Notary Public. We have a “record book” where people sign the notarized acts and contracts. We call this ledger the “Protocol.” First, I perform the civil marriage by reading the wedding act to you both. After I have read it, I will ask you to say your vows. Then I will ask if you verbally agree to commit to matrimony. If you agree, then I will collect your signatures in my protocol. At that precise moment, you will be officially bound by marriage.
After I officiate the ceremony, we will register it in the Civil Register. This is done to inform third parties of the union publicly. Registration is integral to this legal service and can take up to 22 days. Once this is done, I can get the document apostilled on your behalf so you can register the union in your country. You will also be able to acquire online certifications from the Civil Registry of Costa Rica.
Yes, same sex marriage is legal and welcome in Costa Rica. It is essential to keep in mind that in Costa Rica, civil weddings are legally impossible in the following cases only:
There are two types of legal marriages in Costa Rica. First and foremost, you have the weddings officiated by a priest of the Catholic Church. These are performed under “Canonical Law” called “Ecclesiastic Marriages.” Costa Rica is mostly a catholic country, and marriage officiated by the Church is considered a sacrament and a holy union. Under canonical law, the Church is authorized to marry people only once “until death does us part.”
The marriage monopoly by the Church used to be a problem if you were divorced and wished to remarry. You couldn´t. It was also a problem if you were a non-Catholic or if you wanted a same-sex marriage. The thing is, everyone has a human right to create their destiny with their chosen person. Civil marriage and Church and State separation became the answer. Its officiated by a civil authority per the laws of the land. In the case of Costa Rica, civil marriages are performed by the Family Judge or a marriage attorney, which must be a Notary Public, such as myself.
The end goal of civil marriage in Costa Rica is to establish a life in common. When family law in Costa Rica began, a “nuclear family” was understood as one comprised of a father, a mother, and children. However, the term has been modified with time to encompass different kinds of families. For example, a single parent and their child are a family. So if you ask me what the end goal of a marital union is, it will depend on the institution. On the one hand, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacred sacrament. It’s a holly union that promotes the traditional family (man and wife) and has procreation as an end goal.
However, procreation is not essential to civil institutions, and the conventional concept of a family has been amplified. So, on the other hand, you have civil marriages that do not care for procreation but rather a life in common. Article 11 of the Family Code specifies, “Matrimony is the essential root for a family, and its essence is life in common, cooperation, and mutual help.” So if you are divorced or want to have same-sex marriage, you are pursuing a life in common, which is the vision of family law.
Yes. Same-sex marriage in Costa Rica has been legal since May 26th, 2020. The Supreme Court declared the pre-existing prohibition in the Costa Rican family code as unconstitutional. This is a civil disposition, an example of a recent separation between Church and State. Civil marriage encompasses “life in common,” and a “family” is now understood beyond its traditional sense. Therefore, in the eyes of the law, same-sex marriage is identical to a civil marriage between a man and a woman. It has the same legal effects, so if you are a same-sex couple and wish to marry, you should contact me as your marriage lawyer and fly to Costa Rica.
Yes. You can sign a prenuptial agreement before or during the union. It must be done by a marriage attorney, that must be a Notary Public. It must also be registered. By a prenup agreement, you can establish how marital assets should be treated and divided. However, a prenuptial agreement can´t establish limitations or prohibitions for alimony.
This is important to keep in mind. Marital assets are acquired during the marriage by “mutual effort.” If you win the lottery or get an inheritance, said monies are not considered marital assets. Assets you acquire by paying with cash from an inheritance or the lottery are not marital assets either. Having said this, reading about matrimonial assets in my blog is a good idea.
As a marriage lawyer, I can register the ones celebrated between foreigners in Costa Rica. This means that we can´t register a marriage between foreigners that has been celebrated abroad. There are two exceptions:
1. When two foreigners are married by the Costa Rican consul.
2. If the marriage is done abroad, but one of the spouses is a Costa Rican citizen. In these two cases, the union celebrated abroad can be registered in our Civil Registry.
Once the act is registered in Costa Rica, I will give you an apostilled certification. With this certification, you can visit the corresponding embassy and request the union to be registered in your country. Alas, this personal procedure varies from country to country, so you would have to do this by yourself. Powers of attorney can´t be used for this. If you had a same sex marriage in Costa Rica, your union could be registered in your country if same sex marriage is legal there also.
Yes. You can do this under civil law through power of attorney. However, the law specifies that an “exceptional power” must be used. In Spanish, it is called a “poder especialisimo.” These types of powers can also be used for divorce by proxy.
As you can see, getting married in Costa Rica is relatively easy. Same sex marriage is legal and welcome in Costa Rica. You will get a valid and lawful matrimony by hiring me to officiate your wedding. Then, I will file it for registration and set up the apostilled documents for your country. So, you should get married in Costa Rica, and be on your way to a happy future!
Dr. Christopher Pirie.
Marriage attorney at law and notary public.