Attorney in Costa Rica

Get married in Costa Rica. ☎️ Civil Marriage requirements.

You are thinking about getting married in Costa Rica! Congratulations! You must have questions about how to get married in Costa Rica. I am a marriage attorney in San José, Costa Rica, and I will gladly assist you. Our country is beautiful, and having a civil marriage is easy.  Same-sex marriage is legal and valid.  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. 

What are the civil marriage requirements in Costa Rica?

Legal counsel and powers of attorney in San José, Costa Rica.

How is the matrimony performed?

I will perform the Costa Rica marriage as a Notary Public. We have a “record book” where people sign the notarized acts and contracts.  It´s called a “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 moment, you will be bonded by marriage.  

Its registration is done, to publicly inform third parties of the union.   The marriage is legally binding and valid when you sign my protocol.  Having said this, registration is an integral part of this legal service.  The Civil Registry is the institution where it will be registered.  Registration can last 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.

What prohibitions, if any, exist under Costa Rican civil marriage laws?

It is essential to keep in mind that in Costa Rica, civil weddings are legally impossible in the following cases:

What are the main types of legal marital unions in Costa Rica?

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 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 apart.”  As you know, same-sex marriage is prohibited in the eyes of the Church.

This is a problem if you have had a divorce, are a non-Catholic, or are in a same-sex union.  Everyone has a human right to create their destiny with their chosen person.  So, on the other hand, you find civil marriage, which is 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.

As a marriage attorney, can you tell me what the end goal of marital unions in Costa Rica are?

The end goal of 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. Its a holly union that promotes the traditional family  (man and wife) and promotes procreation.  

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 a civil marriage.  Its goal is to establish 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.”  


Is same - sex marriage legal under Costa Rican laws?

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 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.  

Are prenuptial agreements valid in 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.

Can a foreign wedding be registered in Costa Rica?

As a marriage lawyer, I can register the ones celebrated between foreigners in Costa Rica.  However,  we can´t register a marriage between foreigners celebrating it abroad. The only exception is if the Costa Rican consulate does the marriage between foreigners abroad. If one of the spouses is a Costa Rican citizen, any wedding celebrated abroad can be registered in our Civil Registry.

Civil marriage requirements in Costa Rica are simple.

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 valid lawful matrimony by hiring me as a marriage attorney to celebrate your wedding.  Then, I will file it for registration and set up 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.

Contact me to be your marriage lawyer.