Attorney in Costa Rica

Do common law marriages exist in Costa Rica? ☎️ Family law firm.

What is a common law marriage? Are they regulated in Costa Rica?

A common law marriage occurs without the formalities of marriage.  After a determined period of living together, the law confers rights and obligations to the couple:  the exact ones given to the formally married couple.  Common law marriages are also known as “civil partnerships” and “de facto unions.  Common law marriages are indeed regulated in Costa Rica.  

What are the common law marriage requirements in Costa Rica?

The Costa Rica Family Law Code,  establishes what the common law marriage requirements are. It states that the “de facto union”, or “common law marriage,” must be public, notorious, stable, and exclusive.  By “public,” the law establishes that the union must be known to others.   By stability, the law requires cohabitation for a determined period, and the relationship must be the only one.  

In Costa Rica, the time frame for establishing the civil partnership is two years. Another important aspect is that both parties must have the legal aptitude to marry, meaning they must be divorced, single, or widowed.  If one of them is married, there is no legal aptitude.  In summary, if both of you are single, divorced, or widowed, and have lived together as a couple, under the same roof, for more than two years, then congratulations: you are in a common law marriage.  

Common- law- marriage-ceremony-costa-rica

What are the legal effects of the common law marriage in Costa Rica?

The legal effects of the common law marriage are precisely the same ones as an ordinary marriage, regarding patrimony and assets.  All assets acquired during the union are marital assets and, therefore, are to be split 50 – 50 once the common law union ends.    

Is alimony a possibility in a common law union?

Yes.  Alimony is a possibility.  It´s worth noting that even though the rules for alimony are clear, the execution of the law by Family Judges is biased against men.  There have been many cases of disproportional alimony given by Judges to women, even though they are professionals that can work. 

 It´s also important to know that as a spouse, you also have a right to be an heir.  So many rights regarding patrimony are covered under the umbrella of the common law marriage.


How does the union get recognized? Is there a statute of limitations?

After two years, of living under the same roof, as a couple with the aptitude to marry, the common law union is established.  Under Costa Rican law, a Judge must recognize the union for the corresponding legal effects.  The recognition is requested through a lawsuit.  However, there is a statute of limitations.  You have two years after the separation, or death of the other party, to request the recognition.  This statute of limitations must always be reflected upon. 

Dr. Christopher Pirie Gil.

Attorney in San José, and Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Contact Chris now.