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Why are there so many divorces in Spain?

In my experience there can sometimes be “darker motives” behind a permanent move to sunny climes.

The Institute of Family Policy has announced that across Europe, divorce rates are rising. The think-tank’s latest study, which is out today, has concluded that marriages here are breaking down at the rate of one every 30 seconds.

With one million couples divorcing every year, the number of people choosing to marry has fallen sharply: between 1980 and 2006, the marriage rate fell by 24 per cent.

However, my attention has been caught by a couple of statistics buried deep within the report.

Just four countries – Spain, Germany, Britain and France – account for 60 per cent of divorces in Europe. The three countries with the highest rates of divorce are Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg; there, two out of every three marriages are breaking down.

These are rather alarming figures – and it is interesting that Spain pops up on both these lists. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that this country had one of the lowest divorce rates in Europe.

To my mind, there are a number of reasons why. Firstly, the divorce rate in Spain has risen sharply since the government there introduced an “express divorce” bill in 2005, which has made divorces quick and easy to obtain. Secondly, I find that the popular view of Spain as a deeply conservative, religious country is outdated. Like its European neighbours, Spain has moved with the times – and the social stigma that was once bestowed upon divorced women has been significantly reduced.

One final reason springs to mind. My practice, Stowe Family Law, specialises in international family law. We have noticed that over the past few years, our number of expat clients – many of whom are based in Spain – has soared.

I am sure that expat divorce account for a relatively modest amount of the overall total. Unfortunately, in my experience there can sometimes be “darker motives” behind a permanent move to sunny climes. It is not unknown for husbands to encourage a move abroad as part of a strategy to divorce in the most financially advantageous way possible.  This is because husbands stand to lose the most from UK divorce law. The family moves abroad, the marriage ends – and many wives, when they do not know to whom they can turn, are left stranded and destitute.

After seeing a number of such cases, I hold strong views about this topic. For this reason, a few months ago I penned a piece about this for the Telegraph, which makes particular reference to Spain – and contains plenty of pertinent advice. For those caught up in such a situation, I hope it can be of help.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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