Differences between Marriage and Common-Law Partnership

Protecting your rights with experience and dedication – Our Law Firm’s mission.

Differences between Marriage and Common-Law Partnership

The 3 possibilities to regulate your interaction

In general, you have 3 diverse possibilities to regulate your situation and give it legal validity, each with its particularities.

We’re talking about:

Getting married Being in a registered common-law partnership Being in a common-law partnership but simply living with your partner, without registering it in the common-law partnership registry The most relevant thing to consider is that all these 3 institutions are entirely different.

While it’s true that in civil terms the figure of the registered common-law partnership and marriage remain quite similar today (entailing no difference in certain aspects), each implies a different path with different legal consequences.

In this article, we will analyze in detail all the differences between marriage and common-law partnership, so you will be able to understand much more clearly which one is correct in your particular case.

Difference between Marriage and Common-Law Partnership

Marriage and common-law partnership are entirely different institutions with their own legal repercussions.

So, what are the main differences between them?

Examining all the components that define these two types of legal relationships will not only allow you to understand the differences, but will also be key to selecting which path is more suitable according to your interests and those of your partner.

While it’s true that several specific aspects will depend on the autonomous community where you are (as regulations vary), we will now look at what defines the general rules for couples and marriages in Spain.

Registration and Establishment Process

The first difference we can identify lies in the process of registering the partnership or marriage, especially regarding the location where the procedure should take place. In the case of marriage, we must register it in the Civil Registry. For the common-law partnership, we must register in the common-law partnership registry of the autonomous community where we reside, and in the case of unregistered partnerships, no procedure is required.


This is possibly one of the most relevant points and the one with the most importance when deciding between one path or another, and quite possibly the reason you entered this post.

However, the truth is that regarding children, there is no difference among the 3 possibilities.

The rights and obligations you will have as a father or mother will be exactly the same whether you have registered as a common-law couple, married, or are an unregistered couple.

And this uniformity also applies once the relationship is terminated: the measures to be taken regarding the children will be the same, as well as the obligations of both parents.


What differences are there in case of a breakup?

In the case of marriage, the process is a bit more demanding. It will be essential to finalize the divorce, going to the notary or court. And it requires both parties to be involved in the process by giving their consent.

However, common-law partnership offers more flexibility. In this case, either member of the partnership can dissolve it without the consent of the other.

In the case of having children, it is necessary to regulate the interaction with them through the divorce process if you are married; in the case of being registered as a common-law couple, a custody and protection process will be essential.


If you go on vacation, you will have 15 days off after the wedding celebration (2 weeks of vacation).

However, if you register as a common-law couple, you will not have the same luck, as unless your collective agreement states otherwise, you will not be entitled to days off.

Assets and Debts

In this point, we refer to the management of assets, income, and liabilities between the two members of the relationship.

And that is something that depends on the type of applicable system.

In the case of being married through marriage, you will have the option to choose between the community property system (meaning, all assets and debts acquired during the marriage become jointly owned by both members); or separate property system (the assets and debts acquired are owned by the member of the couple who acquired them).

However, in the case of a common-law partnership, we do not have such a dual option, as all those duties and obligations will be owned solely by the member who acquires them.

Taxation and Income Tax Return

Well then, in the case of being married, you will have the option to choose whether to file a personal or joint income tax return with your partner.

That is, there is an independent choice, and to make it you must take into account all the tax benefits from both points of view and your specific situation.

This is not the case for registered couples, who do not have the option of a joint return: they can only choose to pay taxes separately.

Survivor’s Pension

Here we find another of the most relevant differences between marriage and common-law partnership, which makes a big difference.

In the case of marriage, there is a survivor’s pension from the moment one of the spouses dies, regardless of how long they have been together.

This is unless the death occurred from a common illness, in which case at least one year of marriage must be proven.

In the case of a common-law partnership, there are 2 relevant requirements to be met to qualify for that pension. In this case, it will be necessary to show that the couple has been registered for 2 years and that at least both members have lived together for 5 years jointly.

Compensatory Pension

The compensatory pension refers to the monetary payment that one of both members of the couple may receive in the event of a significant economic imbalance following the separation.

What is the difference here between the two options?

In the case of marriage under the community property system, there will be a compensatory pension, which can be requested in the same manner as for divorce proceedings.

However, if you have registered as a common-law partnership, generally this pension will not exist.

It is true that in certain Autonomous Communities it does exist, however, it involves a much more extensive and costly process carried out in civil court (and not family court), with much fewer granting modalities.

Inheritance and Succession Rights

If both members were married, there are certain rights concerning the deceased spouse:

If there are children, the surviving spouse has usufruct over one-third of the entire inheritance.

If there are no children but there are ascendants, the surviving spouse receives usufruct over half of the inheritance.

If there are neither children nor ascendants, the surviving spouse receives usufruct over two-thirds of the inheritance.

In the case of a common-law partnership, there is no right to inherit per se.

Therefore, it will be necessary to make a will and establish the desired portion to be transmitted if so desired; although in several Autonomous Communities, the same rights as in marriage are established in this case.

Our latest posts

Non diam phasellus vestibulum lorem sed risus ultricies. Ut venenatis tellus in metus vulputate eu. Habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada.

How to Get Documents in Spain

How to Get Documents in Spain

Spain is highly attractive to foreigners due to the quality of life it offers, its tranquility, and the job opportunities available. In today’s article, we’ll

Read More »

Feel free to ask us any questions