How to get foreign court rulings recognized in Spain

You may, on occasions, find that you need a sentence issued by a foreign court recognized in Spain. This may be for a number of reasons, among which the most common are change in marital status, alimony payments and debt collection. The process of this recognition is known as exequatur, a unique legal procedure. In this guide, we explain the ins and out of exequatur and how to get foreign court rulings recognized in Spain.

What is an exequatur?

If you have undertaken a court procedure in a third country and want its ruling recognized in Spain, you need to obtain an exequatur. This process gives validity to the original sentence so that it can be applied in Spain.

In a nutshell, it means that a ruling made by a foreign court has the same validity in Spain as if it had been made by a Spanish court.

When might I need an exequatur?

There are various instances when you could need to have a foreign court ruling recognized in Spain. The more common in our experience are:

Recognition of divorce – if one of the spouses is Spanish, divorced in a foreign country but now lives in Spain, they need an exequatur. This will allow them to register their marital status as divorced in the Civil Registry in Spain.

Divorce settlements – if a foreign court has ruled the payment of alimony (maintenance and financial support to a spouse and/or children) and/or transfer of property into your name, you may need an exequatur to ensure the sentence is executed in Spain.

Payment of debt – if a foreign court sentence has ruled that a Spanish resident or company must pay a debt, you need an exequatur to allow the debt collection procedure to take place.

There are, of course, many other occasions when an exequatur may be necessary. Contact our expert legal team for advice on whether you need one.

What is required for Spain to recognize a foreign court ruling?

An exequatur involves a number of documents that must be presented at a Spanish court. They include:

  • A certified copy of the court sentence with a sworn translation in Spanish and the Hague Apostille.
  • A certificate (with a sworn translation in Spanish) stating that the sentence was given when all interested parties were present or with legal representation.
  • A certificate (with a sworn translation in Spanish) that states that the sentence is final with no further appeal possible.
  • A power of attorney (POA) from you so that your appointed lawyers can act on your behalf. The POA must be signed in the presence of a notary public or at a Spanish Consulate in your home country.
  • In the case of divorce, a marriage certificate (with a sworn translation in Spanish).
  • If children are involved in the court sentence, their birth certificate (with a sworn translation in Spanish).
  • A certified copy of your passport or identity card.

What if the court ruling is from an EU country?

Getting an exequatur for a court sentence issued in an EU country is generally easier because an EU agreement states that members must recognize and enforce court rulings from other member states. Note that Denmark is not party to this agreement.

What about recognizing a court ruling from a non-EU country?

In the case of non-EU countries and Denmark, recognition depends on two factors:

  1. Whether the country has signed the Lugano Convention. This allows for the recognition and enforcement of civil and commercial matters between signature countries and Spain.
  2. Whether there is a bilateral agreement between Spain and the country where the court ruling was made. This agreement mutually recognizes court sentences.

How long does the process take?

Recognition usually takes between 2 to 6 months. Enforcement of the foreign court ruling in Spain takes longer – allow for between 6 and 18 months. However, as with all matters involving Spanish courts, it can take longer.

What happens once a foreign court ruling is recognized in Spain?

The next step depends on what sort of exequatur you needed.

Divorce

When you receive an exequatur in Spain for a divorce ruling in another country, the divorce status is recorded in the Civil Registry.

Divorce settlements

Enforcement of the exequatur is usually necessary so that you can receive alimony and property be transferred to your name.

Payment of debt

When you have the exequatur, legal proceedings can commence in Spain for you to collect the debt.

How much does an exequatur cost?

As you might expect, the cost depends on the complexity of the exequatur. Expect to pay at least €500 in legal fees (plus VAT).

What’s the next step?

Get in touch with our legal team for advice on how to proceed to get a court sentence recognized in Spain.

María Luisa de Castro

DIRECTOR
María founded CostaLuz Lawyers in 2006 and is the Firm’s Director. María is registered Lawyer number 2745 of the Cadiz Bar Association and is licensed to practice in all areas of law throughout Spain. Working closely with her team, María has developed the firm into one of the most highly regarded and trusted Spanish Law Firms acting for English-speaking clients with legal problems in Spain. We're here to help. Contact us today for a free no-obligation consultation.
María Luisa De Castro - Costaluz Lawyers

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