Home Costa Rica Legal TopicsMarriage and Family Law Costa Rica’s Union de Hecho – Common Law Marriage provision reduced from 3 to 2 Years

Costa Rica’s Union de Hecho – Common Law Marriage provision reduced from 3 to 2 Years

by rpetersen

Costa Rica amended the  “Union de Hecho” (Common-Law Marriage) legal provisions. This modification reduced the requisite period for a relationship to be recognized as a common-law marriage from three years to just two. This shift has profound implications for the rights and obligations of cohabiting couples in Costa Rica.

Understanding Union de Hecho

Before delving into the implications of this legislative change, it’s essential to understand what Union de Hecho entails. In Costa Rica, the public, notorious, unique, and stable de facto union is a legal recognition of a couple’s relationship, akin to marriage, without the formalities of a marriage ceremony. This recognition comes into play after a couple has lived together continuously for a specified period, which, until recently, was three years but has now been reduced to two.

For the purposes indicated in the previous article, any of the cohabitants or their heirs may request the Court to recognize the de facto union.

The Legislative Shift

The amendment to reduce the timeframe from three years to two is more than a mere procedural change; it’s a reflection of the state’s acknowledgment of the diverse forms relationships can take and how quickly they can establish a foundation comparable to marriage. This change was implemented to ensure that individuals in a cohabiting relationship are afforded protection and rights sooner rather than later, recognizing the reality that many couples today choose cohabitation as a long-term partnership model without the formal label of marriage.

Rights Conferred by the Law

The reduction in the required period for Union de Hecho has significant legal implications. Once a couple’s relationship qualifies under this law, the cohabiting partner is granted rights and responsibilities similar to those of a spouse in a legal marriage. These rights include, but are not limited to:

Inheritance Rights: In the event of one partner’s death, the surviving partner gains rights to inheritance, similar to those a spouse would have under Costa Rican law.

Social Security and Benefits: Partners are eligible for social security benefits and can be considered dependents under their partner’s insurance plans.

Property Rights: Assets acquired during the Union de Hecho are considered joint property, similar to the community property rights in a marriage.

Parental Rights: In cases where a child is born within the Union de Hecho, both partners are recognized as legal parents, with all the rights and responsibilities that entail.

Implications and Considerations

The reduction of the cohabitation period required for Union de Hecho recognition is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides quicker access to legal protections for cohabiting couples, reflecting modern relationship dynamics. On the other hand, it underscores the importance of being aware of the legal implications of living together. Couples may unintentionally find themselves in a legal common-law marriage, with all its attendant rights and responsibilities, without explicit intent.

Individuals in cohabiting relationships in Costa Rica must be aware of these changes and consider their implications. For those who prefer to maintain financial or legal independence from their partner, it may be wise to draft a cohabitation agreement that outlines the specifics of their arrangement, especially in light of these new legal standards.

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