New Puerto Rican Civil Code changes rights around marriage, divorce and wills
Governor Wanda Vázquez signed Puerto Rico’s new Civil Code (Código Civil, the Code) into law on Monday (June 1, 2020), making significant changes to the processes around marriage and inheritance in the country.
The Code, which has not been updated since 1930, contains more than 130 amendments, including rules around marriage, succession, and the validity of wills.
It will change the definition of married couples, so that a marriage is not specified to be between a man and a woman. Further, cohabiting couples will be recognised in the same way as married couples and subject to the same regulations. Divorces, meanwhile, will now no longer require court approval, and can be requested through a notary.
In terms of estate administration, the new Code provides that heirs are not required to use the inherited estate to pay any debts or other obligations of the testator. Surviving spouses will be considered as equally entitled to inherit as any descendants, and will also have a preferential right to the family home, including continued residency there.
Critics have raised concerns that legislators should have held public hearings around the changes before Governor Váquez approved it.
The new Code will not enter into force for 180 days: during that period there will be an opportunity to propose and make any amendments deemed necessary, with Váquez commenting that there will “always be room for improvement, amendment or clarification.”