Spain changes around the altar: fewer weddings, fewer divorces and more shared custody


We Spaniards are getting divorced less and less. This is reflected in the latest data from the INEwhich show that during the year 2022 there were 84,551 marital dissolutions (the sum of divorces, separations and annulments), which represents a decrease in the 6.7% compared to 2021.

The decrease in breakups, experts explain, is also due to a decrease in the number of marriages. This has been the trend in recent years, only interrupted in 2022, when there was a specific rebound in weddings (179,107, the highest figure in the last decade). An increase that is attributed to the celebration of weddings that were postponed due to the pandemic. It is logical that, after this decline and with the return to normality of social relations, it has grown, says Marta Seizprofessor of Sociology at UNED.

The decline in the number of weddings is influenced by a cultural factor: they are no longer conceived as a goal that must necessarily be achieved in life, and have been replaced by other forms of coexistence, such as de facto couples, which are experiencing an increase. progressive and sustained during recent years. They are no longer just a stage prior to marriage, but have been established as a socially accepted situation to have children and start a family, says Seiz.

Those who do formalize their relationship as a marriage tend to do so less and less for the Church. Of the 179,107 weddings that took place in 2022, only 19.4% They were ecclesiastical. In 2011 they represented the 39.06% of the total (63,805 Catholic weddings out of 163,338) while in 2001, three out of every four Spaniards who got married, the 73.2%they did it for the Church: 152,067 marriages out of 207,492.

The average age of the couple in 2022 was almost 38 years, four more than in 2011 and seven more than in 2001. Regarding the duration of marriages, the Spanish average is 16.5 years. The usual thing, when it comes to separating, is to do it by mutual agreement: in 2022, the majority of divorces (the 80%) were produced in this way. Couples usually reach an agreement to dissolve their union without it being necessary to resort to a judicial process, Seiz confirms.

Marital breakups experienced a significant growth between 1980, following the approval of the Divorce Law, and 2006. Later, after the economic crisis of 2008 and throughout the past decade, the rates remained on the throne at 100,000 annual payments. In 2020, due to the pandemic, there was a pronounced decrease to rise again in 2021 (90,582) and decrease again in 2022 (84,551). According to data from the CGPJ, in the second quarter of 2023 in Spain, 24,404 demands for marital dissolution have been registered, a 0.1% more than in 2022.

This sociological phenomenon of declining marriage and divorce rates affects the entire EU. Spain, after having occupied the first places for several years in the countries with the highest divorce rate, fell after the pandemic to 11th place, registering 1.8 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants in 2021, far from Lithuania (2.8), Latvia (2.5) and Sweden (2.3).

We are going to have greater instability in couples because the pairing processes are being altered. Before you knew, more or less, what potential for pairing you could have, especially in a country like Spain, with little geographic mobility. People normally married people from their city, he explains. Luis Ayuso, doctor in Sociology and professor at the University of Malaga, who points out that social networks and the pandemic have opened the matchmaking market. There are difficulties in forming stable couples. We are going towards an accelerated life, and the pairing processes are calmer, they require investment, communication, working on them more… but we are going towards a society that demands speed, he adds.

Regarding the breakups of couples with children, a striking fact is the increase in shared custody. In 2022 they represented the 45.5% of the total – the highest figure ever recorded – compared to the 17.9% 2013. This data is part of a growing social awareness about the importance and benefits of shared responsibilities in all areas of parenting, says Seiz. However, the majority of custodians still (50.6%) are for the mother compared to 3.5 for fathers who stay with her.

Children tend to be pointed out as a destabilizing factor that can sometimes lead to separation. However, Seiz emphasizes that no such conclusion can be drawn from the data. The causes can be of very different types, she says. In 2022, the 45.5% of divorced couples did not have minor or economically dependent children, compared to the 54.5% what yes

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