Special Family Issues
Legal Options For Marriage in the Dominican Republic
The following information is for the guidance ONLY of civilian U.S. citizens contemplating marriage in the Dominican Republic. U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officers DO NOT have the legal authority to perform marriages. Marriages CANNOT be performed within the Embassy or within a U.S. Consular Office in the Dominican Republic.
General Requirements for Foreigners to Marry in the Dominican Republic
In order to get married in the Dominican Republic, a man and a woman must be of a certain minimum age (16 for men, 15 for women), be legally eligible to marry, and be entering into the marriage contract of their own free will. Failure to comply with any of these basic criteria could mean that Dominican authorities will decline to register the marriage as legal.
Additionally, foreigners who wish to get married in the Dominican Republic must comply with the following requirements and present the following documentation:
The original passport and copies of the passport bio-page;
Copies of last entries stamps;
Proof of Dominican residence (if not a resident of the Dominican Republic, an additional fee applies and tourist card must be presented);
Sworn declaration before a notary public, of being single and eligible to marry; the sworn declaration then needs to be legalized at the Offices of Procuraduría General de La República. If the Sworn declaration is done before a U.S. notary, it then needs to be legalized at the closest Dominican Consulate in the U.S. (In the past, the U.S. Embassy allowed U.S. citizens to swear such an affidavit of eligibility to marry before a U.S. consular officer. The Embassy discontinued this practice several years ago, however, because local officials were interpreting these documents as meaning that the Embassy had actually verified the content of the citizens’ statements, when in fact the consular officer was merely attesting to the fact that the individual in question had made the statement. U.S. citizens needing to comply with this requirement should instead present themselves to a Dominican notary –as specified above-.)
Copy of foreign birth certificate and a legal translation of the certificate; central authorities in both the United States and the Dominican Republic now authenticate their own public documents, such as birth, death or marriage certificates, with a certificate of apostille (name of the authentication stamp). You can get your document apostille at the office of Vital Records in your state, or visit www.italiamerica.org/vital_records.htm.
If divorced, copy of the divorce certificate and legal translation of the certificate;
2 witnesses (not family).
Additionally, Dominican law requires that notice of the intended marriage must be published prior to the ceremony.
Celebration of marriages at the Civil Registry Office “Oficialia Civil”:
- Both the bride and groom are foreigners not residents of the Dominican Republic - RD $20,000.00
- One is a foreigner not resident of the Dominican Republic - RD $10,000.00
- Both the bride and groom are foreigners residents of the Dominican Republic - RD $3,000.00
Celebration of marriages outside the Civil Registry Office (if the Civil Registry Officer goes somewhere else than the “Oficialia Civil” to celebrate the marriage):
- Both the bride and groom are foreigners not residents of the Dominican Republic - RD $20,000.00
- One is a foreigner not resident of the Dominican Republic - RD $15,000.00
- Both the bride and groom are foreigners residents of the Dominican Republic - RD $10,000.00
**For updated information on the fees, visit the Junta Central Electoral´s oficial fee webpage (information available only in Spanish)
Types of Marriages
Marriages in the Dominican Republic fall generally into one of two categories:
“Civil” marriages are those in which the parties themselves register the marriage with the Dominican government. The person officiating at the wedding ceremony is a government official, usually a Notary Public. It is the couple’s choice whether or not to hold a separate religious ceremony.
“Canonical” marriages are those performed by a Roman Catholic priest. Following the ceremony, the church takes responsibility for registering the marriage with the appropriate Dominican government offices.
Marriages in religious denominations other than Roman Catholicism are fully legal and permitted. However, only the Roman Catholic Church has the ability to register marriages on the couple’s behalf. In the case of wedding ceremonies in other denominations, both members of the couple must present themselves to the governmental registrar’s office to legalize the marriage. Details on this procedure follow below in the section under “Civil Marriages”.
Marriage in the Dominican Republic is a civil contract between a man and a woman who have freely agreed to marry and have the capacity to do so. In order to get married in the Dominican Republic, a man and woman must meet the following conditions:
The parties must express their free will to marry;
Men between 16 and 18 years old, or women between 15 and 18 years old may get married without the consent of their parents. Any required consent must be in writing and notarized, unless the person required to give this consent does so while attending the wedding ceremony; and
A man younger than 16 and a woman younger than 15 may not get married, even with their parents’ consent, although a judge may grant an exception for significant reasons.
No person may be married before a prior marriage is dissolved. A divorced woman cannot get married until 10 months after her divorce has become final, unless her intended husband is the same person she has divorced.
The government official performing the civil ceremony has the authority, at the time of the ceremony, to waive any of the above requirements. Such a waiver must be made in writing and outline the basis of the waiver.
The official performing the ceremony does so in the presence of the parties and witnesses. During the ceremony, the official asks the parties and witnesses whether either of the parties has been married previously, to each other or to other people. The party who has been married previously must supply the date of that marriage and the name of the person who officiated.
The Marriage Certificate includes the complete names of the spouses, the evidence of their written consent, a declaration they have been united in matrimony and the date of the celebration and the signatures of the Officer, the spouses and the witnesses. After the celebration the marriage is registered in the appropriate civil registries.
Civil marriage is dissolved by the death of one of the spouses or by divorce.
A Canonical marriage performed by a Roman Catholic priest has the same legal effect as a civil marriage.
As was stated in the introductory section above, however, there is a procedural difference, insofar as the priest in a Canonical marriage is responsible for transmitting the registration documents to the appropriate Dominican government office(s). Even if a civil ceremony has taken place prior to the Canonical ceremony, the officiating priest must still send a copy of the marriage certificate to the government registry.
Matrimonial Property Laws
Dominican law presumes that the parties in a marriage enjoy Community Property rights. However, if the parties choose to enter into a different type of agreement, this is permitted. Dominican law outlines a number of systems from which the parties may choose. The spouses may also amend any one of these systems or create one of their own, provided that the final agreement is in keeping with Dominican legal principles. When the parties opt for a system other than Community Property (such as Separate Property, outlined beginning on page 4 below), they must put this in writing and have it approved by a Dominican government official.
Community Property Systems
1. Legal Community: This is the most common community property system in effect in the Dominican Republic. The following three features are present and essential:
The existence of three types of properties -- common property, property owned by the wife, and property owned by the husband. Under legal community systems, all movable property and its earnings, as well as real estate property acquired during the marriage, are common property.
The power of the husband over the administration/management of the estate, which cannot be ignored or restrained through any clause or matrimonial agreement; and
The existence of guarantees for the woman against bad management of the property by the husband. These guarantees may include, among others, judicial division of the property and/or liens against any real estate owned by the husband.
With regard to point (1) above, it is worth noting that “common property” is further sub-divided into “ordinary property” and “reserved property.” Ordinary property enters the marriage having belonged to one spouse or the other but, based on the marriage, becomes the property of both parties. Reserved property, on the other hand, is property that resulted from the personal work of the woman or from savings that arose from such work. Following the marriage, reserved property generally continues to be administered/managed by the woman, but legally it is the common property of both parties.
2. Reduced to the Earnings: Under this system, the composition of the common property varies, based on the respective debts (both present and future) of the spouses. Additionally, the value of their respective movable property (both present and future) is excluded from the common property.
3. Universal Community: All properties, present and future, are common property. The spouses equally agree under this system that only their present or future property will be common property.
Note: It is possible for the spouses to reject any of the community property systems described above and instead choose their own system. However, it is important to note that doing this will not automatically grant the wife rights to administer her property or to receive its earnings. Property the wife brought into the marriage is considered as awarded to the husband for the purpose of meeting the expenses of the marriage. The spouses may, however, include in their property agreement a clause authorizing the wife to receive a part of her annual earnings for her personal living expenses and needs.
Separate Property Systems
Separate Property systems do not provide for common property, but rather for property owned by each one of the spouses and over which each one has administration/management, disposition and enjoyment rights. Nonetheless, the wife does not have the right to dispose of her properties without the consentof the husband or a judicial authorization.
This system requires the spouses to contribute to the maintenance of their home. Furthermore, movable goods individually owned by each of the spouses are intertwined in reality and must be liquidated in the event the marriage is dissolved.
A wife's property can be subjected to claims of creditors for her debts arising before and during her marriage, as well as debts related to the maintenance of a marital home incurred by either spouse, or in case of the insolvency of her husband.
The husband, for his part, is responsible for his debts arising before or during the marriage and for the debts contracted by the wife when acting as representative of the marriage.
One variation of the separation of property system is the dowry system. The dowry system is a system of separation in which the woman, instead of contributing some or all of her income to the couple's obligations, hands over some or all of her property to her husband, who has the administration and legal enjoyment of it. The wife possesses, in addition to the dowry property, property that is not affected by the home-related obligations, also called "paraphernalia." This type of property is enjoyed by the wife but cannot be disposed of without the consent of the husband or judicial authorization.