A women’s association demanding that divorce be legalised in 1977. / SUR

25 February 1932: Divorce becomes legal for the first time in Spain

After the Civil War Franco repealed the 1932 Act and couples would be unable to legally separate again for over 40 years

Jennie Rhodes
JENNIE RHODES

Spain's first ever divorce law was approved by the parliament of the country's Second Republic, under prime minister Manuel Azaña, on 25 February 1932, with 260 votes in favour and 23 against.

The act came into force on 2 March of the same year and was published in the country's Official Gazette on 11 March.

The Act followed the guidelines set out by Article 43 of the Spanish Republican Constitution 1931 that "marriage is based upon equality of rights for both sexes and can be dissolved by mutual consent, or upon the petition of either or both spouses pleading grounds for divorce."

Repealed by Franco

The law provided for two methods of divorce; divorce by mutual consent and on legal grounds, and it retained separation as an alternative way out of a marriage breakdown.

Article 37 of the Divorce Act gave the innocent party in the case of adultery or violence a choice between the two options.

From 2 March 1932 to 31 December 1933, 7,059 petitions for divorce were filed in Spanish courts, of which 4,043 were granted.

Before 1932, marriage and divorce had been governed by the 1889 Civil Code, which stated that marriage could only be dissolved by the death of one of the spouses.

However, the 1932 Act was short-lived and when the Spanish Civil War ended and the country fell under Franco's dictatorship, his Act of 23 September 1939 repealed the 1932 Divorce Act and divorce was banned from the Spanish legal system for over 40 years.

The only way out of a marriage during the dictatorship was through the death of a spouse or annulment, the latter case being decided by the Catholic Church, and which was not a dissolution of the marriage, but the recognition that the marriage never existed.

It wasn't until 22 June 1981 when divorce was made legal again in Spain; almost six years after the death of Franco and the end of the dictatorship.

Women's groups had played an integral role in legalising divorce and had been calling for it to be made legal since the 1970s.

Manuel Azaña. / SUR