Family Law in Panama


Kraemer & Kraemer has the knowledge and experience to assist you in matters of Family Law to protect your interests and guide you through the legal process.

In this section, we focus on different aspects of Family Law and guide you in areas such as marriage or in the constitution and liquidation of the matrimonial property regime.

Key aspects of Panama’s family law

It is important to understand the following aspects of Family Law in Panama

  • The Political Constitution of the Republic of Panama establishes the right to the family and its protection by the State.
  • Law #3 of May 17, 1994, covers the approval of the Family Code in Panama.
  • The Family Code establishes the rules and regulatory procedures of family law, including marriage, guardianship and parenting rights, divorce proceedings, among others.

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In order to carry out this process, the spouses must be of legal age and the marriage must have been celebrated for at least 2 years.

The necessary documents for this process are:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Birth certificate, in case of having children as a result of the marriage
  • Certificate of no children, in case of not having children

These documents can be obtained at the Civil Registry of the Republic of Panama.

If there are minor children within the marital relationship, the evidence must be presented to the Court to prove the protection of the inherent rights of the children. The necessary documents in this case are:

  • Agreements in the regime of guardianship and upbringing.
  • Communication and visitation regulations.
  • Feeding regime.

Although it is one of the fastest ways to obtain a divorce, it also requires a process that takes place in the Panamanian court.

The exequatur is a procedure used to recognize foreign court judgments in a country other than that of the issuing court. In this process, the competent judge verifies that a judicial sentence issued by a court of another country complies with the requirements that allow its recognition in Panama and, therefore, grants the homologation of such foreign sentence, which means that it will be executed in Panamanian territory and will have all its legal effects.

It must be taken into account that the sentences pronounced by foreign courts and foreign arbitral decisions will have in the Republic of Panama the force established by the respective agreements or treaties.

Requirements for a divorce by exequatur:

  • Foreign Judgment authenticated or apostilled.
  • Spanish translation of said sentence, made by an authorized public interpreter of Panama.
  • Marriage certificate issued by the Civil Registry of the Electoral Tribunal.

Once the exequatur of the final foreign divorce decree has been granted, an authenticated copy of the decree must be filed with the Panama Civil Registry.

The matrimonial economic regime is the way in which the assets of the spouses will be established with respect to the other spouse.

Usually, this term is confused with prenuptial agreements. However, a prenuptial agreement is a marriage contract made by public deed, by the spouses, before or during the marriage, to modify or replace a matrimonial economic regime.

  • Profit-sharing regime: In this regime each spouse acquires the right to participate in the profits obtained by his/her spouse, during the time this regime governs his/her marriage. Each spouse has the administration, enjoyment and free disposition of the assets that belonged to him/her before the beginning of the marriage as well as of those acquired subsequently.
  • Separation of Property Regime: This type of economic regime is one in which each spouse maintains full ownership of all the assets that belonged to him/her before the marriage and those that he/she acquired in any way during the course of the marriage.
  • Regime of the Partnership of Profit: the property obtained for valuable consideration during the marriage, indistinctly by any of them, and the fruits, rents, and interests that produce the private property and the community property are made common for the spouses in equal parts.

The economic regime of the marriage will be the one stipulated by the spouses in the prenuptial agreement, without other limitations than those established in the Family Code or the one established by law. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement or when these are ineffective, the economic regime will be that of profit sharing.

The liquidation of the matrimonial property regime is a legal procedure that consists of distributing the assets of the marriage.

During the marriage, the parties acquire assets and incur debts jointly, and when the time comes to end the sentimental relationship it is also advisable and convenient to liquidate the assets, rights, and duties.

Divorce is one of the main causes of liquidation of the economic regime although, in general, it will have to be dissolved in case of death of one of the spouses or in case of marital breakdown either by divorce, separation, or annulment.

In order to carry out the liquidation of the economic regime, the following steps must be followed:

  • Carry out the formation of an inventory of the matrimonial goods, valuing economically each one.
  • Cancel the debts, if any.
  • Form two parts and adjudicate one to each part.

The liquidation of the matrimonial property regime, in addition to the one that can be carried out by the parties themselves through the prenuptial agreement, can be divided into one that follows a consensual procedure or by mutual agreement and one of a contentious nature in the event that there is no agreement and the liquidation process has to go through a court.

To register a marriage celebrated abroad, the person needs to provide the original Marriage Certificate issued by the Civil Registry Office or the office that takes its place in the place where it was celebrated. The marriage certificate must be authenticated by the Panamanian Consulate in the country where it took place or Apostilled.

If there is no Panamanian consulate in the country of origin or if the country is not a signatory to the Apostille Convention, the document must be authenticated by a diplomatic or consular representative of a friendly nation in that country. If the Apostille is written in a language other than Spanish, it must be translated by a public interpreter authorized in the Republic of Panama.

Once the certificate is authenticated, it must be countersigned or validated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Republic of Panama.

Another requirement is a photocopy of the personal identity card of the spouses or of the spouse who possesses it. In the absence of the identity card, a photocopy of the passport must be submitted.

The process needs to be made at the Department of Events and Legal Acts Occurring Abroad of the National Directorate of Civil Registry.

Note: The registration of marriages celebrated in Panama can be done personally and does not require an attorney.

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Everyone’s life circumstances are different, but Kraemer & Kraemer will be on your side to apply the Panama Family Law to your particular situation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and discuss your needs.