spanish law guide for foreigners in spain


Usually, when a foreign client contacts Piñera del Olmo Canals’ lawyers, he/she is confronted with a Spanish legal system, which is unknown to him. There are a lot of legal professionals in Spain of which the foreigners ignore their existence. For example, the “notary” or the “bailiff/Procurador.” All clients know that they need a lawyer for specific issues. However, they do not know that in Spain, the Law sometimes imposes that the lawyer works with another professional in the court cases (e.g., Both a lawyer and a bailiff are needed to order claims exceeding 2.000 euros).

Our lawyers have developed a summary of the frequently asked questions they face when clients want to work under the Spanish legal system in Barcelona, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Madrid, Marbella or any other city in Spain:

A public notary authorizes public deeds.

Spanish law distinguishes between public and private documents.

It is necessary to notarize certain documents into public deeds, since they carry a greater evidential value or because it is a prerequisite under the Law, to register them in a public registry. For instance, real estate purchases usually must be formalized in a public deed, which needs registration with a land registry.

Our Law Firm uses notaries for some procedures, such as real estate purchases, wills, powers of attorney, company incorporation, citizenship protocols for Sephardic descendants, etc.

Our law firm works with notaries who speak English, but in case you need a notary in a city where there are no English speaking notaries we can also translate the deed. Also, our sworn translators may obtain a translation of the public deed you are about to sign for you to understand what you are going to sign and what rights and obligations it entails.

Notary fees are calculated according to an official rate.

There are different registries in Spain, such as the Commercial Registry, the Registry of Movable Property, the Civil Registry, and the Land Registry. There are also other registries, such as the Patents and Trademarks Agency which registers patents and trademarks, the registry of criminal records, or the registry of weapons. Our Spanish lawyers can check online most Spanish registries and consult the information they contain.

The registries in Spain our lawyers usually consult are:

  • The Commercial Registry, which registers acts that are commercial in nature, such as the incorporation of companies or the identity of the managers of a company.

  • The Civil Registry, which registers the marital status of persons, for example, births or marriages.

  • The Registry of Movable Property, which lists the owner of some movable property, such as cars. This Registry is necessary to know the identity of the owner of the vehicles circulating on the roads.

  • The Land Registry, which contains the identity of owners of real estate. This Registry is not very often updated, and sometimes the notary and the registrar need to correct the descriptions of the real estate that the clients intend to buy in Spain.

The registration of a purchase agreement is essential since it shows who is the owner of the real estate to third parties. Our lawyers can help you obtain the registration of your property.

Furthermore, using this Registry, our lawyers can verify certain burdens, such as mortgages or easements.

The lawyers of Piñera del Olmo Canals examine the Registry (in addition to other sources) to ascertain that the properties or companies our clients intend to purchase are without problems.

In Spain, the court requires a bailiff, besides to a lawyer in a lot of judicial proceedings. For instance, most of the claims concerning amounts exceeding 2.000 euros have to be filed by both a lawyer and a bailiff to be admitted in the courts of the first instance (civil courts) in Spain.

The bailiff is in charge of submitting the writings of the court to the lawyer.

As the Notary fees, the bailiff’s fees are regulated by Law too.

Our office/law firm works with bailiffs from all regions of Spain (e.g., Catalonia, Madrid, Andalucia). We can take care of all types of judicial proceedings.

Our bailiff network permits us Piñera del Olmo Canals’ lawyers work for the whole Spanish territory.

Judges, prosecutors, and lawyers specialize in law but not in other fields, such as medicine, calligraphy or architecture.

Very often, judicial cases need a perito as an expert witness who provides an expert report, which explains to the court the circumstances of the case and responds to the questions of the lawyers for the latter to prepare the defense/case.

For instance, in inheritance proceedings with a famous painting of Dali, it can be that our lawyers will need an expert witness who knows about art and the value of the artwork.

In a case requiring the assessment of property, a real estate agent would determine the value of the real estate; in a medical negligence case, a medical specialist would need to act; document forgery cases would require an expert witness on calligraphy to determine the authenticity of a signature; etc.

Peritos are essential in Spanish proceedings, and our lawyers advise you about them and their fees when required.

The courts also possess a list of peritos who, sometimes, may be requested in court.

The lawyers of the firm will help you determine whether it is relevant or not to use a perito and to decide which one is the most appropriate for your case. In some cases, the perito is a piece of vital evidence, and in other cases, may help increase the chances of winning the case. Not all cases require a perito. For instance, the use of expert witnesses is not needed in most divorce proceedings (except in cases in which psychologists are, and in those cases usually the perito of the court is free of charge) or in most of debt recovery proceedings.

For example, in a recent case in Sant Cugat del Vallès (Rubi’s court) and another in Marbella, our lawyers used a team of court-appointed psychologists to determine which custody was the most appropriate for the child. In another case in Barcelona (Catalonia) our lawyers used a real estate expert to assess the value of a property/immovable.

Our lawyers have worked with peritos from Barcelona, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Madrid, Marbella and many other cities of Spain to obtain the best results for our clients.

Foreign public documents need to be “validated” to assert their unique evidential value.

This makes sense, given that neither civil servants nor lawyers know the public documents in every single country of the world. The Spanish lawyers know the public documents of Spain, but not those of Thailand, UK or Colombia.

In Spain, there are many cities with a high percentage of foreigners (for instance, Marbella, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona, or Madrid).

When dealing with international issues, it is common that for all types of legal matters, our lawyers need to use foreign public documents.

The solution is to certify the documents with the “The Hague apostille,” and in case of countries which are non-signatories to the Convention, to legalize the document.

Our lawyers can advise you on what is required in your country (apostille or legalization of the document) and on each step which needs to be followed, on the procedure.

The lawyers of Piñera del Olmo often deal with foreign clients, since the majority of those clients are non-residents who live in countries from all around the world and thus, they are used to assist them regarding the legalization of documents.

There are many types of courts in Spain. Our lawyers can represent your interests in all of them. Mainly, in the following order, depending on the nature of the matter at hand:

  1. Civil and Commercial Courts
  2. Criminal Courts
  3. Civil Courts
  4. Contentious-Administrative Courts
  5. Military Courts
  6. Penitentiary Courts
  7. Ecclesiastical Courts

There are distinct courts for each subject matter; for example, there are the courts of the first instance and the courts of appeals.

They are also classified based on their function: there are criminal courts investigating crimes and other courts judging them. There are criminal courts for specific subject matters too, such as the Courts of Domestic Violence.

Likewise, there are many courts in charge of different subject matters, as you may find more than 50 courts for each subject matter in large cities like Barcelona and Madrid.

Of course, there are some subject matters which have fewer courts, such as domestic violence, but there are more 50 civil courts (courts of the first instance) per subject-matter (for example, there are 59 civil courts handling suits filed by Spanish lawyers in Barcelona).

Lawyers know the jurisdiction to which their cases correspond, but they do not know the judge beforehand because cases rotate following the order of lawsuits filed with the court’s filing desk.

In cities like Barcelona or Madrid, it is difficult to know which judge is going to handle the case, but in any event, the judges in Spain are impartial, and all of them are highly trained and educated.

We have specialized lawyers to appear before all the different courts in Spain and with extensive courtroom experience in the entire country (Barcelona, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Madrid, Marbella, or Bilbao).

It depends on the court’s workload, but usually, proceedings are lengthy Spain. Our lawyers know that civil cases may take (excluding appeals) between 6 and 15 months.

A criminal case lasts much longer, except in case of minor offenses. The majority of minor offenses represented by our criminal lawyers take an average of 6 months to be finalized.

As always, there are courts more overwhelmed with work than others, but Barcelona and Madrid are quite fast, and generally solving cases within the average Spanish time.

When a Spanish lawyer files a complaint, he or she does not know which court will process it, as there are various courts for each subject-matter. For example, there are 59 civil courts of the first instance and 11 commercial courts, only for Barcelona in 2018.

If a lawyer from Barcelona files a complaint before the commercial court of Barcelona, he or she knows his complaint will be dealt with by the commercial court in Barcelona, but he or she does not know which of the 11 courts in Barcelona will handle his case.

There are some courts with a heavier workload than others, for example, because they have received cases that have not been solved in the mediation stage and the proceedings, therefore, require more significant work for the judge and officials, or because there have been more extensive court enforcement procedures.

This is why the timeframe may vary, depending on the court and the type of proceeding.

In some cities, the Ministry of Justice adds reinforcement courts to reduce the workload of some cities.

8) In the labor proceedings, can I submit a lawsuit directly?

No, you must first go to an administrative conciliation body to try to reach an agreement. Nevertheless, you must take into account the time-limits since the time-limits in Labour Law are short, and occasionally you should lodge the complaint in court before the conciliation to avoid the expiry of the deadline.

The Spanish lawyers know that it is essential to control the time-limits in Labour Law to prevent the loss of the case through the prescription period. In big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, conciliations can occasionally increase the workload of the Administration. Our lawyers working in Madrid and Barcelona know that they have to control the time-limits and sometimes lodge a complaint before the conciliation.

The compensations for employment dismissals vary according to the type of termination, the number of years of employment, or the wages involved. Our lawyers will indicate which compensation corresponds to each case.

In Spain, there are various legal actions, and each of them has its time-limits. There are short time-limits which can last for days and others for years. The office of Piñera del Olmo has filed lawsuits based on facts that occurred over a decade ago. Catalonia also has its own Civil Code, which sets its time-limits, as some Spanish regions have their own particular civil law regulations.

It is essential that, if you think you have a right and you can resort to the courts to defend it, you get the assistance of a lawyer as soon as possible to avert the expiry of the time-limit of a judicial claim.

It would be best if you considered that in some cases, you may use different legal actions. Although some of these actions have expired due to estoppel, you may have recourse to other actions not affected by estoppel.

The Spanish lawyers of Piñera del Olmo Canals will advise you on the most effective types of actions and their time-limits.

There is an online section on traffic accidents with many details, but in any event, if you have suffered an injury, we always recommend you to go immediately to ER, thus creating an official record of your injury.

We also recommend you to contact a lawyer to examine your case and help you obtain supporting documents such as police reports or insurance details of the opposing party.

Furthermore, a Spanish lawyer will help you calculate the compensation which corresponds to your case.

Our law firm has experience in traffic cases against one or more individuals, with injuries, with deceased parties, etc.

If you or your relatives have been involved in an accident, contact our lawyers.

Piñera del Olmo

 c/ Aribau 114, entlo 2ª
 08036 Barcelona

Phone: +34 93 514 39 97

Whatsapp: +34 93 127 07 66