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Mexico has strong historical roots, a vibrant culture, and friendly people. It’s much more than a retirement destination. If you have decided on moving to Mexico, you will get the hang of it in no time.
An essential aspect of any country is the law-and-order situation. Criminal offenses are the same everywhere. Murder, theft, arson, etc., are crimes everywhere in the world. For the general public, the real part comes when they have to know the lesser-known laws.
You’d think what could go wrong if you want to marry someone in Mexico, but if you aren’t familiar with how things work, you might get an unpleasant surprise on your way. So even though it sounds absurd, it is important to know about marriage laws and rules regarding child maintenance.
Most marriage laws are similar to the ones observed in almost every country. However, when you go into details, you’ll realize that some points are different.
A foreigner can marry a Mexican local just as any Mexican would, but they will have to register the foreigner according to his nationality. Similarly, if a Mexican marries a non-Mexican, but the marriage takes place outside of Mexico, they will have to register with the local authorities for proper recognition[i].
Following are some basic rules for getting married in Mexico:
- Eighteen is the legal age for anyone getting married. If anyone wishes to get married below this age, the person who is younger must obtain consent from their parents. Even then, the boy must be of 16 years and the girl should be at least 14.
- As said earlier, you don’t have to be a Mexican to get married in Mexico. But if you wish to marry a Mexican, you must provide valid identification (passport, travel permit) and other documentation. You must also provide recent blood tests as guided by the local registry office. Some states require getting a chest X-ray too. These must be done in Mexico and within a specific time of submitting the Marriage Application Form.
- A foreigner must have the following documents with them before applying for a marriage certificate:
- Except for the passport, all documents must be in Spanish.
- Notarize all documents from your nearest Mexican consulate.
- Passports, travel permits, birth certificates, divorce decrees, and other documents must be legalized by the authorities of your native country.
- If either individual was previously married, they must provide a legal divorce decree or death certificate of the spouse. In case of a divorce, a person cannot marry again within a year of the divorce.
- A divorce in Mexico can happen if one or both individuals tell the court that they don’t want to stay married. The marriage will be annulled after following the procedure.
- If any domestic violence happens during the marriage, it must be stated beforehand. This will help the judge decide who will take possession of the house or if either spouse is rightful to claim maintenance.
- The family court will decide about the division of financial assets between the two parties after a divorce. This settlement can take time as some people may try to hide assets.
Mexico recognizes civil marriage only. Individuals can arrange a religious ceremony if they wish to, but it won’t have any legal importance. The couple must get to the Civil Registry of their municipality to get legally married.
Foreigners don’t necessarily need to have a residence in Mexico to their name, but they will still have to prove their identity via Spanish-translated legal documents. When marrying a Mexican citizen, a foreigner must get special permission from the Secretaria de Gobernacion – Oficina de Migracion (Interior Ministry). The document, known as “Permiso para contraer matrimonio con un nacional,” requires a fee of US$200[ii]. Make sure that the office comes under the authority of the area you want to get married.
The usual fee for a Marriage License is US$30. Once the license fee is submitted, the applicant will be put on a waiting list. The waiting period can be of 30 minutes or a few days, depending on the other appointments. Another less expensive option is to get married in a Local Registry office. You can always celebrate your big day as luxuriously as you want, but that ceremony will hold no legal value. The same goes for church weddings.
Church weddings are also hard to arrange as Roman Catholic Churches require extensive formalities. However, the civil court doesn’t mind having a minister present at the time of a legal wedding.
According to Mexico’s family law, all children are equal. It does not matter if a child’s parents are married or not; they could be mere lovers or simply living together, but they have all the rights to claim support on behalf of their child. Child support is usually valid until 18, but it can be extended if a child is studying full time.
In cases of domestic abuse towards a child, the court will appoint a solicitor to represent the child. Once they turn 16, a minor can decide who can represent them in the court. This scenario is based on complaints about abuse towards a minor or during a divorce appeal. The court decides which parent gets custody after a divorce is finalized.
Parental responsibilities won’t change if a marriage has ended. This includes the right to proper housing, sustenance, and education. The other parent can visit the child as told by the court. If a parent is violent and needs to be away from the child, visiting can lead to a criminal offense.
Adoption and Surrogacy
Adoption is easy for married couples and individuals who wish to raise a child. Of course, not everyone can be eligible for that. Strict criteria are followed all over Mexico. The key points of this criteria are as follows:
- A couple should be married for at least two years.
- A couple that isn’t married but lives together must have been together for two years.
- An individual (married or unmarried) must be at least 25 years old.
- A guardian who has been looking after a child and their assets can adopt the child.
- An individual can adopt their spouse/partner’s biological child from a different relationship.
- People who are willing to adopt must take all legal and parental responsibilities of the child.
- They must not have a criminal record of any kind.
- They must also provide the court with the evidence that they can meet the child’s standard living and show proof of enough earnings.
Since sexual orientation is not an issue, anyone who is eligible can adopt and raise a child. The court orders a psychological exam first to judge the adoptee’s mental health. If the child is over the age of twelve, their consent is also asked along with getting consent from the biological parents (if any).
Surrogacy is rapidly gaining popularity all over the world. People who cannot have a child by natural means look for other options, and surrogacy is one of them. Most developed countries have explicit laws regarding it, but no clear information is available in Mexico.
Tabasco and Sinaloa are the only Mexican states with precise surrogacy rulings, while it is forbidden in Coahuila and Queretaro. Other states that have no precise ruling but state that surrogacy can be made possible under strict conditions. Before taking any step in this regard, a person should consult with a lawyer first so that everything is clear beforehand.
A crime remains a crime in every part of the world. Only a tiny fraction of activities considered crimes in some countries mean nothing in others. Major offenses like murder, rape, fraud, organized crime, drug-related activity, kidnapping, or any other violent crime that involves weapons are punishable by Mexican law.
If a foreigner commits a crime in Mexico, they will be dealt with the same procedure as local Mexicans. There will be no exemption from the legal procedures that follow after the arrest. However, the foreigner’s native country might try to ensure that their citizen is returned safely. But there may be further proceedings.
Crimes are of two types – federal and state offenses. All the significant crimes come under federal offense. Local, state, or federal authorities can arrest a person who is caught involved in a crime. Once a person is arrested, they will be given the right to get a legal defense. If they cannot afford one, the government will arrange for a solicitor.
According to Mexican law, you are not obligated to answer any incriminating questions. However, you are bound to answer questions about your identity, occupation, address, and work information[iii]. Pre-trial detention is usually for serious crimes. When a person is arrested, the police investigate for 48 hours to determine whether the crime serious enough to take it to trial or if there is enough evidence for continuing the line of investigation.
If either of these results in a negative answer, the person may be released. But this will not happen that soon. The person may have to face the judge and do as they order. This scenario can result in paying a fine, having a restraining order placed against them, freezing of assets, and even international travel restrictions.
Lesser crimes are handled by the office of Ministerio Publico. They try to resolve the conflict between the parties with counseling and restitution money. Repeated offenses are considered and dealt with accordingly. If a foreigner ends up in such a case, deportation from Mexico may be warranted.
[i] “Family Law in Mexico: Overview.” Retrieved from https://ca.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com/2-567-2525?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)&firstPage=true#co_anchor_a518364
[ii] “Marriage in Mexico.” Retrieved from https://mexicolaw.com/Marriage%20in%20Mexico.htm#:~:text=In%20Mexico%2C%20only%20civil%20marriage,legal%20purpose%20in%20the%20U.S.
[iii] “The Mexican criminal law system.” Retrieved from https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories/mexico/mexican-criminal-law-system