Learn how to get a divorce in Portugal and how the process works, including the difference between mutually agreed divorces and contested ones.
Portugal is one of Europe’s divorce capitals, but it’s regulations don’t differ significantly from most other countries. Divorces in Portugal can be mutually agreed or contested, and there are different processes involved depending on whether you have children or not. Learn about the basics here.
Rates of divorce in Portugal
In recent years, Portugal has had a remarkably high divorce rate – with around 70% of marriages ending in divorce. While this figure seems incredibly high, it’s below the 2012 peak – when 73.7% of marriages broke up.
Portugal divorce law
A divorce in Portugal can either be mutually agreed or contested. Divorcing by mutual agreement is a much quicker process, but it requires both parties to agree on various issues, such as child care and maintenance, and how their assets will be divided.
On the other hand, a contested divorce will usually involve some form of a court hearing and can be a much more drawn out process.
How to get a divorce in Portugal by mutual agreement
You can apply for a divorce by mutual consent at the civil registry office. First, you’ll need a list of your communal property and details of an agreement on custody of any children, maintenance payments and how any property will be divided, but you won’t need to disclose your reasons for applying.
Once you’ve provided your documents, you’ll be invited to a meeting with the registrar and will be able to use mediation services if you wish. If you still want to get divorced and have provided the suitable legal documents, you’ll now have your application granted.
If your application involves children, the Public Prosecution Service will look at your documents and respond to you within 30 days. If it rules that your agreement doesn’t sufficiently protect your children, you may have to amend it.
Next, the judge will consider your agreements to check they provide sufficient protection for both partners, before making the divorce official. Click here for information about the consequences of divorce in Portugal.
Contested divorce in Portugal
The following issues are considered grounds for divorce in Portugal:
- If the two parties have been separated for a full year
- If one of the parties is suffering from poor mental health
- If one of the parties has been absent for a year or more
- Any other factors that prove the marriage has irretrievably broken down, regardless of who is to blame
How contested divorces work
If you and your spouse are in dispute over the divorce, you’ll have to submit your documents to the Family Proceedings Court or the district court if one doesn’t exist in your area.
Once you’ve presented your divorce petition, the judge will arrange a meeting to discuss reconciliation or an agreement that can result in a divorce by mutual agreement.
If you still can’t reach an agreement on maintenance and child custody, the defendant will have 30 days to respond to the divorce petition. After this, a divorce hearing will take place and both sides must produce evidence. Once this is completed, the judge will make a decision within 30 days.
Changing your name after a divorce in Portugal
If you’ve taken your partner’s surname when getting married, you can keep it if you so choose – as long as either the court or the other party agrees with this. You can apply to keep or change your name either during the divorce process or once the divorce has been made legal.
Dividing assets after your divorce
When it comes to your financial assets, you’ll need to either have a mutual agreement or have a court ruling. In Portugal, it’s possible to have a financial agreement back-dated to when your separation occurred as opposed to when the divorce was finalised.
The court is allowed to rent the marital home to either partner at their request, after taking into account the interests of any children and the other partner.
Childcare agreements when getting a divorce in Portugal
Any maintenance payments and access arrangements should be agreed by both parties and approved by the court, or public registrar if your divorce is by mutual consent. If no agreement is forthcoming, the court will make a ruling on custody and access arrangements.
Maintenance payments are considered by the court, taking various circumstances in to account – such as how long you were married, your contribution to the family finances, the health of both parties, income and how long you will spend bringing up the children.
Legal separation in Portugal
Legal separation is an alternative to a full divorce. It doesn’t dissolve the marriage like a divorce, but removes any responsibilities of cohabitation and shared property. While legal separation isn’t a stage in the divorce process, it can be ‘upgraded’ to a divorce once the couple has been separated for a year if it is contested, or at any time if it is mutually agreed.
If you are served with a petition to turn your separation into a divorce, you will have 15 days to respond and appeal against the petition if you wish.
Getting your Portuguese marriage annulled
You can terminate your marriage if it is illegal or unable to be consummated. Examples of this include if one party is too young, was forced into the marriage, is already married, or if the couple were married without witnesses.
Mediation after divorce in Portugal
Before you start the divorce process, you can take part in mediation. The Ministry of Justice will allocate a professional family mediator, who will conduct meetings with you to see if the situation can be resolved, or if it cannot, try to help you reach an agreement on terms.
Click to the top of our guide to getting a divorce in Portugal.