Divorce in Portugal - Legal Assistance for Foreigners

Divorce Procedure in Portugal

Updated on Sunday 28th May 2023

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Divorce in Portugal
Your marriage may not go as smoothly as you had expected. Sometimes, there is just no other way to settle things but to end your marriage. Divorce is the dissolution of marriage through the courts or other legal processes. The divorce procedure in Portugal is available for couples who have mutually agreed to undergo it or only one of the spouses has filed for divorce. If both husband and wife consent to dissolve their marriage, the procedure is called divorce on the ground of mutual consent. If only one of the spouses seeks divorce, the procedure is called litigious divorce. Our divorce lawyers in Portugal have experience in both divorce procedures.
 Quick Facts  
Divorce procedure in Portugal 

In Portugal, divorce can be initiated by mutual consent of both spouses or by one spouse through a litigious procedure.

Our Portuguese divorce lawyers can help you navigate this process.

Reasons for getting a divorce in Portugal

Divorce in Portugal is governed by the Portuguese Civil Code, which specifies grounds for divorce, such as violations of matrimonial duties and living separately for three consecutive years.

Mutual agreement divorce in Portugal

The Civil Registry Office handles divorce applications by mutual agreement, including issues such as child custody and financial arrangements. 

Contesting a divorce in Portugal 

One parent may contest the divorce within 30 days, if he/she disagrees on child custody or maintenance.

Evidence must be presented at a scheduled hearing with a Portuguese lawyer.

In contested divorces, a judge typically reaches a verdict within 30 days.

Changing the name after a divorce

Women can decide whether to keep their married name or revert to their pre-marriage name, but the husband must agree on keeping the family name of the ex-spouse.

Contentious vs. litigious divorce

Contentious divorces include disagreements over issues while both parties still try to negotiate a settlement on their own or with the help of a mediator.

A litigious divorce means that the divorce is being handled in a court of law.

Separation vs. divorce

Separation allows couples to live apart and remain legally married, while divorce legally terminates the marriage.

Where to file a divorce in Portugal

Litigious divorce is handled by the family court and requires filing a petition including a valid reason for divorce.

Divorce by mutual consent is handled by the Civil Registry Office and requires both spouses to file a petition with details on property and custody.

Distribution of assets

Assets can be distributed through agreement or court proceedings.

Contact our Portuguese attorneys if you have issues in distribution of assets during a divorce.

Legal separation in Portugal

Legal separation is an alternative to divorce, when a couple can live apart, but remain legally married.

If one spouse receives a petition to turn the separation into a divorce, he/she has 15 days to respond.

Mediation before divorce in Portugal

Spouses who intend to divorce can seek the help of a professional family mediator to find a resolution.

Annulment of a marriage 

A marriage can be annulled for reasons such as forced marriage, underage spouses, or marriage without witnesses. 

Inheritance Law in Portugal

Inheritance Law prioritizes the spouse and children as inheritors. 

Family Law in Portugal

Divorced parents must provide for the education and upbringing of their minor child, with one parent providing domicile and the other contributing to expenses until the child turns 18.

Why choose our team of lawyers from Portugal Our attorneys in Portugal provide careful evaluation and explain spouse rights from the beginning of each divorce case to ensure a smooth process, especially when minor children are involved.


Grounds for divorce in Portugal 

Spouses cannot just dissolve their marriage in Portugal for any reason. There are grounds provided under the Portuguese Civil Code, which is the law that governs civil matters including marriage. Under the code, spouses can go for divorce if either one of them violates their matrimonial duties and jeopardize their ability to live a normal married life.
Another reason for divorce is termed as objective grounds because the reason is independent of the fault of the spouses. One example is when both spouses have been living separately for three consecutive years. For more grounds for divorce, just approach our attorneys in Portugal.

What is a mutual agreement divorce in Portugal?

The Civil Registry Office in Portugal is in charge of the mutual agreement divorce applications. In this matter, the child custody, the common expenses, and maintenance payments will be established in the presence of a lawyer and the registrar in charge of divorce procedures. It is good to know that the divorce cases involving children will have to be observed by the Public Prosecution Service in Portugal which will also verify the agreements regarding childcare. If enough protection and acceptable agreements for both partners and the children are provided, a judge may consent the mutual divorce in Portugal and make it official.

How can I contest a divorce in Portugal?

The local office of the Family Proceedings Court in Portugal is in charge of contested divorces which often appear if, after a settled divorce petition, the two parties involved cannot agree on the terms and conditions. There are cases in which one of the parents does not agree on the maintenance and child custody, therefore, they are entitled to contest the divorce in no more than 30 days. The next step is to schedule a divorce hearing with the help of your Portuguese lawyer and evidence for your case must be provided. In most situations of contested divorces, a judge will establish the verdict within 30 days.

Do I need to change the name after a divorce?

Women have the possibility of changing the surname or keep it, as they want, as long as this decision is made during the divorce procedure in Portugal. A series of legal aspects can be entirely explained by our divorce lawyers in Portugal.

Where to file for divorce in Portugal

For litigious divorce in Portugal, the entity that has jurisdiction over the case is the family court. The case is initiated by filing a petition for litigious divorce with the family court. The case is a special proceeding. The family court judge will be the one to decide the case and give a divorce decree. The petition must include a ground for divorce as provided for the Portuguese Civil Code. There are a few requirements to consider when filing for divorce in Portugal:
  • for divorce where there is mutual consent by the parties, the authority in charge of such cases is the Civil Registry Office;
  • both spouses must file a petition in the Civil Registry Office containing therein a list of their common properties, agreement about the custody of their children, and who will be in charge of the family home;
  • spouses are not obliged to disclose the specific reason for their decision to end their marriage;
  • for divorce by mutual consent of the parties in Portugal, the director of the Civil Registry Office will meet both spouses and attempt to reconcile them and save their marriage. Our law firm in Portugal is familiar with both types of divorce.

The distribution of assets in a divorce process in Portugal

The common assets in a marriage are normally distributed in a divorce process and there are two distinct ways to do so: with the help of an agreement or in the court of law. There are couples who discuss such aspects before getting married. This is where a prenuptial agreement enters the discussion. In the case of children in marriage, the court of law will decide in the best interest of the little ones and will issue a decision regarding financial support, education, home, etc. We can represent persons who want to get a divorce in Portugal, so please feel free to discuss with our Portuguese lawyers.

What is legal separation in Portugal?

Legal separation is the alternative to divorce in Portugal. Such separation removes the cohabitation responsibility, yet it can be upgraded to the divorce process that involves other legal stages. It is worth mentioning that if one of the spouses receives a petition saying the separation can turn into a divorce, he or she can respond or appeal within 15 days. Our lawyers in Portugal can tell you more about the legal separation and can represent you in the court of law for the divorce process.

Mediation before divorce in Portugal

A professional family mediator is allocated to spouses who intend to divorce. Specific meetings will be conducted, with the intention of looking for a resolution instead of a divorce. However, if mediation does not help, then spouses will have to continue with the legal separation or divorce. In any case, you can discuss this with one of our attorneys in Portugal and solicit legal assistance.

The annulment of a marriage in Portugal

A marriage can be annulled in Portugal due to varied reasons. Forced marriage, spouses who are too young, or couples who got married without witnesses can solicit the marriage annulment. The legal support for marriage annulment can be offered by one of our lawyers in Portugal. We can represent both Portuguese nationals and foreigners who want to get a divorce.

Same-sex marriage and divorce in Portugal

Same-sex couples can get married in Portugal, according to current legislation. They enjoy the same rights as straight couples, but things get a little complicated when it comes to adopting children.
In the case of a divorce between same-sex partners, the separation can be made amicably in the first instance, if there is an agreement between the two, regarding the division of the assets accumulated during the marriage. The laws applicable in this case can be explained to you by our divorce experts in Portugal.

Prenups in Portugal

According to Portuguese Law, prenuptial agreements are accepted. Such contracts are concluded between the future spouses and contain information about the personal property that will be recovered in case of divorce. It is important to note that Portugal is a party to the Hague Convention on Matrimonial Property Regime, in the event of a divorce.
A prenuptial agreement can be made with the help of our lawyers in Portugal, who will talk to the future spouses regarding the details in this direction. In addition, if such a contract is established and agreed upon by the parties involved, this document will then be notarized, and therefore legalized. Find out from our specialists what are the steps to follow for creating a prenup agreement in Portugal.

The Family Law in Portugal

According to Family Law in Portugal, divorced parents must take care of the education and good upbringing of the minor child resulting from the marriage. While one parent will take care of the child's domicile, the other will have to bear some of the expenses for education, clothing, food and more, until the age of 18. We remind you that the Portuguese authorities place great value on the protection of minor children and their rights. Moreover, if there are parents who abandon their parental rights or who are thinking of kidnapping the minor from the house of the parent who received custody, they will be liable to penalties, but also imprisonment.
Specialized legal aid regarding children's rights, mentioned by Family Law in Portugal, can be offered by our lawyers in Portugal.

What does the Inheritance Law stipulate?

The ways in which the assets can be distributed to successors in the case a deceased are stipulated by the Inheritance Law in Portugal and its principles:
  • The wife/husband and the children are the first in line to inherit the assets.
  • The estate is distributed in an equal manner to children if there is no spouse.
  • In  case there are no children and no spouse, the family relatives (brothers and sisters) are next in line.
The testament in Portugal can be made public or in private, in front of a notary and witnesses in the case of a public one, with the mention that there is no need for an executor to be involved. The necessity of an attorney in such a case is recommended, especially if you are a foreigner living and wanting to make the testament in Portugal, or if you are a non-resident who received family assets in Portugal. Feel free to talk to our legal experts and solicit complete assistance if you would like to make a will. 

Change of name after the divorce process

The ex-wife is the one who decides if she wants to return to the name before the marriage or if she keeps the existing one. However, this comes into discussion either during or after the divorce process, with the mention that the husband is the one who must agree on keeping the family name of the ex-spouse. There are no complex formalities in this case, and more legal details can be requested from our experts. Find out all the details about the divorce in Portugal and the existing regulations from our lawyers in Portugal.

Legal representation is important in the case of a divorce

Couples wishing to get a divorce in Portugal should seek legal advice, especially if the terms of the separation cannot be established from the beginning. Each partner will be represented by a divorce lawyer who will have to explain the rights of the two, according to the laws applicable in Portugal. Complex divorce cases are those in which the ex-spouses cannot agree on the division of the property accumulated during the marriage and the custody of the minor children. In such cases, the divorce will take place before a judge, who will decide, first of all, everything necessary for the good of the minors resulting in the marriage.
Therefore, it can be said that it is extremely important to consider the legal services offered by a team of lawyers specialized in divorce cases. They are familiar with the legislation in force and can provide legal representation from the very beginning.

Choose our team of lawyers from Portugal

What matters most to us is the excellent collaboration, based on communication, professionalism, efficiency, and trust with our clients. Each divorce case has its particularities, and therefore, a careful evaluation is required first. The rights of spouses are explained from the very beginning, in order to be able to have a divorce process without complications, especially if there are minor children involved.
Therefore, we remind you that our team of lawyers in Portugal is at your disposal with full legal advice for the problems you encounter regarding legal separation.

FAQ about divorce in Portugal

1. What are the grounds for divorce in Portugal?
According to the Civil Code in Portugal, the divorce can take place if the spouses no longer live together, do not share the marriage responsibilities, or if infidelity grounds are involved. These are a few of the reasons that stand at the base of a divorce.
2. Can a mutual agreement be solicited in Portugal?
Yes, a mutual agreement can enter the discussion when it comes to divorce. Such an agreement is signed by both spouses who accept the terms of assets distribution, child custody, and support.
3. Where do I file for divorce in Portugal?
The family court takes litigious divorce cases in Portugal. One of our lawyers in Portugal can offer legal assistance and guidance for persons who want to get a divorce. 
4. Are spouses obliged to disclose the reasons for divorce?
No, there is no such obligation. Spouses can keep the grounds of divorce for themselves. Ending a marriage is the decision of a couple who can keep these aspects private.
5. Is mediation provided to couples who want to divorce in Portugal?
Yes, mediation sessions are offered to couples who intend to divorce in Portugal. However, if this kind of support doesn’t help a couple cancel the idea of separation then they can continue with the divorce.
6. Can a marriage be annulled in Portugal?
Yes, a marriage can be annulled if spouses were minors, if they got married without witnesses or if a forced marriage took place.
7. Do women need to change the name after divorce?
Women are not obliged to change their name. Such an aspect needs to be mentioned from the beginning.
8. Is legal separation the same thing as divorce?
No, legal separation is different from divorce. The spouses can live separately and can consider mediation.
9. Can a divorce be contested?
Yes, the Family Proceedings Court in Portugal handles the contested divorces.
10. Do I need a lawyer for a divorce in Portugal?
Yes, you need to be represented by a divorce lawyer in Portugal who knows the legislation.
Here are some facts and figures about marriage and divorce in Portugal:
  1. According to statistics for 2018, there were around 34,600 marriages registered in Portugal.
  2. Around 68% of the marriages represented the first one for the couples in 2018.
  3. Around 17.3 years was the average length of marriage in Portugal in the same year.
  4. About 20,300 divorce cases were registered in Portugal in 2019, according to
  5. 61,4% was the divorce rate per 100 marriages in Portugal in 2019.
If your decision to have a divorce is final, let our divorce lawyers in Portugal assist you in getting a decree for divorce from the proper authorities. Please contact us at any time for complete legal support.