A guide to divorce and jurisdiction in Portugal

No matter the circumstances, divorce proceedings can be a difficult time, especially when there is an international element to consider. If you or your partner live or are from a different country, such as Portugal, this can impact the divorce proceedings. It is important to consider the different jurisdictions to determine the country that will provide the best conclusion after divorce proceedings.

This guide will explore what a cross-border divorce is and whether divorce should be sought in Portugal or England and Wales.

Click on the links below to jump to that section:

Read the definition of a cross-border divorce, and how Brexit has affected divorce proceedings.

Discover the different factors that may determine where an international divorce is processed.

Discover the legal grounds for divorce in Portugal, and when international lawyers are required.

Find out about getting a divorce in Portugal to compare it to other jurisdictions.

Read about the most frequently asked questions on divorce and jurisdiction in Portugal.

What is a cross-border divorce?

Cross-border divorces often occur when one of the couples resides in a different country or are of different nationalities. Different countries have their own sets of laws in relation to divorces. This may lead to deciding a particular jurisdiction in which the divorce will be finalised through.

Find out more about cross-border divorce disputes here.

However, over the last couple of years, this process has changed.

How has Brexit impacted international divorces?

For divorces that were applied for before 11 pm on the 31st of December 2020, no matter the jurisdiction or nationality of the couple, the divorce will be recognised in both England and Wales and countries in the European Union. This enforced a “first to issue” rule, where the couple divorced in the country of the person who first filed for divorce.

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However, after the Brexit deal, which saw the United Kingdom leave the European Union, changes were made to how cross-border divorces were processed.

From the 1st of January 2021, international divorces were to be heard before a court deemed to have the “closest connection” specifically to the couple.

In most cross-border divorce cases, time is often of the essence; especially if the couple cannot decide on a particular jurisdiction. At Giambrone & Partners, our international family lawyers have experience in multiple jurisdictions, including England and Wales, and Portugal, and can provide advice on which country will lead to the best possible outcome.

Contact Giambrone & Partners today to find out more information.

What factors should be considered when choosing the divorce jurisdiction?

When there are different nationalities involved in the divorce , it is important to consider certain elements which will determine the jurisdiction where the divorce will be finalised. However, the couple cannot choose any country, and there must be a legitimate connection to the jurisdiction.

Rules governing jurisdiction

In cross-border divorces, there can be various countries in which the divorce will be finalised in; each with its own rules and grounds for divorce. Consider each jurisdiction to determine the best outcome.

Giambrone & Partners are a team of multi-lingual lawyers who operate in various jurisdictions, and understand international laws. Our international lawyers can provide legal advice that is specific to your circumstances and suggest the best jurisdiction for the divorce.

Contact our cross-border divorce lawyers today.

Length of marriage and separation

If the marriage to a Portuguese resident lasted longer than three continuous years, foreign nationals can apply for Portuguese citizenship. However, the relationship ending will not renounce this citizenship, and can be used as evidence if they are wanting to divorce through Portugal courts.

Where the couple resided and domiciled

Despite not living in the country, the ability to choose jurisdiction can be determined by the couple’s domicile links. This includes where a person was born and brought up, and whether they still have connections with the country; for example, a pension, property, or a bank account.

Even if you are not a Portuguese national by birth, proving that you have a sufficient connection to the country will help with the jurisdiction decision.

If they have children and if so, where they attend school

If there are children to consider, the court may deem the country in which the children attend school to have the “closest connection” in terms of jurisdiction.

At Giambrone & Partners, we have represented a wide range of international clients during cross-border divorces to establish jurisdiction and ensure the best possible outcome.

Contact our international family lawyers today for more information.

What are the legal grounds for divorce in Portugal?

In Portugal, a couple can file for divorce at any time following their marriage. Although consent is not required when applying for a divorce in Portugal, proceedings will run much smoother if the couple agrees. If there is mutual consent, the divorce can be processed through a Civil Registry Office and the grounds for divorce do not need to be explained.

If the divorce is taken through the Portuguese courts, a spouse will need to justify their reason based on the following grounds:

  • If the couple has been separated for more than a year
  • A change in mental faculties
  • Absence of a partner
  • Irretrievable breakdown

Should you seek a divorce in Portugal?

In Portugal, it is the divorcing couple that decides the property regime they want, in which their assets will be decided. The couple has the right to set their own rules, which may differ from the model property regime set in the Civil Code; as long as the new rules are within the limits of Portuguese law.

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This allows the couple more freedom in dividing their shared assets than in other jurisdictions, regardless of whether they were acquired before or during the marriage.

Make sure you can establish a connection to Portugal

To divorce in Portugal, a strong connection must be established. This may include how long you have worked or lived in the country, whether you have citizenship, your assets in Portugal (such as a Portuguese bank account or property), and any other relevant elements.

If there is not a strong enough connection, a different jurisdiction should be considered.

Make sure to hire international lawyers who understand both sets of laws

Giambrone & Partners are an international law firm that operates in several jurisdictions, including Spain, Italy and Portugal. Our multi-lingual lawyers can communicate with you in your language, and provide legal advice that is in your best interests.

Contact Giambrone & Partners today to find out more about cross-border divorces.

Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to get a divorce in Portugal?

An uncontested divorce may take from 3 to 6 weeks at the Civil Registry Office. However, divorces that are contested, or cross-border divorces, can take much longer.

Make sure you seek legal representation as soon as possible for the best outcome. Find out more about our Portuguese Advogados here.

Related content

Cross-border Divorce - Which Jurisdiction?

Cross-border Divorce - Guidance on which Jurisdiction

How Does the Cross-Border Divorce Disputes Process Work?