Yes. As a rule, spouses are free to draw up a marriage contract in order to choose their matrimonial property regime. This contract is known as a prenuptial agreement (convenção antenupcial - Article 1698 of the Civil Code (Código Civil)).
However, where spouses do not choose a regime or in certain cases where the prenuptial agreement is invalid, the statutory matrimonial property regime is the community of acquired property regime (regime da comunhão de adquiridos), in accordance with Articles 1717 and 1721 of the Civil Code.
In this case, the legal provisions of Articles 1721 to 1731 of the Civil Code have to be applied in order to determine which property is jointly owned and which property is separately owned.
Exceptionally, there are cases (set out in Article 1720 of the Civil Code) in which the mandatory regime is the separate property regime (regime de separação de bens).
Spouses can arrange their matrimonial property regime by entering into a prenuptial agreement, through which they can choose one of the three property regimes set out in the Civil Code, or by agreeing something different within the limits of the applicable law (Article 1698 of the Civil Code).
The three matrimonial property regimes set out in the Civil Code are:
As indicated above, spouses can agree something different within the limits of the applicable law. This has to be the case where the matrimonial property regime is the community of acquired property regime, but the spouses agree, in a prenuptial agreement, that a specific immovable property acquired by one of them prior to the marriage (for example, a family home) will become a jointly owned property after the marriage because they want both of them to be responsible for the respective mortgage
In terms of formal requirements, the prenuptial agreement must take the form of an authentic document drawn up before a notary (public deed) or a declaration made before a registrar (Article 1710 of the Civil Code and Articles 189 to 191 of the Civil Register Code (Código do Registo Civil)).
As a rule, the prenuptial agreement must be concluded before the marriage. In accordance with Article 1714 of the Civil Code, the prenuptial agreement and the matrimonial property regime cannot be changed after the marriage, except as otherwise provided by Article 1715 of the Civil Code.
Chapter IX, Section III, of the Civil Code contains the legal provisions applicable to prenuptial agreements (from Article 1698 to Article 1716).
The legal provisions applicable to marriage gifts and gifts between spouses can be found in Chapter X, Sections I and II, Articles 1753 to 1766 of the Civil Code.
Article 1720 of the Civil Code identifies two cases in which the mandatory matrimonial property regime is the separate property regime: when the marriage is celebrated without going through the preliminary marriage process, and when the spouses are 60 years old or over.
Apart from in these cases, spouses are free to choose within the limits of the applicable law.
In accordance with Article 1688 of the Civil Code, the marriage relationship between spouses ends with divorce or annulment of the marriage, without prejudice to the provisions on maintenance. The legal separation of spouses and their property does not dissolve the marriage, but the legal effects in the case of separation are very similar to divorce, as will be explained below.
With regard to the partition of property and payment of debts, Article 1689 of the Civil Code states that, once the matrimonial property regime has ended, the spouses or their respective heirs are entitled to each receive their personal property and their share of any jointly owned property. The spouse who owes a debt to the jointly owned property must settle that debt.
With regard to debts, priority will be given to the payment of joint debts using the jointly owned property, and it is only after such debts have been paid that the remaining debts will be settled. If one of the spouses owes a debt to the other spouse, he or she must pay that debt using his or her share of the jointly owned property. Where there is no jointly owned property, the spouse must pay the debt using his or her personal property.
Legal effects of divorce
The effects of divorce are set out in Articles 1788 to 1793‑A of the Civil Code.
As a general rule, divorce dissolves the marriage and has the same consequences as dissolution of the marriage by death.
In terms of succession, in accordance with Article 2133 of the Civil Code, following the divorce judgment the former spouse loses the status of legal heir even where the divorce judgment is delivered after the other spouse’s death.
Under Portuguese law, as a rule, the matrimonial property is not partitioned during the divorce proceedings, but only afterwards. However, in the case of divorce by mutual consent before the Civil Registry Office, spouses can immediately agree on how the matrimonial property will be partitioned.
As regards the effects of divorce, the general rule is that:
The property effects of divorce between spouses are as follows:
The property effects of divorce on relationships between spouses and third parties are as follows:
With regard to maintenance obligations between former spouses, Articles 2016 and 2019 of the Civil Code state that:
Effects of legal separation of spouses and their property
With regard to legal separation, Article 1794 of the Civil Code refers to the provisions on divorce, as set out above, with one exception: legal separation does not dissolve the marriage.
Aside from this one exception, in accordance with Articles 1795‑A, 2016 and 2133 of the Civil Code, the effects of legal separation on matrimonial property, maintenance obligations and succession are the same as the effects of divorce.
Legal effects of annulment
There is a difference between annulment and non-existent marriage.
In the case of non-existent marriage, as provided for by Articles 1628 to 1630 of the Civil Code (e.g. where there is complete absence of a declaration by one or both spouses), the non-existent marriage does not have any effects.
In the case of annulment of a civil marriage, as provided for by Article 1631 of the Civil Code (e.g. in the case of legal impediments or an incorrect declaration), the effects determined by Article 1647 of the Civil Code are as follows:
These rules apply to the annulment of Catholic marriages celebrated by ecclesiastical authorities until the judgment has been registered in the Civil Register, provided that the Catholic marriage was likewise registered.
Articles 1649 and 1650 of the Civil Code provide for special property penalties in the event of a marriage between minors or a marriage infringing legal impediments, such as the following:
The matrimonial property regime ends with death, as set out in Article 1788 of the Civil Code.
Jointly owned property must be partitioned. The deceased’s property includes his or her personal property and, as applicable, his or her share of the jointly owned property of the spouses, in accordance with Article 2024 of the Civil Code.
As a general rule, the surviving spouse is the legal heir and benefits from a reserved portion in the succession, regardless of the existence of a will (Articles 2131 and 2133 or 2158 and 2159 of the Civil Code, as applicable).
In addition, under the conditions of Article 2103‑A of the Civil Code, when the property is partitioned, the surviving spouse has the right to be granted use of the family home, its contents and its furniture. Where this exceeds his or her portion in terms of both the succession and the jointly owned property, the surviving spouse must compensate the other heirs.
However, in accordance with Articles 1698 and 1700(3) of the Civil Code, where the matrimonial property regime is the separate property regime, the spouses can waive their status as heir in the prenuptial agreement.
As a rule, issues relating to matrimonial property regimes are raised in the partition proceedings following divorce, legal separation or annulment of the marriage.
In such cases, the authorities with competence to handle the partition of matrimonial property are as follows:
Practical information on this service and its costs is available from https://justica.gov.pt/Servicos/Balcao-Divorcio-com-Partilha.
Articles 1682 and 1683 of the Civil Code provide that, in some cases, a spouse must have the other spouse’s consent to enter into certain contracts with a third party. This depends on the matrimonial property regime (e.g. separate property or community of property regimes), the powers of administration resulting from that regime (e.g. joint administration of certain property), the nature of the property (e.g. family home; joint property) or the nature of the contract (e.g. contract of sale and purchase; acceptance of gifts).
Under Article 1687 of the Civil Code, lack of consent from the other spouse has the following consequences for third parties:
Where no agreement can be reached on the partition (in the case of divorce or legal separation) or where the marriage is annulled, the inventory procedure to be followed is set out in Law No 23/2013.
The inventory procedure involves the following stages:
Stage 1 - Application
Stage 2 - Preparatory meeting
Stage 3 - Meeting
Article 79 of Law No 23/2013 contains special provisions, in particular on mediation, which are applicable in the event of partition resulting from divorce, legal separation or annulment.
The applicant for registration of immovable property must submit a registration application to the Property Registry Office, enclosing documents proving the facts set out in the Property Register. The documents normally required are as follows: public deed; property certificate; evidence of payment of stamp duty and municipal property tax; mortgage cancellation document, where applicable. If these documents are already registered with the Property Registry Office, only their references need to be indicated.
In addition, if the application is submitted by a representative of the applicant, their power of attorney must be included with the application. However, under Article 39 of the Property Register Code, lawyers, notaries and solicitors do not need to include a power of attorney in order to apply for registration.
Applicants who have a digital certificate (citizens with a Portuguese citizen’s card, lawyers, notaries and solicitors duly registered with the respective professional associations) can submit an application to register immovable property and add the necessary documents via the internet. Applicants without a digital certificate can submit the application in person at the Property Registry Office or send it by post.
Information on the registration procedure and its costs is available at:
The current versions of the Civil Code and other legislation referred to above can be consulted, in Portuguese, via the following link:
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