Service is the act by which a person (defendant, respondent, judgment debtor) is informed that a legal action has been brought against them. It is used to summon them for the first time in order to defend themselves. Service is also used for the initial summons of a person with an interest in the proceedings who was not initially involved in them to appear on the side of the applicant or the defendant.
Notification is used to summon a person to appear in court or to inform them of a fact.
There are specific rules in the Portuguese Civil Procedure Code governing how service and notification should be effected, and specifying the information to be transmitted in relation to the addressees, the nature of the facts to be transmitted and the purpose of transmission. The reason for these rules is to ensure that the communication actually reaches addressee and, if they are a party to the proceedings, to guarantee the right of defence.
The following information is served:
• The duplicate of the initial petition with which the applicant brought the action and copies of the accompanying documents, which are delivered to the defendant
• Information that the person has been summoned for that action
• Indication of the court, division and section in which the proceedings are being heard, the deadline for submitting a defence, and of the need to appoint a legal representative, if this is mandatory
• Warning of the consequences of failure to defend the action
The following information is notified:
• Court orders and judgments
• Statements of case submitted by the parties, applications and documents included in the case file and the deadline for the parties to exercise their right to adversarial proceedings
• Summons of a party, witness, expert, technical adviser or lawyer to be present in judicial proceedings;
• Requests for expertise, other evidence or information to entities that have a duty to cooperate with the court.
In proceedings under way service and notification may generally be effected by judicial officers, enforcement officers or by the legal representative of one of the parties, depending on the cases indicated in the answer to question 5.
Service and notification may be effected by notaries in probate proceedings.
In certain cases provided for in the New Urban Lease Law (Novo Regime do Arrendamento Urbano), notification may be effected by lawyers, solicitors or enforcement officers before an action has even been brought.
Service and notification may be effected by civil registrars in voluntary jurisdiction proceedings that are heard before the Civil Registrar, particularly in family and juvenile matters.
Under Portuguese law it is the duty of judicial officers to carry out on their own initiative all requisite steps to serve notice on a person.
If they are unable to serve notice, judicial officers consult information that is electronically available in other government departments in order to find out if there has been a change of residence and establish the current address of the person to be served.
The same rule applies in certain cases expressly provided for by law for the notification of the parties or their representatives.
Enforcement officers also have access to certain databases of government departments to enable them to check the tax residence of judgment debtors, for example, in enforcement proceedings.
In all cases, access to the databases requires prior authorisation from the court.
Under Portuguese law, whenever a party justifiably claims to have serious difficulty in obtaining information – particularly regarding a change of residence of the person to be served or notified – something which impacts on the effective exercise of a procedural right, duty or claim, the court may order any persons or entities to cooperate in order to obtain this information. Regardless of whether or not they are parties to the proceedings, they have a duty to cooperate with the court by providing the information ordered by it.
No. This possibility exists only for the national authorities and entities mentioned in the answer to question 4.1.
The courts consult the databases of other government departments and, if this proves insufficient, order other persons, entities or even the police authorities to gather and/or provide information on the current address of a person, as mentioned in the answer to question 4.1.
The various ways in which a document may be served or notified are indicated here. The cases in which service and notification are used have already been indicated in the answer to question 1.
A document may be served on a person or served by publication. Either of these forms of service may be addressed to natural or legal persons. The rules on the service of natural persons apply, mutatis mutandis, to legal persons, unless some aspect of the service of legal persons is specifically regulated, in which case these specific regulations apply.
Service on persons
In practice, a document may be served on a person:
Service on persons may be effected:
Service by publication
In practice, service by publication may take place:
Service by publication is effected by:
During proceedings notification may take place in one of the following ways:
Yes, the following are preferably carried out by electronic data transmission through the courts’ computer system:
When the size of the procedural document to be submitted is incompatible with electronic transmission, or the documents to be sent exist only on physical media, or the case does not require a legal representative to be appointed and the party has not appointed one, or in the case of a justifiable reason:
In addition, the court services may:
These rules apply in legal proceedings of a civil or commercial nature heard in the courts of first instance. They also apply in certain cases for proceedings before notaries (e.g. inheritance) or civil registrars (e.g. family matters where there is an agreement).
In addition, Portuguese law also provides for service of documents at a set time as follows:
In cases where:
(i) the acknowledgement of receipt is not signed by the person to be served (postal service);
(ii) service on a person at a set time is effected on a third person;
(iii) or service on a person at a set time is effected by posting a notice of service at the location
the enforcement officer or court registry must always send a registered letter to the person to be served, within two business days, to notify them, as appropriate, of:
Service by post is deemed to be effected on the day when the acknowledgement of receipt is shown to be signed, either by the person to be served or by a third person (assuming in this case that the third person delivered the letter to the person to be served, unless proven otherwise).
Service on a person by enforcement officers, judicial officers and legal representatives is deemed to be effected on the date when the record of service is drawn up.
Service by posting a notice of service is deemed to be effected on the date indicated therein.
In the case of service or notification by registered letter – with or without acknowledgement of receipt – a delivery notice is left in the mailbox if the postman is unable to find anyone at the address indicated.
The delivery notice informs the addressee that the letter has been left at the post office, indicating the address, opening hours and deadline for its collection.
If the letter is not collected within the period specified (and there is no request to extend that period or resend the letter to another address), it is returned to the sender.
When service is effected by post and there is evidence of refusal to receive the letter or to sign the acknowledgement of receipt, service is deemed to be effected in the following manner and circumstances:
When service is effected personally by the enforcement officer or judicial officer, and there is evidence of refusal by the person to be served to sign the certificate of service or to receive the duplicate, service is considered to be effected, in which case:
Service is deemed not to be effected only if the refusal is legitimate. Refusal is legitimate when the person to be served cannot be found because they do not reside or are not based at the address indicated, or if a third party states that they are not in a position to deliver the letter.
The same rules apply in certain cases where the law provides that personal notification of the parties or their representatives must take place with the formalities of service.
When service or notification by post, with acknowledgement of receipt, originates from abroad, the Portuguese postal services may deliver the letter and documents to the person to be served or a third party at the same address who states that they are in a position to hand over the letter to the addressee.
See answer to question 7.3.
In principle, the addressee has six business days to collect the documents from the post office.
The addressee is informed of this period and the fact that the documents can be collected at the post office by way of a delivery notice that the postal service leaves in the mailbox whenever the postman does not find anyone at home.
Yes, in the case of service, the acknowledgement of receipt, the certificate of service or the notice of service are written proof that service has been effected.
In the case of notification, the recording of the acknowledgement, the recording of the letter or the file or record drawn up in the proceedings are written proof that notification was effected.
In the case of service or notification by electronic data transmission, the courts’ computer system certifies the date and time of issue.
Failure of service is a major deficiency that renders invalid the entire procedure from, but not including, the initial petition.
Failure of service is understood to occur in the following cases:
This invalidity is deemed to be remedied only if the defendant or the Public Prosecutor's Office (where it is the principal party) acts in proceedings without immediately objecting to the failure of service.
Outside of the abovementioned cases, the omission of any act or formality required by law regarding service or notification constitutes a simple irregularity. If this irregularity is cited or the court becomes aware of it in the course of the procedure, the court will order it to be remedied. In other cases, an irregularity of service or notification renders the act invalid only when the law so declares or when it may influence the examination or decision in the case. In this case, the remaining procedural acts not affected by the invalid act remain valid.
Yes, in some cases, detailed below, the cost of service and notification is estimated in UA (Unit of Account). The value of the UA in 2019 was EUR 102.
The information in this form is general in nature, is not exhaustive and does not bind the Contact Point, the European Judicial Network in Civil and Commercial Matters or the courts or any other recipients. Applicable legislation must always be consulted.
The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective EJN contact point. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. Neither the EJN nor the European Commission accept responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.
Member States in charge of the management of national content pages are in the process of updating some of the content on this website in the light of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. If the site contains content that does not yet reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, it is unintentional and will be addressed.