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The marriage and the recognition of the non-marital partnership are two ways to formalise the relationship of two persons who decide to live together. Despite the similarities, the marriage and the non-marital partnership have different conditions and effects.

The marriage is a contract between two persons who want to start a family and share their lives. This contract defines rights and duties for both persons and changes their marital status by making them married. The marriage only ends with a divorce or the death of one of the persons.

Although a non-marital partnership is not a marital status, its recognition has some effects similar to marriage. One of the main differences is that unmarried couples that live in a non-marital partnership are not heirs to each other.

The information in this guide is organised as follows:

Marriage

Marriage is a contract through which two persons state before others their willingness to start a life together, forming a family.

Who can get married

As a general rule, persons over the age of 18 who are not first-degree relatives (mothers or fathers with their children, and sisters or brothers to each other) and who do not have any of the other legal impediments may get married

It is possible to marry from the age of 16, with the permission of the mother and father (or the legal guardian) of the minor who wants to marry, or even if such permission is waived by the civil registry office. Until that age, a person is not allowed to marry. 

The marriage can be civil, Catholic or civil with another religious form 

In all cases, the marriage is only valid when it is registered in the civil registry. There is a process during which the registry office checks whether there are any impediments to the marriage between the two persons. If there are no impediments, the marriage is authorised and a date for the ceremony is set. 

In the civil marriage, the marriage process is initiated in a civil registry office, when the engaged couple declares their will to get married. The engaged couple can be represented by an attorney. The marriage process can also be initiated online, as long as both persons are over 18 years of age, are Portuguese or Brazilian citizens with the general status of equal rights and duties and have a citizen card.

The process must be started at least 1 month before the expected date of marriage. The marriage must take place within 6 months from the date of its authorisation.

For example, if you want to get married in July 2020, you must start the process between January and April. If the registry office authorises the marriage on 15 May, you must get married until 15 November.

The marriage can be celebrated in the registry office or elsewhere. The registrar’s travel and the marriage during weekends or outside the normal hours of operation of the registry office have costs.

To start the process, the engaged couple must indicate:

In the case of a Catholic marriage or a civil marriage under a religious form, the marriage process may be initiated by the priest or minister of the religion, who gathers the elements for the registry office  to verify that there are no impediments. These types of marriage have the same legal effects and requirements as civil marriages, differing only in their form. 

Choosing the property scheme

When two persons get married, they can choose whether they will have common assets or whether each member of the couple keeps their assets separated. The property scheme is the set of rules that establishes what belongs to the couple and what belongs to each person during the marriage and when it ends.

There are the following property schemes:

  • communion of acquired property
  • separation of property
  • general communion of property
  • a scheme established by the couple, in which they lay down a set of rules for the administration of the assets within the limits of the law.

Communion of acquired property

This is the property scheme that is automatically applied if the engaged couple do not want to choose another one. 

Under this scheme, all assets that the couple acquired after the marriage are owned by both persons - except for their inheritances, donations and salaries. The assets that each person already had before the marriage remain their own. That is, if a person has a car when he/she gets married, the car remains his or her own. If they buy a house after the marriage, it belongs to the couple.

The assets acquired after the marriage, but which result from a right of its own prior to the marriage, are also exclusively owned by one of the persons. For example, if a person suffered an occupational accident before the marriage, but only received a compensation after the marriage, the compensation’s sum exclusively belongs to the compensation holder.

Separation of property

When opting for this scheme, there is no assets that automatically belong to the couple. Each person keeps the assets they already had and owns the assets acquired during the marriage, whether they are bought or offered. If the couple wants to own common assets, they can, for example, buy them in co-ownership. 

The separation of property does not apply to inheritances. If one of the members of the couple dies, the person who survives is always entitled to the part of the inheritance that, according to the law, belongs to them due to the marriage.

This property scheme is compulsory when: 

  • one of the spouses is over 60 years old
  • the marriage is carried out in exceptional situations, without the normal process in which the registry office verifies whether there are impediments to the marriage (for example, in urgent marriages).

In order to opt for this scheme, it is necessary to make a prenuptial agreement. In such case, the marriage registration has an additional cost of 100 €. 

General communion of property

In the general communion, as a rule, all assets belong to the couple. In other words, both the things acquired after the marriage (bought, offered or inherited) and the things that each of them already had before the marriage shall belong to both persons. 

However, there is some assets that continue to belong to only one of them. For example: 

  • inheritances or donations received on that condition 
  • personal rights, such as usufruct, use or dwelling
  • compensation for situations related to the person or to the assets belonging to them alone
  • clothing and other personal objects
  • pets that one of the persons already owned before the marriage.

Even if this scheme is chosen, in case of divorce, none of the members of the couple can receive more than they would have received if they had chosen the communion of acquired property scheme.

The general communion scheme cannot be chosen if the engaged couple already have children of other previous relationships, even if they are already adults or emancipated.

In order to opt for this scheme, they need to make a prenuptial agreement. In such case, the marriage costs an additional 100 €.

A scheme established by the couple

If they prefer, the members of the couple can create their own property scheme. They may combine the characteristics of other property schemes and define the rules they wish, provided that they respect the limits established by law.
In order to establish their own property scheme, they need to make a prenuptial agreement. In such case, the marriage has an additional cost of 160 €.

What is the cost of a marriage

The marriage registration costs 120 €. This amount includes the costs of the process before the marriage and the registration made when people get married at the registry office, on a working day and within the opening hours of the registry office.

The value increases if the marriage is at the weekend or outside the registry office, for example. Depending on the property scheme chosen, there may also be additional costs. 

If, by law, the marriage is deemed as urgent, it always costs 120 € (for example, if one of the members of the couple is in danger of imminent death).

Marrying on weekends, outside the registry office or outside normal operating hours

The cost of the marriage registration will be 200 € whenever the marriage takes place:

  • on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday 
  • outside the registry office
  • at the registry office but outside opening hours.

If the marriage is celebrated outside the registry office, the engaged couple must also guarantee the transportation or pay the travelling costs of the registrar.

Marriage with a prenuptial agreement

The prenuptial agreement is a necessary document to choose a marriage property scheme, for instance. 

    Adicional cost
To make a prenuptial agreement with one of these schemes:
  • communion of acquired property
  • separation of property
  • general communion of property
100€

A property scheme established by the couple
160€

To register a prenuptial agreement or its amendment, if made in a notary office
30€

End of the marriage

The marriage ends: 

  • when any of the persons die 
  • if the persons get divorced. 

For more information about the divorce, consult the Request the divorce or separation guide.

Non-marital partnership

Two persons are considered to be in a non-marital partnership when they have been living together for more than two years in conditions similar to those of married persons. In other words, they must be a couple, live in the same house and have a life in common.

Advantages of the recognition of the non-marital partnership

The people that live in a State-recognised non-marital partnership shall be entitled to:

  • submit the personal income tax statement together, with the same rights as married persons
  • the protection of the home where they live in a non-marital partnership - for example, if the person who owns the house dies and the other person has no house of their own, they may be entitled to continue living in the home where they lived
  • an allowance in the case of death of the other person
  • benefit from the same rules as applied to married persons with regard to holidays, public holidays, absences and leaves - for example, if they both work in the same company, they are entitled to take holidays at the same time, and, if one person becomes ill, the other is entitled to take time off work to look after them.

How does the protection of the house where the couple lives in a non-marital partnership work?

The protection of the house applies if the persons in a non-marital partnership separate or if one of them dies.

In the case of separation
If the house is rented

If the couple has no children, the house should be for the person who needs it most. Each person's economic situation, age, health status, location of home in relation to work and whether or not they have another home to live in will be considered. It is also assessed whether the house is suitable for the person's housing needs.

If the house belongs to both persons

The house is for the person who needs it most, who shall pay a rent to the other.

If the house belongs to one person

If it turns out that it is the other person who needs the house most, the house is given to the person who needs it most and the court sets the amount that that person should pay as rent.

In the case of death
If the person who owns the house where they live in dies

If the other person has no home of their own, they may be entitled to live free of charge in the house where they lived for a limited time. If the non-marital partnership has lasted for more than 5 years, he/she may stay in the home for the same number of years as the relationship. 

When this period ends, the person may choose to continue living in the house, then paying a rent. They also hold a preferential right to buy if the house is put up for sale.

If the house belongs to both persons

The house becomes the property of the person who is still alive.

The non-marital partnership does not have to be registered, but it must be proved

For the non-marital partnership to have any effect, it must be proved. For example, when you want to submit the personal income tax statement as a couple or get a social insurance payment if the other person dies, you need to prove that there is a non-marital partnership.

How to prove a non-marital partnership

The non-marital partnerships can be proved through a statement issued by the parish council. To request this statement, the couple must submit:

  • a statement by both persons, under oath, indicating that they have been living in a non-marital partnership for more than two years
  • full copy certificates of each person's birth registrations.

For the non-marital partnership to be recognised, the persons cannot be under 18 years of age, be  first-degree relatives (mother or father with children, and siblings with each other) or have been convicted of murder or attempted murder of the other person's former spouse. 

End of the non-marital partnership

The non-marital partnership ends: 

  • when any of the persons die
  • by the will of either of the persons 
  • if any of the persons get married. 

In order to formalise the end of the non-marital partnership, they must submit a statement, under oath, indicating when the relationship has ended. If one of the persons does not wish to sign this statement, the person who wants the separation must submit it alone. This statement is not compulsory. It can only be necessary to enforce a right.

How are the assets divided if the non-marital partnership ends?
In the case of separation

There are no special rules for the division of assets when a non-marital partnership ends. There are only special rules for deciding who stays in the house where they lived.

If no agreement is made, when one person acquired assets with the cooperation of the other during the non-marital partnership, the situation must be analysed according to a) the rules of co-ownership or b) unjust enrichment.

a) According to the co-ownership, the unmarried partners are both owners of the assets (movable or immovable), in proportion to their contribution to its purchase. 

b) On the other hand, unjust enrichment determines that those who get rich without justification at the expense of another person will have to return what they obtained. In other words, if one of the persons acquired assets on their behalf, but with the other person's money, it cannot be understood that the assets exclusively belong to the person who formally acquired it. 

In the case of death

The unmarried partners are not heirs to each other. 

There are, however, special rules on how the house where the couple in a non-marital partnership lived should be handled if it belongs to the deceased person.