Marriage or living in a civil partnership

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:

What is 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. 

Marriage with foreign people

The rules for marriage between two Portuguese people are the same as for marriages between Portuguese and foreign people. However, in the latter case, the foreign person must prove that he/she can get married. 

The proof consists in the presentation of a certificate of matrimonial capacity, issued by the competent authorities of your country, which is less than 6 months old. 

Find out what are the procedures to perform a marriage between Portuguese and foreigners in Portugal

What are the different types of marriage? 

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:

  • the type of marriage (civil, catholic or civil under a religious form)
  • the place where they want to marry
  • a property scheme
  • the day and time of the wedding, which should be agreed with the registrar.

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. 

What property system to choose?

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 €.

How much does marriage cost?

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 agreementwith one of these schemes:
  • communion of acquired property
  • separation of property
  • general communion of property

A property scheme established by the couple

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


How to apply for marriage leave?

The couple is entitled to 15 days of marriage leave, taken consecutively, which starts to be counted from the date on which the wedding takes place.

In order to take this leave, if you are an employee, both of you must notify your employer of the reason for your absence at least five days in advance.

There is no minimum length of service in the company to be eligible for marriage leave. 

If you have been married and have used your marriage leave at the company where you currently work and you remarry, you can ask to benefit from marriage leave again, provided it is a civil marriage. 

Learn how to start the marriage process.

When does the marriage end?

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.

What is 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.

What are the main advantages of 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 can a non-marital partnership 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. 

What determines the 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. 

If the person who owns the house where you live dies

If the surviving person does not have his or her own accommodation in the same municipality where he or she was cohabiting, he or she is entitled to live in the house:

  • for 5 years after the death of the person to whom the house belonged
  • for as many years as the partnership lasted, if the partnership was more than 5 years old at the date of death.

These time limits can be extended by court decision.

After this time, the surviving person can continue to live in the house by paying rent.

While living in the house, the surviving person has the right of first refusal to buy the house if it is sold.

If the home is owned by both people

The surviving person is entitled to live in the house exclusively:

  • for 5 years after the death of the person to whom the house belonged
  • for as many years as the partnership lasted, if the partnership was more than 5 years old at the time of death.

These time limits can be extended by court decision.

After this time, the surviving person loses the right to live exclusively in the house.

In case of death, the person who was cohabiting with the deceased pensioner can still claim the widow's/widower's pension.

Information updated on February 25, 2022