Child Custody

The enforcement in Portugal of spousal and child maintenance established abroad

It is common to have the need to enforce in Portugal alimony or child maintenance payments that were established in foreign countries, either through court decisions or agreements. For example, child support payments made in favour of children in divorce proceedings, and spousal maintenance payments established for the benefit of ex-spouses.

However, it may be the case that such values are not paid.

Well, with regards to judgments handed down by courts in most of EU Member States, they are automatically recognised and enforceable in our country (European Council Regulation 4/2009 of 18 December).

Conversely, judgments handed down by courts from other countries must first be recognised in order for them to be enforceable in Portugal. And this is true even in the case of a country that has signed the Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations. In fact, the Convention does not provide any mechanism for the automatic recognition of judgements or agreements on maintenance.

In other words, a decision requiring the payment of maintenance in France, a country belonging to the European Union, can be enforced immediately in Portugal, without the need for a review procedure, and the enforcement process is governed by Portuguese law, which we’ll explain below.

On the other hand, maintenance decisions issued by courts in non-EU countries will first have to be submitted to a foreign judgement review procedure.

Once they have been reviewed and confirmed (if necessary) in the Portuguese legal system, everything will proceed as if it were a judgement handed down in Portugal. A special maintenance enforcement procedure must then be initiated. Through this procedure, a deduction can be requested from the debtor’s salary, wages or other income to pay the outstanding maintenance payments, which is deposited directly into the other creditor’s account. Alternatively, the creditor of the maintenance payments can, of course, opt for a conventional enforcement procedure.

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