The need for child custody definition can arise in multiple situations and contexts.
For what matters here, we can state that a child custody arrangement can be petitioned to a court-of-law whenever any of the parents or both of them feel the need to settle any or all of the following issues:
• Physical custody;
• Place of residence;
• Visitation regime to non-custodial parent;
• Child support/Maintenance
The most common cases of custody proceedings are the ones that involve a couple’s divorce or physical separation.
Child custody arrangement’s in Portugal, as in most countries, define physical and legal custody of the children. It states how much time they will spend with each of the parents (and perhaps other family members), the place where they will live and child support amount to be paid.
Thus, the child custody agreement (approved by the Civil Registry Office), or the child custody order handed down by the Court-of-law, should contain the minimum rules that parents will have to follow in the future regarding child custody, his residence, interactions with both parents and the amount of child support, if any.
If child support is not stipulated in a periodic allowance amount, it should state how are the children expenses to be paid (housing, health, education, clothing, etc). If by agreement of the parents or decision of the Court, a maintenance allowance is fixed to be paid by one parent to the other, such a pension is due until the child is 25 years old.
The Court’s determination of the amount of the child’s support does not result from the application of a mathematical criterion, but rather requires careful consideration of the needs of the child and the economic possibilities of both parents
Child custody arrangements in case of divorces granted in Portugal
The divorce can be decreed by Civil Registry Office if the spouses agree on matters relating to the divorce, or by a Court-of-law in case of non-consensual divorces.
In the event of an agreement on child custody arrangements, it shall be ratified by the Conservador at the time of the divorce or, if the process is in court, by a sentence handed down by a judge.
If there is no agreement between the parents, the child custody arrangement shall be decided by the court, either in the context of an ongoing divorce process or in the context of autonomous action.
Child custody arrangements when civil partnerships come to an end
Child custody arrangements can also – and must – be made in case of unmarried couples, whenever one of them feels the need for a definition regarding the issues usually settled on child custody arrangements such as children place of residence, visiting arrangements, maintenance, etc.
These cases arise upon the breaking up of a non-marital relationship or in cases where parents have never lived together. In this case, if there is an agreement, it should be submitted to the Civil Registry Office for approval.
The Civil Registry Office will send the agreement to the Public Prosecutor’s Office who shall approve or disapprove of the agreement, after which the Conservador will ratify the agreement, which will have the same effects of a custody order.
In the event of dissent, the child custody arrangements shall be carried out by a Court-of-law.
The child’s place of residence
Joint or shared custody (shared residence) can be agreed by the parents or stipulated by a judge, in which case the child will spend half his time with each of the parents. Or it may be established that he will spend most of his time with the father or mother, and in that case a visitation regime to the non-custodial parent shall be agreed or decided upon.
Child custody and residence rules do not necessarily have to be static. Thus, different regimes may be applied as the child grows up. It can be agreed upon, for example, that up to the age of six the child will live on a sole custody regime with his mother and afterwards on shared custody (shared residence) one from the date of his sixth anniversary.
Other questions that may be settled on child custody arrangements in Portugal
In addition to the main issues referred to above, child custody arrangements can contain rules pertaining to other issues, such as:
• public or private schooling;
• place of residence (or a county, district, country);
• travels abroad on vacation;
• sports activities;
• visitation with other family members (grandparents, uncles, cousins, etc.) or other persons;
• the diet that the child will follow;
• the religion in which the child will be educated;
• the psychologist who will follow the child;
• the pediatrician who will accompany the child;
• the age after which child can have his own mobile phone;
• sharing pictures of the child in social networks;
• etc, etc