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Is the mother entitled to alimony during pregnancy? – opinion article by Nuno Cardoso-Ribeiro at Público

Opinion article by our coordinator in Público on 09/09/2022, regarding the payment of alimony to the mother during pregnancy. Read the article on Público’s website or the translation and pdf below:

“Is the mother entitled to alimony during pregnancy?

Even in cases where the father refuses to contribute to the payment of expenses arising from the pregnancy, he may be obliged to do so later on by effect of a court judgment. And in these cases, he will pay child support retroactive to the beginning of the pregnancy.

Single parent households make up a significant part of Portuguese families. According to Pordata, in 2021, there were about half a million families where only one parent lived with the child(ren). Most of these households are the result of divorces or the break-up of de facto unions after the birth of the children. But in some cases, the rupture occurs while the mother is still pregnant. Or else, these are couples who have never cohabited.

In both cases, the question arises whether the father is obliged to pay maintenance to the mother even before the birth of the child, i.e. to pay maintenance during the mother’s pregnancy.

Pregnancy and the birth of a child entail, as is well known, a number of very significant expenses, from doctor’s appointments and examinations to special diet or other care that the mother-to-be may be required to observe by a doctor’s recommendation. There may also be the need to purchase clothing and all the paraphernalia of accessories that a newborn baby needs.

In a family context, the assumption of these expenses by both members of the couple will not be a problem, in addition to the normal household expenses. This may not be the case, however, in situations where the pregnancy was unwanted by both partners, or where the father has given up his desire to have a child, or where he doubts the paternity of the child.

And in these cases, who is obliged to bear the expenses caused by the pregnancy?

When married couples are involved, the payment of family expenses – including those caused by the pregnancy – is already part of the normal duties of marriage, so the husband of the pregnant woman cannot avoid paying them and the pregnant woman can claim them in court if necessary.

In cases where father and mother are not married, the presumed father may refuse to bear his share of the costs, for any of the reasons mentioned above, or for other reasons. Even in these cases, alimony may be paid to the mother during her pregnancy.

The Civil Code (art. 188) provides that a pregnant woman has the right to receive child support from the father of her child from the time of pregnancy. However, this right presupposes prior establishment of paternity. If there is no marriage, paternity is established by voluntary affiliation at the Civil Registry Office or, in the absence of voluntary affiliation by the father, in a paternity investigation lawsuit.

Thus, even in cases where the father refuses to contribute to the payment of expenses arising from the pregnancy, he may be required to do so later by effect of a court decision. And, in these cases, he will pay retroactively the alimony fixed by reference to the beginning of the pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a delicate period in the lives of families, and it is regrettable that in many cases mothers-to-be are faced with a refusal by the father of their child to assume expenses, thus disrupting a phase of life that should be marked by peace and tranquillity.”

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