What foreign legal decisions are recognized in Portugal?

There are so many legal changes, decisions, frameworks that are different from country to country. Some rights, that are granted in one country, are not recognized in another. For people looking to start an immigration process, this may be a little confusing. So what are the foreign legal decisions that Portugal recognizes?

Who took this legal decision?

Not only a judge can take legal decisions. There are certain steps before facing a court that may be taken into consideration. And also in what sphere does this legal decision have a place, public law or privately? Taking into consideration private rights, Portugal has a Legality Principle that states that “The individual may do anything that is not forbidden”.

This is the first step, who took this legal decision? Was it a court or a notary or a registry office? Was it an international court? All these questions matter when concerning these themes.

Decisions on private rights, handed down by a foreign court or by official entities competent for this purpose, do not produce effects in Portugal. These entities may be a notary or a registry office. Portugal Legal system does not recognize legal decisions made by these roles.

The  nationality  of   the   parties   impact  the   legal   decision validation?

Also, the nationality of the parties is not a benefit on the recognition of legal decisions. All nationalities have the same legal framework. And this means that any legal decision, regarding the nationality of the parties produces no legal effect in Portugal unless it was already confirmed or reviewed.

There are some exceptions though. The legal decisions that were handed down by the courts of some European Union countries under Council Regulation (EC) 2201/2003 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and in matters of parental responsibility may have different protection

So only legal decisions that concern matrimonial matters as well as parental responsibility took by these courts up mentioned are recognized by Portugal legal framework. And what decisions are these?


Like it was already explained only the legal decisions concerning the family law are automatically recognized by the Portugal legal framework.

  • A divorce decree is an important decision that has a great impact in the parties lives, eventual children and other But also, it has a legal impact on immigration purposes, for example for Family reunification process a divorced couple are not fit to apply;
  • Consensual union it consists in a stable union confirmed by public deed of declaration of stable union by Notary Public abroad and is a valid social status recognized by Portugal legal system. It is a legal decision that even in a foreign country it is recognized in
  • Adoption Judgment is also recognized in Portugal. A child that was adopted in another country is also considered as a family member in Portugal. Even if the process took place in a different country, the decision to bond that kid with that family is recognized within the Portugal legal
  • Judgment on the Regulation of Parental Responsibilities. This matter is not as linear as the ones mentioned. For this legal decision to be recognized by Portugal, the national legal system demands that the revision and confirmation of the decision by the Court of Appeal. 

About other civil convictions, an indemnity or other legal decision that may be issued by a foreign court of law, all have to be reviewed. Portugal’s legal system demands that a legal decision issued by a foreign court has to be reviewed/confirmed by the competent Portuguese Court for it to produce its effects in Portugal.

Legal decisions – what matters have priority?

There are some matters that have priority over others. As it was mentioned, the legal matters concerning family law are the ones that see their legal decisions being recognized more easily. Why does this happen?

The bureaucratic process can take a long time, and there are some matters that are more urgent. This may not seem very fair, but family law produces immediate effects in its parties’ lives and the legal decisions may be valid everywhere, marriage or divorce, adoption or reunification, all legal decisions that decline over the group.

The recognition of legal decisions in Portugal by citizens may take on added importance for the acquisition of nationality specially in some matters. Legal decisions on matters like marriage for example as mentioned are essential to the bureaucratic process and don’t take longer than necessary.

On the other hand, the process of divorce submitted by one of the parties against the other, the legal decision, has to be recognized by a Portuguese court. If it is submitted by both parties jointly, the summons are avoided and the proceedings are processed more quickly.

What about the child?

Also decisions for establishing paternity in relation to an adopted child applying for a residence card for the adopted child are priority matters. Still regarding child rights, to enforce a decision on parental responsibility or even the collection of maintenance are all priority matters. Regarding children rights, Portugal has a very protective framework.


To conclude, private rights are usually more difficult to be recognized if the decision was issued in a foreign country. There are many differences within the countries’ legal systems even with European Union. This article clarifies that the matters concerning family law have a special place on this. This can easily be justified by the softness of the matter that is a divorce or an adoption process, and without this protection, this may take a long time to be solved.


The content of this information does not constitute any specific legal advice; the latter can only be given when faced with a specific case. Please contact us for any further clarification or information deemed necessary in what concerns the application of the law.