Family Law 2024 Comparisons

Last Updated February 29, 2024

Law and Practice


Tortoro, Madureira & Ragazzi Advogados has a team of 15 attorneys and two senior partners handling this area with discretion and confidentiality. With four integrated offices in São Paulo, Brasilia, Ribeirão Preto and Campinas, the firm represents clients in complex issues within family law and succession law related to international jurisdictions, in procedures among others for ratifying foreign decisions, definition of jurisdiction, custody and maintenance, and application of the Hague Convention. The practice deals with marriage, stable or de facto unions, prenuptial agreements and marital property regimes, as well as divorce, custody and visitation, search and seizure of minors, cases of multi-jurisdictional estate planning, guardianship, custody and interdiction, court-supervised and out-of-court succession processes and estate planning in corporate matters. Recent cross-border cases the firm has dealt with include child abduction under the Hague Convention with the UK, USA, Argentina, Bahamas, Portugal and Spain. The firm has also recently handled multi-jurisdictional succession matters.

Divorce is a Potestative Right

Considering that divorce is a potestative right, for the dissolution of heterosexual or same-sex couples, the will of one of the parties and the existence of a valid marriage are sufficient to apply for a divorce. A stable union must be proven and judicially recognised, if it has not been declared by the parties by means of a public deed or private instrument, in order for it to be dissolved, producing its patrimonial effects and consequences for the children, as well as for the ex-spouse/partner.

Currently, in order to carry out the dissolution of a marriage or stable union, there is no need to comply with prior separation deadlines or other requirements, except for the determination of one of the parties to terminate the relationship. 

Types of Divorce

In Brazil, two types of divorce are allowed: the extrajudicial or administrative route, which is always consensual; and the judicial route, which may be consensual or litigious. 

Extrajudicial or administrative divorce

The extrajudicial divorce is processed before any notary public, by means of a public deed. There is no requirement for a prior period of separation or any other mandatory procedure. 

The requirements are: 

  • capacity and consensus between the parties; 
  • the existence of a valid marriage; and
  • the absence of incapable, minor and unborn children. 

A lawyer or public defender assists the parties. In an extrajudicial or administrative divorce, there is no secrecy of justice and the content is accessible to third parties because it is carried out in the form of a public deed. 

The extrajudicial or administrative modality is therefore a faculty of the spouses and even if the requirements demanded for the extrajudicial or administrative route (which is faster) are fulfilled, the parties can opt for a consensual judicial divorce, as this modality guarantees the secrecy of justice according to its terms and conditions. 

Judicial divorce

Divorce, even if consensual, must be processed before the judiciary and decreed by a judge, when it involves incapable persons, minors and/or unborn children. The agreement must, therefore, consider:

  • custody and co-existence of the parents with their children;
  • maintenance for dependent or unborn children;
  • the waiver or payment of maintenance to the ex-spouse/partner; and
  • the use of the surname.

The agreement may also consider the division of assets, according to the regime adopted and the Public Prosecutor’s Office acts in the matter as a custos legis (“law inspector”). 

In the absence of consensus, the divorce will be litigious and processed before the judiciary. 

Although litigious, the request for divorce does not need cause or justification. 

In the presence of incapacitated children or minors and unborn children, the Public Prosecutor’s Office acts as a law inspector. 

When there is no consensus, one of the parties initiates the processes involving requests for: 

  • divorce, which may be combined with sharing assets; 
  • custody and co-existence of the children; and 
  • alimony or maintenance for the children. 

These processes are always represented by a lawyer and/or public defender and are not linked to each other, but distributed freely, according to procedural rules. This means that they can be analysed at different times and by different judges. 

Once the judge who must analyse and decide on the preliminary measures, if any (blocking of assets, alimony, custody and co-existence of children, etc), has received the case, the opposing party will be cited and summoned to defend itself and/or attend a prior hearing, accompanied by a lawyer or public defender for the attempted composition. If there is no agreement, the process follows its own rite, with the presentation of defence, production of evidence, hearing of instruction and sentence, appeals, etc. 

A prior mediation hearing is not required for subsequent access to the judiciary. 

Citation and Subpoena 

The rules for service of process and subpoena on the opposing party in family actions are provided for in Article 695 of the Brazilian Civil Procedure Code. This Article establishes, in summary, that the writ of service will contain only the data necessary for the hearing and must not be accompanied by a copy of the complaint. It must ensure the defendant the right to examine its contents at any time, and in order to be valid, the summons must occur at least 15 days before the date designated for the hearing and be served on the person of the defendant. 

If there is no agreement after the due legal procedure and hearing of the member of the public prosecutor (in cases where there are incapable persons, minors and/or unborn children), the magistrate will issue a decision to decree the divorce and deliberate on the other matters addressed in the process. In the litigious processing of the sentence, an appeal can be made. 

Religious Marriage 

As long as it does not contradict the rules of public law, religious marriage may be recognised before the state as a civil marriage and, therefore, it may be dissolved by divorce, according to the secular rules of the legal system. In the Brazilian jurisdiction, there is no religious divorce before the state, because there is separation between the state, which is secular, and the various religions professed in the Brazilian territory. 

Other Processes to End a Marriage

Although it is not configured as divorce, but as a possibility for ending a marriage, there are legal hypotheses of annulment and nullity in the act. 

According to the law and the Brazilian Civil Code, civil marriage can be considered null or voidable. 

  • Null, where the following parties have married: 
    1. ascendants with descendants, whether natural or civil kinship; 
    2. in-laws in a straight line;
    3. the adopter with the adoptee’s spouse and the adoptee with the adopter’s spouse; 
    4. siblings, unilateral or bilateral, and other collateral, up to and including the third degree of kinship; 
    5. the adoptee with the adopter’s child; 
    6. already married persons; or
    7. the surviving spouse with the person convicted of murder or attempted murder of their spouse.
  • Voidable, in the following cases:
    1. either of the parties have not reached the minimum age to marry; 
    2. the parties to the marriage are minors of marriageable age, when not authorised by their legal representative; 
    3. the marriage is contracted under wilful misconduct (eg, error or coercion); 
    4. a party to the marriage is incapable of consenting or unequivocally expressing consent; 
    5. the marriage is performed by an agent, without the agent or other contracting party knowing of the revocation of the mandate, and where there is no co-habitation between the spouses; or 
    6. due to the incompetence of the celebrant authority. 

In both the above cases the requests are processed through a lawsuit before the judiciary and aim to dissolve the marriage bond as if it had never existed. 

The nullity request cannot be subject to a statute of limitations, while the annulment request must comply with the following deadline rules for bringing the marriage annulment action (starting from the date of celebration): 

  • 180 days, in the case of item IV of Article 1550 (where the person is incapable of consenting or unequivocally expressing consent); 
  • two years, if the celebrant authority is incompetent; 
  • three years, in the cases of items I to III of Article 1557 (where item I concerns the spouse’s identity, honour or good reputation; item II concerns ignorance of a crime prior to the marriage; and item III concerns ignorance, prior to the marriage, of an irremediable physical defect); or 
  • four years, if there is coercion. 

The right to annul the marriage of minors under 16 years of age is extinguished in 180 days, counting from the day on which the minor reached that age; and from the date of the marriage, for the minor’s legal representatives or ascendants. 

In the case of item V of Article 1550, the term for annulment of the marriage is 180 days, starting from the date on which the principal becomes aware of the celebration. 

Access to the judiciary for filing divorce proceedings is immediate in Brazil because there is no requirement for prior attempts at consensual agreement, such as conciliation and private mediation. All that is required is for the interested party to take legal action. Judicial measures can be preparatory and of an urgent nature, in order to avoid the loss of rights of the interested party, and can involve the collection and blocking of assets, the establishment of provisional maintenance for the children and former partner, provisional custody and regulation of co-existence. Measures of an urgent nature are followed by final requests for divorce and sharing, maintenance, custody and co-habitation of children. The rules are identical for heterosexual and same-sex marriages and also apply to the procedures for the dissolution of a stable union. 

Domicile and Residence 

The concepts of domicile and residence are relevant to the definition of jurisdiction. 

The residence is where the person regularly stays and, therefore, there may be several residences. The domicile is the place where the person establishes their permanent residence, so the residence and domicile can be the same place. The domicile is unique and can be considered to be where the person regularly carries out their professional activities. The domicile, regardless of residence, may be expressly established in contracts, pacts and/or terms. 

If a person lives in several residences, and has not formally fixed their domicile, any one of the residences may be considered as the domicile. In the event of not having a habitual residence, the domicile will be considered as the place where the person can be found. 

Determination of Jurisdiction

Pursuant to Brazilian Civil Procedural law, actions in the consensual or litigious modality will be proposed: 

  • at the domicile of the guardian (even factual) of an incapable child; 
  • in the last domicile of the couple, in the absence of an incapable child; 
  • at the defendant’s domicile, if neither party resides at the couple’s former domicile; or
  • at the victim’s home in the case of domestic and family violence. 

These are hypotheses of internal territorial jurisdiction and the interested party will be able to contest them, because they are not alleged ex officio by the judge. 

Regarding the sharing of assets located in Brazil, the Brazilian judge has absolute jurisdiction, in view of the principle of national sovereignty. 


As for nationality, the Brazilian judicial authority may prosecute and judge actions in which the party, whatever their nationality, is domiciled in Brazil. Therefore, once the interested party is established in Brazil, the divorce will follow the rites of the Brazilian procedural law. 

As for jurisdiction, an action filed before a foreign court does not lead to lis pendens, that is, it does not prevent the Brazilian judicial authority from hearing the same case and related ones, even if already initiated in some other international jurisdiction. There is, therefore, concurrent competence for the discussion of divorce, except for actions related to the sharing of assets located in Brazil, which are the absolute competence of the Brazilian judge, even if the holder is of foreign nationality or is domiciled outside Brazil. 

The lis pendens of the case before the Brazilian jurisdiction does not prevent the ratification of a foreign court decision when required to produce effects in Brazil. 

Contest of Jurisdiction

The competence for the divorce may be contested if it is proved that none of the parties resides or is domiciled in Brazil, even if the marriage took place in Brazil and/or if one of the parties is Brazilian. In the matter of division, jurisdiction may be contested if it can be proved that there are no assets located in Brazil. As for judicial custody and maintenance, Brazilian jurisdiction may be contested if it can be proved that the child is not resident or domiciled in Brazil and is living abroad. In this case, the Brazilian judge, even if they are nationals, will not be able to analyse the actions and the jurisdiction may be contested. Therefore, for the purposes of Brazilian law, it is residence and domicile that determine jurisdiction, not nationality. 

According to Article 23 of the Brazilian Civil Procedure Code, it is incumbent upon the Brazilian judicial authority, to the exclusion of any other, to proceed with the sharing of assets located in Brazil, even if the holder is of foreign nationality or is domiciled outside the national territory. 

Respecting this rule, there is no prior requirement to initiate the action involving the discussion of assets arising from the marriage or common-law marriage. It is sufficient to enter the measure that may be accompanied by injunctions. 

Thus, for the discussion of assets located in Brazil, the jurisdiction cannot be contested. 

Even if a divorce or property-sharing process is begun in Brazil, the party will have to propose the action abroad for the property located outside Brazil. The Brazilian judge has no jurisdiction over assets located abroad, even if these assets are known and/or formally declared before the Brazilian tax authorities. 

According to Articles 22 and 23 of the Brazilian Civil Procedure Code, Brazilian courts can hear financial claims after a foreign divorce if: 

  • they relate to common property located in Brazil; 
  • they relate to maintenance when the creditor has domicile or residence in Brazil; or 
  • the debtor maintains ties in Brazil, such as possession or ownership of assets, receipt of income or obtaining of economic benefits. 

Proceedings involving financial assets may be prior judicial measures, with the granting of injunctions, or even incidental to proceedings involving the sharing of assets located in Brazil. These preparatory or incidental measures may require the search for or survey of assets, with the determination of orders to banks, brokerages, stock exchanges or companies, and may involve the breaching of tax and bank secrecy. 

The process begins with a preliminary injunction and, in view of the risk of asset loss, may involve the blocking and seizure of assets known to the judge, as well as measures to raise and give full knowledge of the financial assets to the other party. 

These measures begin with the assessment of the preliminary injunction by the judge, after which the subpoena and citation of the other party that will contest the action occurs. The issue will then be decided definitively within the scope of the sharing of assets. 

The Legal Rules of the Property Regime 

The division of property in the divorce is subject to the rules of the property regime chosen at the time of the marriage. 

When the parties do not choose according to their will, the legal regime of property provided for in Brazil is that of partial community of property, which does not require a prenuptial agreement. That is, this is the property regime applied to all marriages and stable unions in which no other regime has previously been established or imposed by law. 

This property regime presupposes the common effort and communication of the assets acquired at a cost by either party during the term of the marriage or stable relationship. Assets received by donation or inheritance remain incommunicable regardless of the acquisition date. Assets subrogated to individuals are also incommunicable. The sharing will take place in the proportion of 50% of the collection considered common, regardless of who acquired it. 

Types of Matrimonial Regimes

According to Brazilian law, the following property regimes can be applied to marriages and stable unions. 

Partial community of property regime

As stated above, the partial community of property is the legal property regime provided when the parties are silent about the regime that will conduct the marriage or the stable union and it does not require a prenuptial agreement. This regime presupposes the common effort and communication of the property acquired at a cost by either party during the term of the marriage or stable union, and so the sharing will take place in the proportion of 50% of the collection considered common, regardless of who acquired it, with the exception of the property acquired through inheritance or donation.

Universal community of property regime

This regime requires a prenuptial agreement signed by public deed vis-à-vis a notary before the marriage takes place and registered in the couple’s home registry after the marriage is celebrated. In the prenuptial agreement, specific rules of incommunicability can be established. As a rule, there is the communication of all assets, even those belonging to each spouse, acquired before or after marriage, free of charge or for a fee. Liabilities are also communicated. The sharing will obey the rules of the regime of partial community of property and will take place in the proportion of 50% of all assets and liabilities, for each of the spouses or partners. This requires the grant for the sale and encumbrance of the assets. 

It is important to mention that the parties have the right to agree on a sharing of property in a different proportion that the one established by law, which may happen through donation or through onerous acquisition. The sharing of assets under these terms will imply the incidence of the causa mortis and donation tax on the part that exceeds the fifty-fifty sharing of the property and may, therefore, occur in the cases of universal and partial sharing of assets.

Moreover, it must be observed that the rate of the tax is set freely by each Brazilian state, with the maximum rate of 8%. However, the text of Constitutional Amendment No 132 provides that the causa mortis and donation tax will be levied progressively in relation to the portion shared, and the 8% limit must be respected. As a result, the higher the value of the portion shared disproportionately, the higher the incidence of such tax will be.

Separate property regime

This is established by means of a prenuptial agreement drawn up by public deed with a notary public before the marriage, which is then registered with the competent real estate registry after the marriage. In it, there is no communication of assets and liabilities: the titleholders will always be the acquirers and there is no need to speak of a presumption of common effort, much less of sharing in the event of a divorce. It is possible for a spouse or partner to donate to the other, unless this practice is prohibited in the prenuptial agreement. It does not require the granting of rights over private property. 

Mandatory separate property regime

This is the regime imposed by law for certain situations, namely: 

  • people who contract marriage in breach of the suspensive causes of marriage; and
  • a person over 70 years old, if another regime through a public deed issued by a notary public has not been chosen.

This regime used to be mandatory for persons over 70 years old. However, on 1 February 2024, the Supreme Court of Brazil issued a decision unanimously determining that such regime has become optional, that is, it may be removed by express will of the parties, through a public deed. This means that when one or both of the parties over 70 years old do not choose a different regime according to their will, the legal regime of property applicable in Brazil is that of mandatory separate property regime. The reason for such decision was that the restriction on the choice of regime violated the dignity and autonomy of the elderly.

  • This regime is also imposed for all those who depend on judicial supply to marry.

In this regime, there is no communication of assets, except if the common effort of the claims is duly proven, as provided for in Precedent 377 of the Supreme Court of Brazil (Supremo Tribunal Federal or STF), in which case the sharing will take place in the proportion of 50% to each party. By means of a prenuptial agreement, which is mandatory in this regime, the incidence of Precedent 377 of the STF may be ruled out. This regime prohibits donations between spouses or partners. Further, there is no sharing and it does not require the granting of rights by the spouse. 

Final participation in the quests regime

This regime is rarely practised in Brazil. In this regime, each spouse or co-habitant will own and manage their own assets, which will always remain incommunicable. At the end of the relationship, the claims for the time of the marriage or stable union will be determined, even if arising from private or common property, and divided in the proportion of 50% respectively. This requires the granting of rights over assets, even if the assets are private. 

Patrimonial Search 

If there is a lack of knowledge of assets, especially financial assets that make up the assets accumulated by one of the parties in the matrimony or stable union, the aggrieved party may request, prior to or incidentally to the sharing process, the search and/or blocking of assets and financial assets. The judiciary can determine the breach of banking and tax secrecy, carry out research with the Federal Revenue Service, the Central Bank, state traffic departments, real estate registry offices, etc. Once the assets are known, the blocking and attachment can be determined. These measures can be enacted at the outset and are processed under the secrecy of justice as they deal with financial and tax data. 

Strictly speaking, it is not possible to require orders against third parties, unless fraud in the property regime has previously been proven. 

No Trusts Under Brazilian Law 

As for a trust, which is a company created with the specific purpose of asset management and protection, there is a regulatory gap in Brazil, as there is no specific provision in this regard, either as a legal transaction or tax regulation. Bill of Law No 4.758/2020, which provides for an institute similar to a trust, called a “contract of trust”, is still awaiting processing by the Brazilian Senate, with no clear indication of when it will be finalised. Bill of Law No 145/2022, which deals with the law applicable to the trust, its effectiveness and its tax treatment in the country, is also pending in the Brazilian Congress with no certainty of when this will be finalised. Bill of Law No 14754, approved in December 2023 by the Brazilian Congress, will come into force as of January 2024. This Bill establishes, among others, the taxation of offshore companies and trusts based on 15% of income earned from 2024 onwards, even if the investment remains abroad. The Bill provides: “Income and capital gains relating to the assets and rights of the trust will be considered obtained by the holder on the date of the event (creation of the trust, distribution of assets or death of the owner) and subject to income tax. Modification of ownership of the trust’s assets will be considered a donation, if occurred during the owner’s lifetime, or an inheritance, after their death; in either case, the tax on transmission causa mortis and donation of any assets or rights (ITCMD) is a state tax.”

It is important to mention that the tax provided for by Bill of Law No 14754, issued in December 2023, will also apply to exclusive funds, equating them to the non-exclusive investment funds. Therefore, tax will be levied beyond the time of redemption of the amount invested, unlike today.

Spouses or partners can ask each other for the maintenance they need to live in a manner compatible with their social status, so that the benefiting party can reorganise or find themselves a place in the labour market and seek other means of supporting themselves. In general, it is an exceptional obligation, although if one comes to need maintenance, the other will be obliged to provide this through a pension to be fixed by a judge, for a certain period, in most cases. This is determined, in general, on a transitory basis, based on the binomial represented by the financial capacity of the maintenance provider and the needs of the maintenance beneficiary, according to criteria of proportionality and reasonableness. 

With the dissolution of the relationship, the party that feels in need can request the arbitration of provisional maintenance, proving its need, while awaiting the final decision regarding the amount and period to be defined for the payment of the maintenance. The so-called transitional alimony can also remain in force until the sharing of assets is effective, when a spouse/partner in need can live off the income and/or fruits of these assets. 

Long-Term Maintenance

However, there is also the possibility that the instalment could be for life, depending on the circumstances proven on a case-by-case basis, which will also be analysed for the definition of the value, which is subject to revision, depending on the change in needs of those who receive it and/or the possibilities of those who pay. In order to define the value of the maintenance, the party in need must prove all their expenses and the amount must also comply with the financial capacity of the person who must pay the pension. 

The judge can break the maintenance debtor’s tax and asset secrecy, request information from the financial and asset control bodies and credit card administrators, and contact employers and third parties to find out the maintenance debtor’s assets and financial situation. The judge can also determine that the payment of maintenance be directly deducted from the debtor’s wages or other financial assets, eg, receipt of rent or other credits.

Compensatory Maintenance

In addition, so-called “compensatory maintenance” has been gaining ground in doctrine and jurisprudence, despite not having a legal provision, with the purpose of compensating the economic-financial imbalance between divorced parties, respecting the standard of family life, especially when there is no sharing of assets under the chosen regime. 

Unlike transitional maintenance, in this case the beneficiary has the financial resources to ensure their subsistence, but the divorce drastically changes their standard of living. Therefore, the financial assistance will be of a compensatory nature.

Prenuptial Agreement 

In the Brazilian legal system, the prenuptial pact is recognised, but there is no postnuptial pact or agreement. In this context, there is only the possibility of judicial amendment of the property regime, and this is subject to certain legal requirements. 

The prenuptial agreement is the document through which the parties establish the economic, financial and/or personal conditions that will govern the marriage relationship. 

In it they decide on the property regime or freely adapt the rules, while simultaneously respecting the legal prohibitions. 

A prenuptial agreement is void if it is not made by public deed, and ineffective if the marriage does not take place. In addition, it will only be effective vis-à-vis third parties after it is registered with a competent real estate notary. 

Amendment to the Property Regime

The only possibility to change the property regime after marriage is through a judicial process, which must be consensual, with proof of the reasons for the request and safeguarding the rights of third parties. 

According to the Superior Court of Justice, in the judgment of Special Appeal No 1.904.498-SP, of the Third Panel, on 5 April 2021, the assets acquired before the judicial decision authorising the change of regime must remain under the rules of the previous regime, that is, the judicial review should only cover legal acts performed after the sentence (ex nunc effects). In addition, spouses are not required to provide exaggerated justifications or evidence, disconnected from reality, especially in view of the fact that the decision granting the modification of the property regime has ex nunc effects. 

The division of assets for unmarried couples (heterosexual or same sex) presupposes the proof of the existence of a cohabitation or the so-called stable union in Brazil maintained between them, that is, of a relationship lived with the purpose of establishing a married life in common. 

A stable union is mainly characterised by continuous co-existence with affection, durability, publicity, mutual assistance and the intention to form a family. A stable union does not require a minimum period for its configuration. Cohabitation, financial dependence and children are not essential requirements for a relationship to be considered stable, but when they exist, the finding of a stable union relationship is practically unequivocal. 

Thus, when there is a break-up, the existence of a stable union must be demonstrated and recognised in court, if it has not been previously declared by the parties by means of a public deed or a private instrument. Only then can the union be dissolved, producing patrimonial effects (sharing of assets and/or fixing of alimony) and arrangements regarding the children (assignment of custody, alimony and regulation of visits). 

When there is a document formalising the stable union and establishing a property regime, the property will be shared according to the rules established by the couple, as long as they do not contradict public rules. That is, the property regime established in a public deed or private instrument of recognition of the stable union must be valid to be judicially enforced. If there is a document establishing the stable union but the property regime has not been elected, the division of property will take place according to the regime of partial community of property, that is, with the equal division of property. The same will happen if the recognition of the stable union is made in court by means of a declaratory action, with subsequent dissolution and sharing of assets, which will provide for a 50% split for each of the co-habitants of the assets acquired onerously in the course of cohabitation. 

Compliance Enforcement

Failure to comply with a court decision or the terms agreed in a public deed of divorce or dissolution of a stable union leads to its judicial execution, by filing a request for compliance with the judgment or filing an enforcement action. 

In the same way, the agreement made in a private mediation hearing, ratified by the court, or the arbitral decision, is enforceable before the judiciary. Following the rite proper to each execution, the judiciary can determine the arrest, seizure and blocking of assets, provided they are located in Brazil, to enforce what has been agreed or decided. All coercive measures may be used on the defaulter’s assets to comply with the order, such as breach of tax secrecy, blocking of assets, seizure of movable and real estate, etc. The party can also make use of the financial orders, which require the inclusion of the name of the defaulting party in the list of debtors with the banking and financial system. 

International Enforcement

The recognition and, therefore, the execution of a foreign judgment in Brazilian is permitted, provided that it is not incompatible with the national legal system. 

A foreign decision deliberating on a subject where the competence is exclusive to the Brazilian judicial authority, such as, the definition and distribution of assets located in the national territory, will not be ratified. Once ratified by the Superior Court of Justice and thus fulfilling the requirements, the foreign judgment has the condition of judicial enforceable title and can be fully executed on national soil. 

The Brazilian constitution provides that the intimacy, private life, honour and image of people are inviolable, thereby limiting freedom of expression of thought and freedom of the press. 

The Brazilian Civil Code provides that proceedings dealing with marriage, divorce, stable union, filiation, alimony and custody of children and adolescents are processed in accordance with the secrecy of justice. Therefore, the processes that deal with these matters are not public, being accessible only to the parties, their attorneys, the magistrate and members of the public prosecution, and justice servants.

The Secrecy of Justice

The secrecy of justice is a right to preserve the privacy of the parties and the process itself, protecting it from possible external interference. When a case will not necessarily proceed in secrecy of justice, the parties may request secrecy and justify it, and depending on the magistrate’s assessment, a decree may be issued. In any case, data protected by the constitutional right to privacy must be processed under secrecy of justice. 

The Code of Ethics for Brazilian journalists prohibits the disclosure of information that violates the right to privacy of the citizen, which must mainly be considered with respect to matters dealt with in judicial proceedings that are processed in secrecy of justice. 

Anyone who disrespects procedural secrecy may commit an unlawful act and be liable for losses and damages.        

ADR methods involve conciliation and mediation, which are carried out privately in this context. Experts in finance can assist parties if they wish, but, in Brazil, there are no specific ADR methods for actions involving financial assets. 

The use of ADR is not mandatory, but may be advised by the magistrate. The process can be suspended for the parties to partake in the mediation sessions. In the same way, when dealing with available rights, the parties can use an arbitral court, although this is still very rare in Brazil. 

In order to establish competence to prosecute maintenance actions, Brazilian law considers the domicile or residence of the child. The child’s residence is fixed according to the residence of their guardian. If the child’s domicile is fixed by disposition of the child’s legal representatives, and this place does not match to their residence, it may arise a discussion about the place of jurisdiction. In most cases, Brazilian law considers the place where the child is located and lives. 

Brazilian jurisdiction welcomes the request for maintenance, with the establishment of provisional maintenance, even in the case of foreign children, provided that they are resident and/or domiciled on national soil. There are no prior rites to be fulfilled and the request can even be formulated without lawyers being present, based on the special alimony law. If the child is not domiciled or resident in Brazil, the national judge, strictly speaking, does not have the competence for this matter. 

With the end of a relationship in which the parties had children, there is a need to judicially establish, for minors and incapable persons:

  • the place of residence;
  • the custody arrangement (unilateral or shared);
  • the regulation of contact with the non-custodial parent; and
  • the alimony.

Currently in Brazil, the general approach is that of shared custody, in which there is the sharing of responsibility and greater balance in the time spent between parents and children, with a view to preventing parental alienation or any other psychological harm. Custody may be unilateral, depending on the circumstances of the case or the parents' situation. 

Where the parents do not agree, the court makes a decision based on of the best and superior interests of the children. Thus, the financial conditions of one of the parents is not a determining factor for custody and visits, but, rather, where the affective interests and physical and intellectual development of the child will be better served. 

The judge may rely on psycho-social analyses ‒ supported by meetings of the parties with psychologists and social assistants ‒ and will be in a position to make a better analysis of the situation, always prioritising the best interests of the child. 

The public prosecutor is also involved in this matter. The public prosecutor will supervise matters involving minors and incapable persons, and may even limit or require changes to the agreements entered into by the parties if they believe that the interests of the children are not being properly served. 

Furthermore, child maintenance is understood to be everything that is indispensable for the subsistence and proper development of the child or disabled person, including, among others, all expenses with regard to housing, health, food, education, clothing, transportation and leisure. 

Alimony is not fixed or defined in Brazil. The value is defined, through consensus or court order, based on meeting the needs of those who ask for it within the possibilities of those who pay. Both parents are called upon to contribute to the maintenance of their children, within their respective financial capacities, also taking into account the social standard of family life, depending on the particular case. The parties can reach an agreement on child support without having to file a lawsuit in advance. However, for the agreement to be enforceable it will need to be submitted to the Public Prosecutor’s Office and subsequently approved by the court.

The maintenance process starts with the request for and establishment of provisional maintenance. The respondent is summoned to pay the provisional maintenance, take part at a hearing in an attempt at conciliation, instruction and judgment, and summoned to present their defence and evidence at that same hearing. The acts are concentrated in that action. Following the decision of the judge, the interested party can appeal, and the provisional maintenance will be in force until the decision becomes final. 

A child cannot apply for a pension on their own, but must be represented, in general, by one of their parents, or by another legal representative (guardian, curator, etc), or by the public prosecutor, who has legitimacy in these situations. 

Power of the Court

In the event of disagreements, the parties may refer the case to the judiciary. Litigious lawsuits involving issues related to custody and family life will be submitted to the judge, who may use the findings of a multi-disciplinary team to resolve the conflict. The judge may rely on psycho-social studies ‒ supported by meetings of the parties with psychologists and social workers ‒ and be in a position to make a better analysis of the situation, always prioritising the best interests of the child. 

As for religion, it is important to remember that children and adolescents have the right to religious freedom. Logically, it is up to the parents to raise and educate their children in accordance with their own convictions, given that the state will be responsible for intervening when there is a risk, or in the event, of damage to the best interests of minors. 

Parental Alienation 

Parental alienation is dealt with in Law No 12.318/2010 (amended by Law No 14.340/2022), which considers an act of parental alienation to be interference in the psychological formation of the child or adolescent promoted or induced by one of the parents, by the grandparents or by those who have the child or adolescent under their authority, and who campaign negatively or prevent or hinder contact, destroying or harming the child’s bonds with the other parent so that the child or adolescent repudiates and rejects the other parent. 

Evidence of Children in Court

If the magistrate deems it essential for the judgment of the case, children will be heard indirectly and through a specialised listening service, in an appropriate and welcoming place, with the infrastructure and physical space to guarantee their privacy. 

The testimony of children and adolescents, under these conditions, has the force of judicial evidence. It is not taken in isolation, but considered with the other evidence produced in the process. 

In the extrajudicial scope, the parties can use mediation for all matters related to family issues, including financial and property disputes. Mediation can be carried out at the pre-procedural stage or even after the litigation has started. Sessions are held in private chambers and, in addition to private mediators and their lawyers, the parties can seek professionals with expertise in finance, accounting, valuation of assets, shareholdings, etc. Costs are at the expense of the interested parties. 

The law that introduced arbitration in Brazil does not prohibit its use  for family property and financial matters, as long as they are available rights. It is still little used in this area, although the doctrine is increasingly defending this possibility. 

Brazilian legislation establishes that conciliation, mediation and other alternative methods of consensual dispute resolution are not mandatory. However, the judge may determine the attempt at conciliation and/or mediation at the beginning or during the course of the judicial proceedings and unjustified absence may be interpreted as an act that violates the dignity of justice. This can be penalised with a fine of up to 2% of the intended economic advantage or the value of the claim, reversed in favour of the union or the state. 

If both parties show disinterest in the consensual agreement, there will be no penalty. 

The agreement reached via conciliation or mediation must be taken for judicial approval and will thus have the force of a court decision. The arbitral award, in turn, does not need ratification and can be enforced in court. 

Cases involving children, adolescents and people who are vulnerable due to a physical or mental condition have the right to the confidentiality of their identity and the facts dealt with in the proceedings. The cases must proceed under secrecy of justice because they involve the constitutional right to intimacy, private life and identity. 

Parents cannot authorise the disclosure of facts and circumstances relating to their children. All such proceedings are treated under the principle of secrecy of justice and are not accessible to third parties. 

The Code of Ethics for Brazilian journalists, in Article 6, prohibits the disclosure of information that violates the right to privacy of the citizen, which must mainly be considered with respect to matters dealt with in judicial proceedings that are processed in accordance with the secrecy of justice. 

Anyone who disrespects procedural secrecy may commit an unlawful act and be liable for losses and damages. 

The law provides that whenever cases are reported, the child must always remain anonymous.   

Tortoro, Madureira & Ragazzi Advogados

Al. Santos, 787
7º andar
Jd Paulistano
CEP 01419-001
São Paulo
SP – Brazil

+55 11 3018 4848

+55 11 3018 4800
Author Business Card

Law and Practice in Brazil


Tortoro, Madureira & Ragazzi Advogados has a team of 15 attorneys and two senior partners handling this area with discretion and confidentiality. With four integrated offices in São Paulo, Brasilia, Ribeirão Preto and Campinas, the firm represents clients in complex issues within family law and succession law related to international jurisdictions, in procedures among others for ratifying foreign decisions, definition of jurisdiction, custody and maintenance, and application of the Hague Convention. The practice deals with marriage, stable or de facto unions, prenuptial agreements and marital property regimes, as well as divorce, custody and visitation, search and seizure of minors, cases of multi-jurisdictional estate planning, guardianship, custody and interdiction, court-supervised and out-of-court succession processes and estate planning in corporate matters. Recent cross-border cases the firm has dealt with include child abduction under the Hague Convention with the UK, USA, Argentina, Bahamas, Portugal and Spain. The firm has also recently handled multi-jurisdictional succession matters.