“The provision of domestic work, as well as the care, monitoring and education of children, exclusively or essentially by one of the members of the non-marital partnership resulted in a real impoverishment of one partner, and the corresponding release of the other member of the couple”, reads the judgment that The Portugal News had access to.
Accomplishment of these tasks, allowed the enrichment of the other partner, “since it allows the beneficiary to result from this accomplishment, without costs or contributions”, says the Supreme Court decision.
“It is necessary to clarify that the decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ) does not condemn the refund of the value of domestic service provided during the period of non-marital partnership, but rather in the amount that was considered that this service contributed to the acquisition of assets for the defendant, that were and always will be exclusively his”, explains AJP, chaired by judges Paula Ferreira Pinto.
Interpreting the judgment, AJP mentions that, “during the years in which they lived in economic communion, the defendant was acquiring assets that are his, however, also using the effort that his partner took place in favour of the family economy, achieved in domestic work”.
Thus - AJP says - it was judged that “this service implied that not only was no money spent on the corresponding services, but also freed the defendant from performing it, thus enabling him to pursue paid activities that contribute to acquisition of means to increase his patrimony”.
“After the non-marital partnership ended, the joint efforts of the couple associated with that patrimony ceased, and, consequently, the conviction is in the refund of the amount in which the womans contribution was quantified, translated into the provision of family work, for the acquisition of family goods that are not owned by the woman”, the AJP also states.
The ACP also mentions that this agreement is not new from a legal and jurisprudential point of view, since the institute in question is very old, and the ‘Civil enrichment without cause’ is foreseen in the Civil Code of 1996. The president of the Portuguese Bar Association (OA), Luís Menezes Leitão, shares the same opinion saying that “the issue is not exactly new, since this application of the unjust enrichment institute in doctrine and jurisprudence had already been defended”. The only difference in this case was “the high value of the premise”.
In addition, the Portuguese Association of Women Jurists (APMJ) also welcomed the “appreciation of domestic work” contained in the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ) ruling and which, in its sense, constitutes “an innovation in the Portuguese legal system” in the matter.
The representative of APMJ, Joana Pinto Coelho, underlined that, although this right has been written since the reform of the Civil Code (2008) - article 1676 nº2 - by providing “the valorisation of the work done related to the care of the family and the home”, or be it with domestic tasks, rule “in practice had no consequences” and a lack of application of it.
Despite the STJ ruling not creating a precedent, nor binding the courts, as in other countries it might be used as “jurisprudential guidance”, and “all future [judicial] decisions can be confronted with this [STJ]”, explains Joana Pinto Coelho.
In the case now analysed by the STJ, the woman asked for at least €240,000 but, in the first instance, the Barcelos Court considered that there was no place to pay any amount for the woman’s domestic work.
The woman appealed to the Tribunal da Relação, which accepted her reasoning, setting the compensation at €60,782. The man has appealed to the STJ, which confirmed the decision of the instance.
The STJ said that “domestic work, although it remains strangely invisible to many, obviously has an economic value and translates into enrichment in savings of expenses”.