Man Ordered to Pay Ex-Wife $72,000 for Housework During Their 30-Year Marriage

Portugal’s Supreme Court of Justice has ordered a man to pay his ex-wife 60,000 euros ($72,000) in compensation for the cleaning and cooking she did during their three-decade-long marriage.

There was a time when housework was considered a wife’s duty, but those times are long gone, as evidenced by the avalanche of court rulings in favor of housewives asking for compensation from their ex-spouses. The latest such case comes from Portugal, where the Supreme Court recently ruled that a woman was entitled to $72,000 in compensation from her ex-husband for performing domestic activities like cooking and cleaning throughout their 30-year marriage.

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The ruling, which came on January 14 and was covered by Portuguese media in February, ended a long trial in which the two ex-spouses fought in various courts around Portugal. Originally, the wife asked for at least 240,000 euros ($290,000) for all the work she did for free during their marriage, but her claim was dismissed by a court in Barcelos, which ruled that she was not entitled to any kind of financial compensation.

“As the work spent in the home is not legally required under the de facto union, its provision as a contribution to the common economy is configured as a spontaneous fulfillment of a natural obligation”, the Judge in Barcelos wrote in their ruling.

The woman filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals, which this time ruled in her favor, granting her a compensation of 60,000 euros. Her ex-spouse challenged the decision at the Supreme Court of Justice, which maintained the previous decision and ordered him to compensate his ex-wife for all her work. The court ruled that while it remains invisible, housework has clear economic value, as it translates to enrichment by saving expenses.

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“The demand for equality has long been inherent to the idea of ​​justice, so it is not possible to consider that all or much of the housework in a house, of the members of the de facto union, corresponds to the fulfillment of a natural obligation, founded on a duty of justice,” the ruling stated.

“On the contrary, such a duty calls for a division of tasks as equal as possible, without prejudice to the possibility that the members of that relationship freely agree that one of them does not contribute to the provision of domestic work, in the logic of specializing the contributions of each one.”

It was proven that for the 30 years that the couple were married for, the wife was the one who took care of the house and prepared the partner’s meals. The Supreme Court argued that this led to the enrichment of the couple member who did not participate in domestic work, since it allowed them to benefit from the result of these activities without costs or contributions.

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The court determined the financial value of the domestic work performed by the woman by using the national minimum wage as a criterion, multiplying it by 12 months, for the 30 years of marriage. A third of the sum was them subtracted as the woman’s expenses during that period.

A couple of months ago, we featured the very similar case of a woman in China who was granted compensation for the housework she performed during her five-year marriage.

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