Briefly, child custody means deciding about the child’s affairs. A child’s guardian or parent is responsible for the child’s care, upbringing, supervision and other nurturing. Only a guardian or parent is entitled to obtain information about the child from various authorities. Both parents of a child born in a marriage are guardians of the child. If the child is born in a cohabiting relationship, the mother is the child’s guardian, unless the parents agree otherwise. In this case, paternity of the child must be established separately.
If a child’s parents divorce, they must agree on custody of the children. Divorces are common in Finland. One or both of the spouses can file for divorce. The divorce will be confirmed after a six-month reconsideration period, when it becomes legal. Joint custody is the most common arrangement after a divorce. This means that parents decide together on important issues concerning the child, such as upbringing, health care or travel. The person, with whom the child resides daily, decides on the child’s everyday matters. A child, who is in joint custody, cannot be taken abroad without consent of the other parent. If a passport is applied for the child, the other parent must also sign the passport application. If joint custody does not work after the divorce, one of the parents may apply for sole custody of the child. It means that a parent with sole custody of the child may decide alone on issues concerning the child without negotiating with the other parent. However, it must be taken into account in all circumstances that a child has a right to meet both parents.