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Separation and divorce

When parents separate or divorce, children have the right to maintain a close and safe relationship with both parents. When parents separate or divorce, they must jointly agree on their children’s custody, living arrangements, visitation rights and child support.



Parents must decide whether they are both still guardians and who their children will live with. Children have the right to meet both parents, and both parents have an obligation to provide for their children. The other parent may be ordered to pay  child support to the parent that the children live with.

Joint custody or sole custody

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 parent that the child lives with decides on the child’s everyday matters. If parents have joint custody, the child cannot be taken to live abroad without consent of the other parent, even if the child lives with the parent taking them abroad. 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 the right to meet both parents.

When a couple decides to divorce

One or both of the spouses can file for divorce. The divorce will be confirmed after a six-month reconsideration period, after which it becomes legal. A cohabiting relationship ends when the partners no longer live at the same address.

Agreeing on issues concerning children after a separation or divorce

Mediation and advice on matters related to separation, divorce, custody, living arrangements, visitation rights and child support are offered by family law services.

It is in the interest of the child that the parents are able to jointly agree on matters relating to the child’s custody, living arrangements, visitation rights and child support. The parents can agree on these issues as they see fit.

Agreements can be made verbally or in writing. It is recommended that parents draw up a written agreement which they submit to a child supervisor for confirmation. This ensures compliance with issues such as the child’s right to meet both parents. If the other guardian does not support the child in the agreed manner, Kela will not pay child support unless an agreement has been made with the authority.

If an agreement cannot be reached

If the situation is such that the guardians are unable to reach an agreement, the agreement cannot be concluded by a child supervisor. A special service, family mediation, can help you to come to an agreement. Read more about family mediation services on the Social services for families page.

If an agreement still cannot be reached, you may need to seek legal advice or even go to court. The court will then decide who the child lives with and how meetings with the other parent are arranged. To do this, the court requires a statement from the social board.

Support is available for those who consider or have gone through a divorce, including peer support groups. There are also special support groups for children. Contact your municipality’s social services for more information.


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