Terminating a common-law relationship
If common-law spouses have children together and these children are under the age of 18, they must make decisions concerning them just as couples getting divorced do. Common-law spouses may also receive help in making these decisions from for example family mediation. Read more on the InfoFinland web page Children in a divorce.
In common-law relationship, the spouses can have a common last name. If the common-law relationship ends, it does not affect the last name. If you want to change your last name, apply to the Digital and Population Data Services Agency for a change of name.
During a common-law relationship, each party maintains his or her own property. When a common-law relationship is terminated, property is usually divided in accordance with what belongs to whom.
If a common-law husband and wife acquire property together, both parties must be recorded as buyers and all the relevant receipts must be kept. In such a case, this property is divided in half if the common-law relationship ends. If only one of the spouses is recorded as the buyer, this property will belong to him or her when the common-law relationship ends.
Common-law spouses may also have property the ownership of which has not been discussed. In this case, it is assumed that both parties own an equal share and the property in question is divided in half.
If common-law spouses cannot decide how to divide their property they can in some cases ask a District Court to provide them with an executor for division of property. You can only request a District Court to grant you an executor if your common-law marriage has lasted for at least five years or if you have children together.
In some cases, one spouse may receive compensation from the other when they separate. A common-law spouse may receive compensation if he or she has, for example, worked for his or her spouse and thus enabled him or her to add to his or her property and thus division of property based solely on ownership would be unjust.
If a common-law relationship ends in one of the partner’s death, the common-law husband and wife do not inherit from each other. A common-law husband and wife have no right, for example, to stay and live in the family’s shared home if it is the property of the dead partner. The inheritance goes to the children or siblings of the dead partner.
Common-law spouses may, however, make a will (testamentti) in case one of them dies. By this will, they can ensure that certain property, for example a home they have purchased together, will go to the other spouse in the event of the other's death. Common-law spouses may also make a written contract on how their property is to be divided in case their relationship comes to an end. If you would like to make a will or a contract on how your property is to be divided in case of separation, ask for advice from a legal aid office or a lawyer.
Help with legal matters
In the event of a divorce, you may have questions about residence permit issues, property matters, child maintenance support or matters related to the child’s living arrangements, custody and visitation rights. In legal matters, you can get help from a lawyer. They will advise you and ensure that your rights are secured. You can also contact a lawyer in quarrelsome divorce situations.
When you seek help from a lawyer, you should find out whether they are competent in the matters that you need help with. Not all firms or people who offer help with legal matters are necessarily competent.
Advice in legal matters is provided by law firms and state legal aid offices that employ public legal aid attorneys.
Public legal aid
The services of a lawyer are subject to a fee, but if your income is low or average, you may be eligible for free or partially reimbursed legal aid from a state legal aid office. Public legal aid is also provided in English, and the services of an interpreter may be employed if necessary. Public legal aid can be applied for at a state legal aid office.
If you have legal expenses insurance to cover your costs, you are not eligible for public legal aid. Legal expenses insurance is often included in home insurance policies.
Private lawyers and attorneys
You can search for a lawyer, for example, through the Etsi asianajaja service on the website of the Finnish Bar Association (Suomen Asianajajaliito).