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Single parent families

Single parent families are common in Finland. A child may be born out of wedlock or the child’s parents have divorced.

A single-parent family is one where one of the parents lives with their children without a spouse. In this case, the parent may be a single parent or joint custody parent. A single parent bears the sole responsibility for their child’s upbringing. A joint custody parent agrees upon their child’s affairs with the other parent.

In joint custody, parents decide on many things together, including the child’s

  • name
  • place of residence
  • upbringing
  • language
  • religion
  • education
  • health care
  • using the child’s property

Joint custody requires that the parents are able to work together for the best interests of their child. For example, a passport application must have both parents’ consent.

A single parent makes all the decisions concerning the child themselves. Authorities, such as the day-care centre and school, only give information about the child to the guardian. The other parent can, however, make decisions regarding the care and upbringing of the child when the child is staying with him or her.

When parents get a divorce, whether they are married or in a common-law relationship, they must decide on their children’s guardianship, maintenance, accommodation and visiting rights. Read more on the InfoFinland page Children in a divorce.

A child can also be adopted alone. Adoption is enacted in the Adoption Act. If you would like to adopt a child alone, ask the social services office of your municipality for advice.

The Association of Single Parent Families (Yhden Vanhemman Perheiden Liitto) offers information and organises activities for single parent families. You can find out about the Child Custody and Right of Access Act on the Finlex website.

The Single Parents’ Association is a civic organisation founded by single parents which offers activities for its member families.

Child Custody and Right of Access ActFinnish | Swedish | English

linkkiAssociation of Single Parent Families:
Information for single parent familiesFinnish

linkkiSingle Parents' Association:
Activities for single parent familiesFinnish | English

Child maintenance support

Both parents are responsible for the maintenance of their children under the age of 18, even if they no longer live together. When parents separate, they have to reach an agreement concerning the maintenance of their children and possible child maintenance support (elatusapu).

The amount of child maintenance support is calculated on the basis on the child’s maintenance needs and the parents' maintenance capacity. The child’s maintenance needs refer to the sum of money that is needed to support the child on a monthly basis. It includes, for example, food and clothing costs and possible day care fees. The child’s maintenance needs are divided between the parents in accordance with their maintenance capacity. Maintenance capacity is calculated by subtracting taxes and other obligatory costs from the parent’s income. You can ask your municipality’s child welfare supervisor (lastenvalvoja) to help you calculate the amount of child maintenance support.

It is advisable to make a written agreement on child maintenance support and have the Social Welfare Board confirm this agreement. An agreement confirmed by the Social Welfare Board is just as official as a court decision. Ask a child welfare supervisor of your municipality to provide you with the Social Welfare Board confirmation.

If parents cannot reach an agreement concerning child maintenance support, they can ask family mediation to help. Ultimately, the matter will be solved in a district court. More information on family mediation is available on the InfoFinland web page Divorce.

Child maintenance allowance

In some situations, the parent who is living with the child can apply for child maintenance allowance (elatustuki) from Kela.

You can apply for child maintenance allowance from Kela if:

  • a parent liable for maintenance has not paid the established child support (Kela will recover it from the person afterwards).
  • child support has been established as smaller than child maintenance allowance due to the financial situation of a parent who is liable for the child’s maintenance.
  • child support has not been established as payable at all due to the financial situation of the parent liable for maintenance.
  • you have adopted a child without a partner.
  • the paternity of a child born out of wedlock has not been confirmed.

You may also receive child maintenance allowance, if you have moved to Finland permanently. You may also receive child maintenance allowance if you have come to Finland to work from another EU or EEA member state or Switzerland. The child for whom child maintenance allowance is applied for must also reside in Finland.

You can ask Kela for more information on child maintenance allowance.

Child maintenance allowance and child supportFinnish | Swedish | English

linkkiElatusvelvollisten liitto ry:
Information for parents liable for maintenanceFinnish