Children in a divorce
If your family includes children under the age of 18 and your marriage comes to an end, you need to agree on the following things during the divorce process:
- where will your child live
- who will be the child’s guardian
- how will visitation rights be organised
- child maintenance support
When the parents have agreed where their child is to live, who will be his or her guardian, what the visitation arrangements will be and who will pay what as child maintenance support, their local social services may confirm the agreement. An agreement confirmed by social services is as official as a court decision.
More information is available at your local social services.
If you are unable to reach an agreement
If you are unable to reach an agreement concerning living arrangements, guardianship, visitation rights and child maintenance support, you can seek help from family mediation (perheasioiden sovittelu). If you cannot reach an agreement despite mediation, you must ask your District Court to give a ruling on the matter. The court will take into consideration the child’s best interest and his or her own wishes. The court will also ask the social services of your municipality to give a report on your situation.
Ask more about family mediation from the social services of your municipality.
Always consider the child’s best interest while making decisions on his or her living arrangements.
Officially a child can only live at one address. During the divorce process, parents will agree which one of their homes will be the child’s official home.
In practice, however, the child can also live part-time at the other parent’s home.
Child benefit will be paid to the parent officially living with the child. The child’s official address also has an impact on Kela housing allowance, for example.
The guardianship of a child entails
- taking care of the child
- raising the child
- managing the child's affairs and making decisions concerning him or her.
The child’s guardian is also entitled to receive information regarding the child from officials.
When a marriage is dissolved, the parents of a child decide how guardianship will be arranged. Parents can agree to have joint custody of their child or that one of the parents will have sole custody. Guardianship is not automatically granted to the parent with whom the child lives. Read more about joint and sole custody on the InfoFinland web page Single parent families.
A child has the right to maintain contact with both of his or her parents after divorce. He or she also has the right to visit the parent with whom he or she does not live.
Visitation rights can entail, for example, that a child lives with one parent and visits the other parent every other weekend and on certain times during holidays. If the child is very young, he or she can meet their other parent during day visits only.
Visitation rights can also be so extensive that the child will spend an equal amount of time with each parent. Officially, however, a child can only have one address. Always consider your child’s best interest while making decisions concerning him or her.
When you separate, you can agree in advance how often your child will visit the parent living elsewhere. If you wish, you can also draw a written contract on visitation arrangements. You can also decide that you will agree on each visitation separately.
If you are having problems with visitation
If you have made an agreement on visitation arrangements, but the parent living with the child does not abide by this agreement, you can contact a child welfare supervisor of the municipality in which the child lives. The child welfare supervisor will then arrange a meeting with the parents.
If you suspect that your child’s health or safety is being compromised when he or she is visiting the other parent, share your concerns with social service staff. If there are grounds for your worries, a court can give a ruling stating that social services must be present when your child meets his or her other parent.
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. The parent who does not live with the child pays child maintenance support to the parent living with the child.
Read more about child maintenance support on the InfoFinland web page Single parent families.
Elatusvelvollisten liitto ryInformation for parents liable for maintenanceLink redirects to another website
Child’s last name in a divorce
When the parents get a divorce, the child’s last name remains the same. The last name can also be changed. Send an application for a change of name to the Digital and Population Data Services Agency. If the child is over 12 years old, he/she must be asked for a written permission to change his/her last name. Even if the child is under 12 years old, it is a good idea to discuss the change of last name with the child beforehand.
Child abductions (lapsikaappaus)
A child abduction involves
- taking a child, who is residing in Finland and is under 16 years of age, abroad without the guardian’s consent
- not returning a child, who has been taken abroad, to Finland at the agreed time.
Child abduction is a crime in Finland. Contact your local police. Additional information is provided by the Finnish Association for Abducted Children (Kaapatut Lapset ry).