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What you need to know if you’re getting divorced in Sweden

Whether you moved to Sweden for love or relocated there with a partner, sometimes a relationship just doesn't work out and you'll need to consider the option of divorce. Understanding how to navigate the administrative side can at least make it more straightforward.

What you need to know if you're getting divorced in Sweden
In Sweden, you do not need a specific reason to file for divorce, but in some cases there is a compulsory 'reflection period'. File photo: Janerik Henriksson / TT
Are there any requirements in order to get a divorce?

Divorce is simplest in an administrative sense if both partners are agreed about ending the marriage and neither of them has custody of a child aged under 16. In this case, they can apply for a divorce immediately, and the request usually takes only a few weeks to process. This is also possible even if the partners share custody if they have already lived apart for at least two years.

If these criteria are not met, including if one partner does not wish to get divorced, or if they have children (and have not lived apart for two years), there’s an extra step to the process.

In these cases, the couple must enter a six-month period of reflection, and if they are still committed to the divorce at the end of that, they must file a second application. If both spouses want to, they can also request this period of reflection even if their situation doesn’t require it.

Unlike many countries, there’s no need to provide a reason for choosing to dissolve the marriage; it’s enough to submit both partners’ personal details. 

It’s also useful to know that you are always entitled to a translator when contacting Swedish government authorities and courts, including district courts and the Tax Agency, for example.

READ ALSO: What happens when you move across the world for love, then break up?

How do I get divorced?

To start the process, you’ll need to contact the district court (tingsrätt in Swedish) in the county where you’re registered. You can find out which one that is here.

Then, you fill out a “joint application for divorce” form, or this form if only one partner wants to initiate a divorce.

You’ll need to include a personbevis for both partners, which can be obtained from the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) here.

If you need to go through the six-month reconsideration period, the process is similar. In this instance, you’ll receive a message from the district court after you submit your application, which will give you a case number and will state when your reflection period begins.

After six months have passed, you must resubmit an application, including re-sending your personbevis, to confirm you still want the divorce. There’s no dedicated form for this, so it’s sufficient to write on a normal piece of paper that you want to proceed with the divorce, and cite the case number. 

It’s not necessary for both partners to be in agreement about filing for divorce in order for it to be processed, but if neither partner proceeds with the application within six months of the reflection period ending (in other words, within a year of the start of the reflection period), the case is dismissed and the partners remain married. 

READ ALSO: The difference between sambo and marriage in Sweden

How does division of property work?

Usually, all so-called matrimonial property will be divided equally between both divorcing partners. This includes property, cars, money in bank accounts and other items which were bought for both partners to share. This is the case no matter how much each partner paid towards the property or what proportion each partner owns. If one partner will keep the property, the default is that they must then pay the other partner 50 percent of the market value (not the original price). 

Each partner is considered to be responsible for their own financial situation after a divorce, but in certain circumstances it’s possible to apply for financial support from the other partner during a transition period (see the relevant law, in Swedish, here). This depends on both the need for support and the other partner’s ability to provide it. In some situations, this can be extended for a longer period of time.

In complex cases, particularly if the split is acrimonious and/or if one partner has given up a lot during the marriage (such as moving overseas or needing to give up work), it may be advisable to find a family lawyer.

How is custody of children resolved?

When children are involved, custody and visitation rights are often among the most difficult questions, both from a personal and from an administrative point of view.

The default is that the parents will continue to share joint custody of the child, unless the parents ask the court to rule on sole custody, which they can do in the application for divorce if they wish. A court may also decide to order sole custody if they deem that shared custody is not the best option for the child’s welfare, even if the parents request shared custody.

In cases of sole custody, both parents remain jointly responsible for the child’s maintenance, which typically means that the parent without custody pays a maintenance allowance to the parent with custody. 

Is there anything else I need to know?

One thing which could be useful is family counselling, which is provided by municipalities and private companies. The aim of this is to deal with problems within families and cohabiting couples, and in many situations this is a first logical step before considering divorce. It can also be helpful in dealing with any conflicts that arise during divorce proceedings.

Another service provided by municipalities is familjerätten (family help), which provides assistance with conflicts around custody and visitation schedules. This service is usually the first step before engaging a family lawyer, but that might be the right second step for certain situations. 

Member comments

  1. “…property will be divided equally between both divorcing partners.”

    There’s something missing here. What about debt? Is that also divided equally?

    Especially, what if the reason for the divorce is that one of the partners took on debt without the approval (maybe even without the knowledge?) of the other?

  2. Hi @spillemand! Each partner is usually responsible for their own debt, so you should not be responsible for paying debt that the other partner took on without approval.

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Nuclear families make comeback in Sweden

The traditional nuclear family has made a recovery in the past decade, according to Statistics Sweden (SCB), with fewer children experiencing divorce and more being born with only full siblings.

Nuclear families make comeback in Sweden

“Indications are that child families have become more stable during the 2000s. We have looked at the reasons for this,” Lotta Persson, who has published an analysis together with Johan Tollebrant in the SCB magazine Välfärd, told The Local.

Persson and Tollebrant’s article is based on two reports – “Barn, föräldrar och separationer” (Literally: “Children, parents and separations”) and “Barnafödande i nya relationer” (“Childbirth in new relationships”), which are based on SCB demographic statistics from 2013.

The pair observed that the late 1990s witnessed a decrease in the birthrate and an increase in divorce and separations with researchers citing the greater economic power and independence of women as a causal factor.

“Particularly the report on half-siblings indicates not only a decline in separations but also that couples that stay together are having more children,” Lotta Persson told The Local.

The proportion of children who had experienced a parental separation declined steadily from the end of the 1990s to 2006 when parents to 2.8 percent of Sweden’s children (around 40,000 at the time) went their separate ways.

The development since 2006 has been more mixed but has remained at a lower level than at the beginning of the 2000s, the SCB figures show.

Furthermore over the past decade more children have been born into families with only full siblings, and the proportion of children being born with half-siblings declined from 20 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2011.

Persson named a slew of statistical factors that could explain these twin developments: older first-time mothers, higher educated parents, more foreign-born parents, and differences in the number of siblings.

The conclusion is drawn, however, that statistics can only go so far in explaining the changes and Persson cites greater equality as one explanatory factor that links the 1990s and the 2000s, if for very different reasons.

“There are different types of equality. The first stage, which began in the 1960s, shook the balance of families, that part we have passed now. We are now in stage two where equality also increases in the home, giving a new balance,” she said.

Persson and Tollebrant cite researchers such as US academic France K. Goldscheider to back up their conclusion that men taking a greater share of household chores and that child-raising has eased domestic tension.

“There is greater harmony. The fact that more couples are having a third child indicates this,” Persson said.

The trend is furthermore linked to other statistical changes, such as the increasing popularity of marriage and a decline in the proportion of women without children.

“These changes could be a reflection of changing attitudes towards a more family-orientated development. Other studies of young people furthermore show that they value the family highly,” Persson told The Local.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson

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