Arranging the affairs of a child after a divorce

When the parents are divorcing, they must agree on child custody, housing, right of access and maintenance. The agreement may be concluded by social services, mediation services or submitted to a district court for decision.

Matters to be settled

Child custody

If the child is in the joint custody of his or her parents, the parents decide together on matters of importance to the child, such as the child's place of residence, day care, school, health care, name, passport, religion, etc.

A single parent decides on these matters alone.

Living arrangements of the child

After the divorce, the child may live with both parents alternately or with only one parent, but meet the other parent regularly. However, a child may have only one municipality of residence and residence there, even if he or she actually resides alternately with both parents. In such cases, the agreement shall indicate which parent has the child's official habitual residence recorded in the population information system. This place of residence is determined, for example, by the child's day care centre, local school and health care.

Right of access

A child may be granted the right to meet the parent with whom he or she does not live. The right of access must promote the child's wellbeing and implement the child's best interests after the divorce. A child has the right to maintain relationships that are important to him or her.

When considering the scope and implementation of the right of access, parents should take into account the child's age and wishes, the child's school and hobbies and any special arrangements that may be necessary.

The details of the meeting and visiting must be clearly defined.


Parents are jointly and to the best of their ability to support their child even after the divorce. Maintenance is a financial contribution by which the child's parent contributes to the child's maintenance costs.

The maintenance obligation and the amount of maintenance are determined on a case-by-case basis. The assessment is influenced by a variety of factors, but the starting point is the child's individual need for maintenance and the parents' ability to provide maintenance. Maintenance is paid monthly to the parent with whom the child formally resides.

The amount of maintenance may subsequently be requested to be altered in the light of substantially changed circumstances.

Discussion with the child

When parents divorce, a child has a great need to know what will happen in his or her life. When making decisions on the future of a child, parents must discuss them with the child if this is possible in view of the child's age and level of development, i.e. usually with a child who has reached at least school age.

Agreement with the child welfare supervisor

Wellbeing services counties provide their residents with family law services. The services of children and families include a municipal child welfare supervisor who helps divorce parents to agree on how to arrange the child's affairs.

The agreement may be formally confirmed, in which case it shall be treated in the same way as a court decision.

If the child's affairs have been the subject of an agreement with the child welfare supervisor, they no longer need to be considered by a court in connection with the divorce petition.

Family mediation

If the parents are unable to agree on the child's affairs with the child supervisor, they can contact the free family mediation service.

More detailed information on family mediation can be obtained from the Social Welfare Office and the website of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare .

Expert-assisted mediation in custody disputes at district courts

The court mediation of a custody dispute is intended to be a special mediation service when the assistance offered to parents in other divorce services has proved insufficient. In such cases, the mediator is a judge with expertise in family matters and is assisted by an expert on parenting and child development. Mediation is a faster and cheaper way to settle the child's affairs. Read more here

Hearing in a district court

If the parents cannot agree on the arrangement of the child's affairs, they may submit the matter to a district court for decision. In such cases, the parents shall submit their claims to the court for the determination of the child's custody, housing, right of access and maintenance. The claims may be filed in connection with the divorce application or as a separate matter. You can use the forms available here  (in Finnish or Swedish). 

Upon application, the district court may also amend an earlier decision or a confirmed agreement issued in matters concerning the child if the circumstances of the child or the parents have changed or there is otherwise reason to do so.

The consideration of the matter in the district court begins at a preparatory hearing to which both parents are invited. Parents may, if they so wish, use a legal counsel at the hearing.

In matters concerning a child, the district court may request a report from the social services on the situation of the family. The authors of the report make a home visit to the parents, examine the child's opinion and, if necessary, obtain information from other authorities. The purpose of the report is to provide the judge with information on the circumstances and life situation of family members and on the interaction between them. The report usually takes several months to complete. Information on the report can be found on the website of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare

Even during the trial, parents can settle their differences. In that case, the judge shall issue a decision in accordance with the agreement and the case shall be closed.

After receiving the report from social services, the parents are summoned to the main hearing, where witnesses may also be heard. At the end of the proceedings, the district court issues a decision on the matter.

Published 24.1.2024