Divorce petitions are handled by district courts (käräjäoikeus). Either spouse or both spouses together can file for divorce.
Divorce can be granted after a six-month cooling-off period. No cooling-off period is required if the spouses have lived separately for at least two years before filing for divorce.
There is no need to list reasons for wanting a divorce in the petition. District courts do not examine the personal relations of the spouses or the reasons for filing for divorce. See question 1.
The spouses keep their married surname upon divorce. If a spouse’s surname has changed as a result of marriage, he or she can apply for it to be changed after the divorce.
The granting of a divorce and the division of property are separate matters. Once a marriage is dissolved, the spouses can agree on the division of property between themselves or ask a court to appoint an executor. The general rule is that all assets of the spouses are divided equally. The general rule can be deviated from on the basis of a prenuptial agreement or similar. The division can also be adjusted if the outcome would be considered unreasonable otherwise. Marital property can be divided as soon as the cooling-off period begins.
Matters such as custody, living arrangements, maintenance and visiting rights regarding any minor children that the spouses have together can be settled in conjunction with a divorce petition. See ‘Parental responsibility - Finland’ and ‘Maintenance claims – Finland’.
When granting a divorce, the court can, upon application, order one spouse to pay maintenance to the other if this is considered to be reasonable. (See ‘Maintenance claims - Finland’). However, this happens rarely.
The Finnish legal system does not recognise legal separation. In practice, legal separation means that the spouses live separately, at different addresses.
See question 4.
See question 4.
There are no provisions on marriage annulment in Finnish legislation. However, the public prosecutor must bring a case for the spouses to be granted a divorce immediately should it come to light that the spouses are close relatives or that one of the spouses was already legally married at the time of entering into the marriage.
See question 7.
See question 7.
Divorce petitions must always be filed with a district court. However, the law stipulates that spouses must always strive to settle any family disputes first by negotiating and coming to a mutual agreement; to do so, spouses can request assistance from the family mediators of their local social services board (sosiaalilautakunta) District courts also have a duty to inform spouses that a family mediation service is available. Mediators try to help spouses to reach a mutual understanding on how family disputes can be resolved in the most satisfactory way for all family members. Mediators can also assist spouses in drawing up agreements and in initiating other procedures for resolving a dispute. Mediators have a special duty to consider the interests of any minor children in the family. Mediation is always voluntary.
Both spouses can file for divorce jointly, or one of the spouses can file individually. To file for divorce, a written divorce petition must be submitted to a district court in a locality where either of the spouses has his or her place of residence. Divorce petitions can be filed in person or via an authorised representative. Petitions can also be sent to the district court by post, fax or e-mail.
Legal aid is available for divorce cases. More information on legal aid in Finland is available here.
Judgments of divorce can be appealed in a Court of Appeal (hovioikeus).
As a rule, the recognition of a divorce judgment issued in another Member State is based on Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003.
Under the Regulation, a judgment given in a Member State is recognised in the other Member States without any special procedure being required. However, any interested party may apply for a decision that the judgment be or not be recognised.
Applications regarding the recognition of judgments are handled by district courts.
However, in the case of divorces filed in Nordic countries, the Nordic Marriage Convention of 1931 is applied. In terms of European Union Member States, parties to this Convention include Finland, Sweden and Denmark. A divorce judgment given in accordance with the Nordic Marriage Convention is valid in all Nordic countries without any separate confirmation.
The procedure is the same as that described in question 14.
Finnish law is applied to all divorce cases that are filed in Finland.
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