Denmark Divorce & Family Law

Divorce in Denmark can be achieved through agreement, through a period of separation, or on a range of different grounds. Here we discuss how divorce works in regards to Denmark, how child custody is decided after your marriage ends, and how your property is divided on divorce.

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Divorce laws, separation and grounds for divorce in Denmark

Under Danish law, if you and your spouse agree to end your marriage you can choose to divorce immediately. If one of you doesn’t agree, you can normally only be granted a divorce after you have been separated for six months.

‘Separation’ means that you live apart but remain legally married. If you don’t wish to remain in your marriage you have a legal right to a separation, irrespective of the wishes of your spouse. No reason needs to be provided to obtain a separation.

After six months have elapsed, you have the right to divorce even if your spouse disagrees.

You can request a divorce without agreement, and without prior separation, in the following cases:

  • You have been living apart for at least two years
  • Adultery
  • Your spouse has been violent towards you or your children
  • Your spouse is married to someone else
  • Your spouse has abducted your mutual child.

A new law that came into force in 2018 requires that all parents seeking a divorce go through an obligatory parenting course.

The ‘Samarbejde Efter Skilsmisse’ (‘Cooperation After Divorce’) course lasts 30 minutes and asks parents to consider how divorce will affect their children and suggests ways that parents can best communicate with each other.

If you don’t complete the course, your divorce will not be granted.

Child custody, contact and support arrangements on divorce in Denmark

The default position in Danish law is that parents hold joint custody of a child and retain this joint custody if they divorce. You have joint custody if you:

  • were married to the other parent when your child was born, or you married after your child was born
  • had separated before the birth but later reconciled and continued your marriage
  • signed a joint Care and Responsibility Declaration when your child was born, or you registered a joint custody agreement with the court.

If your child was born after 1 October 2007 you also have joint custody if: you lived together or were married to the other parent within the 10 months preceding the birth of your child, a father has acknowledged paternity, or a court has declared a man is the child’s father.

In all other cases, a mother has sole custody.

If you want to change the custody arrangements, and the other parent agrees, you can submit this agreement to the court. If the other parent does not agree, you should formally apply for the change. If you don’t reach an agreement through counselling or mediation, a court will decide.

As the default position is for shared physical custody, you will have to prove that the level of conflict is high enough that it is in the best interests of your child that sole custody is established.

A typical contact arrangement in Denmark for a child over the age of three is a ‘9/5 arrangement’. Here, your child will spend 9 days with the resident parent every fortnight, and 5 days with the non-resident parent. This can be changed up to a ‘7/7’ arrangement. Holidays are generally split equally.

In terms of child support, if you fail to reach an agreement with the other parent then the court can determine the level of maintenance. Child support in Denmark consists of three elements:

  • Basic amount
  • Fixed supplement
  • Additional supplement based on the gross income of the paying parent and the number of children.

Denmark is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. This means that if your child is taken out of Denmark without your consent, or taken to Denmark from your ‘home’ country, you can access a central authority to help you take the necessary steps to have your child returned.

Note that even through Denmark is in the EU, they are not party to the Brussels IIa regulations governing child abduction to another EU country.

How property is split, and alimony is decided on divorce in Denmark

The default property regime in Denmark is ‘deferred community of property’. This means that all the assets you own at the point you get married, plus all the property you acquire while married, becomes ‘joint property’.

When you divorce in Denmark, any property you acquired during your marriage is divided equally. Any separate property – for example non-transferable rights, pension rights or property used exclusively for your personal needs – is not subject to division.

Until 2012, most division of assets was dealt with privately as court fees were prohibitively high. Since 2012, the court can appoint an independent property division executor (a lawyer) to carry out the split of assets.

The court that deals with your divorce can only make an order about how long spousal maintenance should be paid for, and then only if they receive an application.

In Denmark, the standard rule for calculating the size of alimony is one-fifth of the difference of the income of the person paying and the person claiming. There is a ceiling for the income of the payee of DKK290,000 to DKK350,000 per year.

Income includes all types of income, including income generated by a company of which the person paying earns a share.

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