The rules governing divorce in Norway are different to some other European countries. For example, in order to gain a divorce there must typically be a period of legal separation, and spousal maintenance after you divorce is rare. So how does divorce work in relation to Norway? How are child custody, support and contact issues agreed? And how are your assets and property divided on divorce? Keep reading to find out about divorce and Norway.
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Separation before divorce in Norway
If you and your spouse want to get a divorce and you have been separated for less than two years you firstly have to apply for legal separation. You can do this if you decide that you can no longer live together with your spouse.
You apply for separation to the county governor’s office in the county where you lived together. During the separation period you remain married and after one year has elapsed you can file for divorce.
Divorce laws and grounds for divorce in Norway
There are four main grounds for divorce in Norway:
- one-year legal separation
- two years’ separation
- violence or forced marriage
- bigamy or incestuous marriage.
One-year legal separation
This is the most common ground for divorce cited in Norway. As explained above, you or your spouse can apply for a divorce after you have been legally separated for at least one year.
Two years’ separation
If you have been living apart for more than two years and you both agree to the divorce, you can petition to end your marriage on this basis. You don’t have to be legally separated for a year as above.
Violence or forced marriage
While the two grounds for divorce above are ‘no-fault’ grounds, this ground requires fault on behalf of one spouse.
Here, you can apply for a divorce in cases of serious violence; for example, if your spouse tries to kill you or your children, exposes you to ‘severe maltreatment’ or acts in a way which makes you fearful of such conduct.
To file for divorce using this ground you must apply to end your marriage within six months of learning of the act, and no later than two years after it took place.
You can also obtain a divorce if you have been forced into your marriage, either by your spouse or by somebody else.
Bigamy or incestuous marriage
You can also file for divorce in Norway if you are in a marriage with a close relative or if your spouse was already married when you married.
Child custody, support and contact after divorce in Norway
In Norway, if you plan to divorce and you have a child under the age of 16, you must attend a mediation session before your divorce will be granted.
Family Counselling offices provide mediation, and lawyers, psychologists and some health specialists are also approved mediators. You can find details of local approved mediation services at the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufetat).
Once you have undertaken mediation, your counsellor will issue a ‘certificate of mediation’ which must be attached to the application for separation. This certificate is valid for 6 months.
If you can agree arrangements for your child after your marriage ends then this is generally preferable. However, if you disagree on where your child should live and contact/access rights then a court can make an award.
Typically, Norwegian courts will award joint custody to both parents, unless there are specific grounds that mean one parent should have sole custody. Any decisions are made with accordance with your child’s best interests.
Under Norwegian law, both parents are required to support their child, and this means that child support will typically be due. Parents will be required to pay for food, clothes and shelter, and to ensure your child gets an education and participates in leisure activities.
Norway is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. If your child is taken out of Norway to another Convention country without your consent, you can apply to the relevant authority for the swift and safe return of your child to Norway.
Similarly, if your child is taken to Norway from your normal country of domicile, you can also seek their quick return.
How are assets divided on divorce in Norway
In Norway, the split of property on divorce is generally dealt with privately rather than through the court system. Most couples agree a settlement regarding how they will split any property and assets, often through mediation or solicitor negotiation. The court do not need to approve such an agreement.
If you can’t agree, the court can make an award. Any wealth acquired during the period of your marriage is shared between spouses, with some exceptions. You will generally be allowed to retain any assets you owned before you were married and those you received as a gift or through inheritance.
Any disagreement about property ownership and division are handled by the county court rather than the probate court. Factors the court will consider include:
- your income and financial prospects
- your standard of living before divorce
- your age and how long you were married
- how you behaved during your marriage
- what accommodation you need after your divorce.
Spousal maintenance is rare in Norway
In Norway, it is considered that when spouses separate they make a clean financial break and are no longer obliged to support each other. This means that under the country’s Marriage Act, it is rare that a spouse would be granted support after the end of a marriage.
There may be some cases where a spouse who has limited income or assets may be granted alimony for a period of no more than three years. In exceptional cases – for example, if a spouse is old and unable to support themselves – maintenance may be awarded for a longer period.
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