Requirements for divorce in Sweden
English and Welsh expatriates can divorce in Sweden, provided they have established habitual residence. In other words, the individual or family filing for divorce must be considered to have their life in Sweden. The applicant is not required to live in Sweden for a specified time, rather the court is concerned with how the individual has integrated into the community, and their future plans.
Division of assets
Although divorce proceedings will take place in a Swedish court, the law applied will be that of the location of first common habitual residence for all marriages occurring after 29 January 2019. For example, the applicant is married in the UK, but moves to and lives in Greece for eight months following marriage. The applicant then moves to Sweden and chooses to divorce there. The divorce will occur in the Swedish courts, but the law applied will be that of Greece because this is the first country the applicant moved to following their marriage.
However, the procedure differs for older marriages occurring before 29 January 2019 in that the law of the location of first common habitual residence applies, until the applicant moves to another country, in which case the law of the country they move to will apply.
To explain further, after marriage, all assets are seen as joint assets, unless a pre-nuptial agreement is in place. If the pre-nuptial agreement states that an asset is private property, they are treated as an individual asset.
Much like the division of assets, different laws can also apply in relation to spousal maintenance. According to Swedish law, generally the individual will not receive spousal maintenance after the divorce, only in some exceptional cases. This is because the Swedish system is set up to allow both parents to work, due to the affordable childcare system in place.
For married couples, the standard starting point is joint custody, where the child will spend two days with the mother, two days with the father, and 3 days alternating between the parents. Both parents are legal guardians after the divorce.
When a parent wishes to move to another country with the child following a divorce, the Swedish courts will allow this provided the partner has sought their ex-partner’s permission. If the ex-partner says no to this request, the partner is not allowed to move with the children. Swedish law will always look to act in the child’s best interest.
However, if the couple are just cohabiting, sole custody is usually awarded to the mother, who has to write to social services to confirm that she will allow the father to share custody also. Following a split, the guardianship is granted to the mother.
Alternate dispute resolution
Mediation is not that common in Sweden, however, social services can assist parents in relation to children involved within a divorce, such as how to co-parent successfully and more.
Parents can ask for “co-operation talks” at the social services. , which are usually the first step if the parents cannot communicate in matters regarding their children. However, the social services are overloaded with work and there may be a wait of one to two months before such talks can commence.
Meetings are usually one-hour sessions, held every two weeks or once a month.
Parents can participate in these co-operation talks for months with varying results.
When co-operation talks do not progress or if one party wants to move forward more rapidly, mediation is a better alternative.
Mediation is more concentrated than co-operation talks. Mediation has a time limit and must be concluded within four weeks. The mediation lasts for approximately 12 hours in total and are divided into three or four sessions.
A party can ask for a mediator when a case is lodged with the Court. The judge then decides if a mediator is needed and appoints a lawyer, social worker, or psychologist from the court’s list of mediators. It should be noted that no formal qualifications are necessary to be put on a list of mediators in Sweden. Therefore, in a cross-border divorce case, the parties would be well advised to ask for a trained mediator since such cases often are more complex than domestic cases.
It is most common to to work with a single mediator but the Court can also appoint two.
Mediation is not as common in Sweden as in many other countries, but this trend is shifting thanks to some active family judges, law firms and new rules (new Brussels II Regulation from August 2022).