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Last update: 05-04-2006
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Maintenance claims - Finland

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1. According to Finnish legislation, what do the concepts “maintenance” and “maintenance liability” consist of? Who is liable to pay maintenance to another person and under what circumstances?

A child is entitled to maintenance from the parents. If a parent neglects to maintain a child or if the child does not live permanently with a parent, the parent can be ordered to pay maintenance to the child.

Parents have no right to claim maintenance from their child.

When married, both spouses should contribute to the household finances and maintenance, according to their financial capacities. If divorced, the divorced spouse is liable to pay maintenance to his/her ex-spouse, if the spouses entered into such an agreement and the local social welfare authority validated it. When granting a divorce, the court of justice can order one spouse to pay maintenance to the other if necessary.

If a spouse does not fulfil his/her duty to pay maintenance or if the spouses are separated, a spouse can be ordered to pay maintenance to the other spouse.

The provisions on spouses are also applied to the parties of a registered partnership.

In other types of relationships, the parties have no duty to maintain one another.

2. Until what age is a child entitled to maintenance?

A child is entitled to maintenance from the parents until the age of 18. The parents are responsible for the costs incurred by education even after the child has turned 18 if deemed reasonable.

3. What cases can Finnish legislation be applied to?

3. 1. Child Maintenance

In child maintenance cases, the applicable law is determined on the basis of whether the child was born in wedlock or out of wedlock. If the child was born in wedlock, the applicable legislation is that of the country the child is a citizen of. If the child was born out of wedlock, Finnish law is applied.

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3. 2. Spousal Maintenance

In spousal maintenance cases, the applicable law is that of the country of residence of the spouse entitled to maintenance. Applicable law not-withstanding, when determining the amount of maintenance, the claimant’s need for maintenance and the ability to pay of the person liable for payment should always be taken into account.

4. If Finnish legislation cannot be applied, which legislation is applied by the Finnish courts of justice?

4. 1. Child Maintenance

See 3. 1. If the law of a foreign country would normally be applied but, according to that country's law, another country’s law must be applied, the law of the latter country is applied. If no solution is found in the legislation of the foreign country, Finnish law is applied.

4. 2. Spousal Maintenance

See 3. 2. In maintenance right cases, the applicable law is that of the country of residence of the spouse entitled to maintenance. However, if the law of a foreign country is applied, the provisions of that law which concern private international law are not applied.

If both the claimant and the person liable for payment are in Finland:

5. Should the claimant go to a specific organisation, authority (central or local) or court of justice to claim maintenance?

If the claimant and the person liable for payment reside in Finland, they can contact the local social welfare authority for assistance in drawing up a maintenance agreement.

If a maintenance case is in dispute, the claimant or the party liable for payment can file the case in a local lower court.

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5.A. How do I claim maintenance at this organisation/authority (central or local) and what are the procedures?

5.A.1. Child Maintenance

If the parents want to draw up an agreement in writing on the child maintenance and request that it be validated by the local social welfare authority, they must draw up the agreement on a form certified by the Ministry of Justice. These forms are available at the local social welfare office. Upon request, the authority assists the parents in drawing up the agreement and filling in the form.

A maintenance case becomes pending in the court of justice when the application for a summons is filed. (See “Commencement of Action in a Court of Justice - Finland”.)

5.A.2. Spousal Maintenance

The spouses can draw up a free-form agreement in writing and request that the local social welfare authority validate it. Upon request, the authority will assist the parents in drawing up the agreement.

A maintenance case becomes pending in the court of justice when the application for a summons is filed. (See “Commencement of Action in a Court of Justice - Finland”).

6. Can maintenance be applied for on behalf of a relative or a minor?

6. 1. Child Maintenance

In a maintenance case, a child is represented by his/her custodian or other legal representative. The custodian can authorise another person to exercise the child's right to be heard in a maintenance case.

6. 2. Spousal Maintenance

A spouse can authorise another person to exercise the spouse's right to be heard in a maintenance case.

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7. If the claimant wants to file the case in a court of justice, how does he/she know which court of justice has the competent jurisdiction?

7. 1. The court of justice with the competent jurisdiction in child maintenance cases

The court of justice with the competent jurisdiction is described in section 14 of the Act on Child Maintenance. A maintenance action must be brought in the court of justice corresponding to the domicile of the custodian or the legal representative. If the custodian or legal representative does not have a domicile in Finland, the maintenance action must be held in the court of justice of the previous domicile of the custodian or legal representative. If, on the basis of the above-mentioned section, there is no court of justice with competent jurisdiction, section 23, subsection 2 of the International Family Law Act is applied, according to which the case is heard in the court of justice of the permanent place of residence of the child or, if the child does not permanently reside in Finland, in Helsinki District Court.

If the maintenance claim is made in connection with a custody or paternity suit, the maintenance claim can also be heard in the court of justice where the first claim is filed.

7. 2. The court of justice with the competent jurisdiction in spousal maintenance cases

The court of justice with competent jurisdiction is described in chapter 10, section 10, subsection 3 of the Code of Judicial Procedure. According to the said subsection, a case regarding a spouse’s obligation to pay maintenance to the other spouse must be commenced in the court of justice corresponding to the domicile of one of the spouses.

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8. Does the claimant need an intermediary (lawyer, specific organisation or authority; central or local) to file the case in a court of justice? If not, what procedures should he/she follow?

The applicant has the right to file the case without intermediaries (See “Commencement of Action in a Court of Justice - Finland”).

9. Is there a fee for the court hearing? If so, what are the charges? If the claimant has insufficient funds, is financial aid available for the legal expenses?

The court hearing is subject to a fee. The court of justice charges a fee whose amount (70-200 Euros) depends on the court instance and the need for proceedings. (District Court Fees) .

The applicant’s right to legal aid is provided by the Legal Aid Act (See “Legal Aid - Finland”). An applicant living abroad can also be entitled to legal aid in a maintenance case on the basis of a specific reciprocity agreement. Finland has entered into such agreements with certain states of the U.S.A. and Canada.

10. What type of maintenance can be ordered by a court of justice? If the maintenance is paid periodically, how is it calculated? Can a court of justice judgment be reassessed if living costs or family circumstances change?

10. 1. Child Maintenance

Child maintenance is regulated by the Child Maintenance Act.

As a rule, maintenance is payable in cash on a monthly basis and in advance, unless otherwise agreed or stipulated. As an exception, a maintenance payment can be established as a lump sum. A maintenance payment can also consist of movable property or real property.

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There is no table setting the amount of child maintenance payments in Finland. The amount of maintenance is determined individually. According to section 1 of the act, a child has the right to adequate maintenance. Adequate maintenance consists of the satisfactory fulfilment of the child’s material and non-material needs, necessary care and education and any costs incurred thereof. According to section 2 of the act, the parents are responsible for the child’s maintenance based on their financial capacity. When assessing the parents' ability to pay, their age, work ability, possibility for gainful employment, available funds and other legal maintenance duties are taken into consideration. When assessing the extent of the parents' maintenance duty, the child’s ability and possibility to maintain his/herself are also taken into account, as are any circumstances in which child maintenance does not incur any costs to the parents, or the costs are minimal.

Due to rises in living costs, an automatic increase applies to maintenance paid periodically. The automatic increase is provided in detail by the Act on Raising Certain Maintenance Payments to Reflect Living Costs.

The amount and payment method of validated maintenance can be adjusted by agreement or judgment, if the circumstances that are considered when validating maintenance have changed remarkably. These adjustments must be considered reasonable and must take into account both the child and the liable parent’s circumstances. A maintenance agreement can be amended if it is considered to be unreasonable.

10. 2. Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance is provided by the Marriage Act. In Finnish legal practice, it is rare for a spouse to be obliged to pay maintenance to the other spouse. As a rule, after the divorce, the spouses support themselves.

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Maintenance can be confirmed payable until further notice or for a period of time stipulated by an agreement/decision/judgment. However, the liable party can be ordered to pay maintenance in a lump sum if the liable party’s financial circumstances and other factors justify it. Maintenance can also be paid in movable property or real property.

Due to rises in living costs, an automatic increase applies to maintenance paid periodically. The automatic increase is provided in detail by the Act on Raising Certain Maintenance Payments to Reflect Living Costs.

A decision or judgment passed by a court of justice, or an agreement between the spouses can be amended if it is deemed necessary due to a change in circumstances. However, a decision, judgment or agreement stipulating that the maintenance be paid in a lump sum cannot be amended after the maintenance has been paid. An agreement on maintenance between the spouses can be amended if the agreement is considered to be unreasonable. According to the law, the duty to pay maintenance periodically ceases to be valid if the person entitled to maintenance remarries.

11. How is the maintenance paid, and who receives it?

11. 1. Child Maintenance

Child maintenance is paid to the child’s custodian (deposited in a bank account specified by the custodian).

11. 2. Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance is paid directly to the spouse entitled to maintenance (deposited in a bank account specified by him/herself).

12. If the person liable for payment does not make the payment voluntarily, what ways are there to enforce payment?

12. 1. Child Maintenance

If the person liable for payment does not make the payment voluntarily, the child’s custodian should contact the local social welfare authority. The authority has the right to take action to enforce the collection of maintenance payments. If within a reasonable period of time set by the authority, the person liable does not pay the arrears and due instalments, the authority must, according to the law, take immediate action to collect the payments by distraint.

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12. 2. Spousal Maintenance

If the spouse liable neglects to pay the maintenance stipulated by a court of justice or in an agreement validated by the social authority, the person entitled to maintenance can request that a bailiff enforce the agreement or decision/judgment as provided by the Execution Proceedings Act.

13. Is there an organisation or an authority (central or local) that can help me to collect the maintenance?

13. 1. Child Maintenance

If the person liable does not pay the validated maintenance, the person entitled to maintenance can request assistance from the social welfare authority to collect the maintenance. The authority will arrange to collect the maintenance payments in conjunction with the execution authority.

13. 2. Spousal Maintenance

The spouse entitled to maintenance must request the collection of maintenance arrears from the execution authority. The execution authority assists in making the request.

14. Can the authorities pay part or all of the maintenance on behalf of the person liable for payment?

14. 1. Child Maintenance

If the person liable does not make the validated maintenance payment, the local social welfare authority can pay child support. The amount of this maintenance support is €118. 15/month per child (decree 1094/2001). An application must be filed to receive this support.

14. 2. Spousal Maintenance

A spouse is only entitled to receive maintenance from his/her spouse.

If the claimant is in Finland and the person liable for payment resides in another country:

15. Can the claimant receive assistance from a Finnish organisation or authority?

15. 1. Child Maintenance

Upon application, the local social welfare authority can pay child support to a child living in Finland (see question 14. 1. ). In conjunction with the person entitled to maintenance, the local social authority can contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and request that the Ministry take action in order to collect the maintenance payments from the party living in another country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will then contact the relevant authority in the country in question.

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15. 2. Spousal Maintenance

The spouse is only entitled to receive maintenance from his/her spouse. The spouse entitled to maintenance can contact the execution authority in order to clarify whether the spouse living abroad has any property in Finland which could be distrained upon as stipulated by the Execution Proceedings Act. The spouse entitled to maintenance can also request that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assist him/her in collecting maintenance payments from another country.

16. If so, which organisation or authority (central or local) should be contacted, and how?

The contact information for the local social welfare authority can be found in the telephone directory or by calling Directory Enquiries on 118. When calling Directory Enquiries, the caller must specify the municipality of the social welfare authority they would like to contact. There are approx. 460 municipalities in Finland.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs call centre: +358 (0) 9 160 05.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Consulate fax number: +358 (0) 9 160 55755

and

e-mail: oik-32@formin.fi.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs home page is at the Internet address.

17. What type of aid is available from the organisation or authority (central or local) ?

If the person liable for payment neglects to pay maintenance to a child, the child has the right to request child support from the local social welfare authority (child support is, according to decree 1094/2001, €118. 15/month per child) An application must be filed to request maintenance. The application can be presented by the custodian or legal representative of the child, or by the person who is actually caring for the child. A 15-year-old child can present the application him/herself, if he/she lives independently. This child support does not affect the liable person’s duty to pay maintenance in full. When the local social welfare authority has made a decision to pay child support as a result of a party neglecting to pay maintenance, the authority has the right to collect all maintenance arrears from the person liable for payment.

If the person entitled to maintenance (child or spouse) and the person liable for payment live in different countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can assist both parties and the competent authorities of the other country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot, however, pay maintenance on behalf of the person liable for payment. The Ministry of Affairs acts as a central authority as stipulated by the New York Convention of 20 June 1956 (New York).

If the applicant is in another country and the person liable for payment is in Finland:

18. Can the claimant approach a Finnish organisation or authority (central or local) directly?

A case of an applicant living in another country is processed most effectively if he/she contacts the competent central authority in his/her own country, who then contacts the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland.

19. If so, which organisation or authority (central or local) is contacted, and how?

See questions 16 and 18.

20. What type of aid is available from the organisation or authority (central or local) ?

The applicant (child or spouse entitled to maintenance) can request that the Ministry of Affairs ensure that a judgment, decision, or validated agreement on maintenance from another country is executed in Finland and that the maintenance acquired by way of execution proceedings is deposited in a bank account specified by the person entitled to maintenance or sent to him/her by cheque.

« Maintenance claims - General information | Finland - General information »

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Last update: 05-04-2006

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. According to Finnish legislation, what do the concepts “maintenance” and “maintenance liability” consist of? Who is liable to pay maintenance to another person and under what circumstances? 1.
2. Until what age is a child entitled to maintenance? 2.
3. What cases can Finnish legislation be applied to? 3.
4. If Finnish legislation cannot be applied, which legislation is applied by the Finnish courts of justice? 4.
If both the claimant and the person liable for payment are in Finland: If both the claimant and the person liable for payment are in Finland:
5. Should the claimant go to a specific organisation, authority (central or local) or court of justice to claim maintenance? 5.
5.A. How do I claim maintenance at this organisation/authority (central or local) and what are the procedures? 5.A.
6. Can maintenance be applied for on behalf of a relative or a minor? 6.
7. If the claimant wants to file the case in a court of justice, how does he/she know which court of justice has the competent jurisdiction? 7.
8. Does the claimant need an intermediary (lawyer, specific organisation or authority; central or local) to file the case in a court of justice? If not, what procedures should he/she follow? 8.
9. Is there a fee for the court hearing? If so, what are the charges? If the claimant has insufficient funds, is financial aid available for the legal expenses? 9.
10. What type of maintenance can be ordered by a court of justice? If the maintenance is paid periodically, how is it calculated? Can a court of justice judgment be reassessed if living costs or family circumstances change? 10.
11. How is the maintenance paid, and who receives it? 11.
12. If the person liable for payment does not make the payment voluntarily, what ways are there to enforce payment? 12.
13. Is there an organisation or an authority (central or local) that can help me to collect the maintenance? 13.
14. Can the authorities pay part or all of the maintenance on behalf of the person liable for payment? 14.
If the claimant is in Finland and the person liable for payment resides in another country: If the claimant is in Finland and the person liable for payment resides in another country:
15. Can the claimant receive assistance from a Finnish organisation or authority? 15.
16. If so, which organisation or authority (central or local) should be contacted, and how? 16.
17. What type of aid is available from the organisation or authority (central or local) ? 17.
18. Can the claimant approach a Finnish organisation or authority (central or local) directly? 18.
19. If so, which organisation or authority (central or local) is contacted, and how? 19.
20. What type of aid is available from the organisation or authority (central or local) ? 20.
 
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