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Last update: 23-10-2006
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Parental responsibility - Sweden

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. What does the legal term "parental responsibility" mean in practice? 1.
2. Who in principle has parental responsibility for a child? 2.
3. If the parents are unfit or unwilling to exercise parental responsibility, can any other person be appointed in their place? 3.
4. If the parents divorce or separate, how is the question of future parental responsibility resolved? 4.
5. If the parents conclude an agreement on parental responsibility, what requirements must be satisfied in order for the agreement to be legally binding? 5.
6. If the parents cannot reach agreement on parental responsibility issues, what alternative methods exist for settling disputes out of court? 6.
7. If the parents take the matter to court, what issues can be decided by the judge as far as parental responsibility is concerned? 7.
8. If the court decides that one parent is to have sole custody, does that mean that he or she can decide all matters relating to the child without consulting the other parent? 8.
9. If the court decides on joint custody, what does this mean in practice? 9.
10. To which court should I apply if I wish to bring a legal action concerning parental responsibility? What formalities have to be fulfilled and what documents have to be enclosed? 10.
11. What form of hearing is used in such cases? Is there an option of a quicker hearing if delay would result in danger? 11.
12. Can I obtain legal aid in order to cover the costs of the proceedings? 12.
13. Is it possible to lodge an appeal against a decision on parental responsibility? 13.
14. In certain cases may it be necessary to apply for enforcement of a decision on parental responsibility? In such cases, to which court must I apply and how is the matter dealt with? 14.
15. What must I do in order to have a decision on parental responsibility delivered in another Member State recognised and enforced in Sweden? 15.
16. To which court must I apply in order to oppose recognition and enforcement of a decision on parental responsibility that has been delivered by a court in another Member State? What form of hearing is used in such cases? 16.
17. Which law is applied to matters of parental responsibility if the child or parties do not live in Sweden or have a different nationality? 17.

 

1. What does the legal term "parental responsibility" mean in practice?

Parental responsibility means matters connected with custody of a child, the child's residence and access to the child.

Custody means legal responsibility for the child's person. The person who has custody of a child has a right and an obligation to decide matters relating to the child's personal circumstances, e.g. where the child is to live and the school that the child is to attend. The person who has custody of a child must ensure that the child's needs in terms of care, security and a good upbringing are satisfied. The person who has custody of the child is also responsible for giving the child the necessary supervision, having regard to their age, development and other circumstances, and must ensure that the child is given satisfactory provision and education.

2. Who in principle has parental responsibility for a child?

In principle, custody of a child rests with the child's parents or one of the parents.

If the parents are married, they are automatically awarded joint custody of the child at birth. Even if the parents divorce, joint custody continues to apply as a rule. However, if one of the parents wishes for a change in custody, the court may, if it is considered to be in the child's best interests, terminate joint custody and award sole custody.

If the parents are not married, the mother is automatically awarded sole custody. However, the parents may obtain joint custody by a simple registration procedure. The father may also bring proceedings to obtain joint custody or sole custody of the child.

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3. If the parents are unfit or unwilling to exercise parental responsibility, can any other person be appointed in their place?

In certain cases, one or two specially designated custodians may be appointed. This happens inter alia if, in exercising custody, the parents are guilty of abuse or neglect or other deficiencies in care for the child which mean that there is a danger to the child's health and development.

4. If the parents divorce or separate, how is the question of future parental responsibility resolved?

If one of the parents wants a change in custody, the question of custody may be decided by a court. If the parents are agreed on a change, they can settle the matter by agreement, without the involvement of a court. In order to be valid, such an agreement must be approved by the social welfare committee.

The same applies to the questions of which of the parents the child is to live with and how access for the other parent is to be organised.

In divorce proceedings, moreover, the court must, in the absence of a claim, award custody of the child to one of the parents if joint custody is manifestly incompatible with the welfare of the child.

5. If the parents conclude an agreement on parental responsibility, what requirements must be satisfied in order for the agreement to be legally binding?

The agreement must be in writing and signed by both parents. It must also be approved by the social welfare committee in the municipality where the child is registered.

6. If the parents cannot reach agreement on parental responsibility issues, what alternative methods exist for settling disputes out of court?

Cooperation discussions. Municipalities are responsible for ensuring that parents are offered cooperation discussions with a view to reaching agreement on custody, residence and access.

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7. If the parents take the matter to court, what issues can be decided by the judge as far as parental responsibility is concerned?

The court can decide on

  • custody (sole custody or joint custody),

  • the child's residence (which of the parents the child is to live with or if the child is to live alternately with each of the parents) and

  • access to the child (for a parent who does not live with the child).

The court can also decide maintenance contributions for the child.

8. If the court decides that one parent is to have sole custody, does that mean that he or she can decide all matters relating to the child without consulting the other parent?

If a parent has sole custody, that parent alone decides matters relating to the child's person. However, the parent must of course comply with any decisions on access to the child by the other parent.

This does not mean that the opinion of a parent who does not have custody would be unimportant. In adoption matters, for example, the opinion of a parent who does not have custody must be heard before the court decides on the adoption.

9. If the court decides on joint custody, what does this mean in practice?

Joint custody means that the parents must decide matters relating to the child together. The basic precondition is that the parents must agree on all matters concerning the child. Disagreements on access and the child's residence may, however, be decided by the court (see above).

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10. To which court should I apply if I wish to bring a legal action concerning parental responsibility? What formalities have to be fulfilled and what documents have to be enclosed?

Matters of custody, residence and access are raised in the district court in the place where the child is habitually resident. Matters of custody can also be dealt with in divorce proceedings.

A summons application must include information on the parties, a specific claim, the background to the claim, information on the evidence that is being relied on and the facts or arguments supported by each piece of evidence, and information on the circumstances that give the court jurisdiction. Written evidence that is relied on should be lodged together with the application.

11. What form of hearing is used in such cases? Is there an option of a quicker hearing if delay would result in danger?

Matters of custody, residence and access are non-discretionary.

In principle, matters of custody, residence and access must be heard promptly. The court may make an interim order on custody, residence, access and maintenance. An interim order applies until the matter has been settled by a decision having legal force.

Even though there is therefore no specific formal procedure for particularly prompt hearings of custody matters etc., an assessment is made in each individual case how urgent the case is.

12. Can I obtain legal aid in order to cover the costs of the proceedings?

In custody, residence and access cases, the general rule is that each party must bear its own costs.

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Legal aid may be granted if the necessary conditions are satisfied.

13. Is it possible to lodge an appeal against a decision on parental responsibility?

Yes, an appeal may be lodged against the decision on parental responsibility taken by the district court.

14. In certain cases may it be necessary to apply for enforcement of a decision on parental responsibility? In such cases, to which court must I apply and how is the matter dealt with?

Questions of enforcement are dealt with by the county administrative court. Normally, an application for enforcement is made to the county administrative court in the county where the child lives or resides.

15. What must I do in order to have a decision on parental responsibility delivered in another Member State recognised and enforced in Sweden?

In certain cases, the Brussels II regulation applies. The application for a declaration of enforceability is made in Sweden at Svea Court of Appeal.

In other cases, for countries that have acceded to the 1980 Luxembourg Convention, the decision applies in this country and may be enforced here upon request if the decision constitutes a basis for enforcement in the State where it was delivered. The application for enforcement is made in such cases to the county administrative court.

16. To which court must I apply in order to oppose recognition and enforcement of a decision on parental responsibility that has been delivered by a court in another Member State? What form of hearing is used in such cases?

Provision is made in this regard in the Brussels II regulation.

Otherwise, oppositions against the applicability or enforceability of a decision may be made in cases where the question arises. It is also possible to obtain a declaration from the district court that a decision does or does not apply in Sweden.

17. Which law is applied to matters of parental responsibility if the child or parties do not live in Sweden or have a different nationality?

The general principle is that the law of the country where the child is habitually resident is applied.

« Parental responsibility - General information | Sweden - General information »

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Last update: 23-10-2006

 
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