Divorce in Denmark: Undertanding the process 2024





Peter Simonsen helps foreigners looking to explore life in Denmark. With a wealth of knowledge about the Danish culture and way of life, Peter helps newcomers adjust and thrive in their new environment.

Denmark has its own set of rules and processes when it comes to ending a marital bond. For many foreigners in Denmark, understanding these nuances becomes not just a legal necessity but also an emotional anchor, providing clarity during turbulent times.

This article aims to guide you through the intricacies of the divorce process in Denmark, offering insight and information every step of the way. Whether you're merely seeking to understand or find yourself at a crossroads, know that you're not alone, and resources abound.

Key Takeaways

  • There are specific grounds under which divorce can be granted in Denmark.
  • Divorce involves a well-structured legal process, from application to court decisions.
  • The financial aspects of divorce in Denmark involve asset division and potential alimony.
  • Children's welfare is paramount, with various custody arrangements considered.
  • Foreigners face additional layers in the divorce process, from residency to legal differences.

Understanding the Basics of Divorce in Denmark

Denmark, like many nations, has established a set of procedures and guidelines to oversee the dissolution of marriages. For someone unfamiliar with the Danish system, these might initially seem complex. Let's unravel these complexities together and delve into the foundational elements of divorce in Denmark.

Defining Divorce and Separation

In the Danish context, 'divorce' (skilsmisse) is the final legal termination of a marriage, freeing both partners to remarry if they wish. On the other hand, 'separation' (separation) is a step that can precede divorce.

It entails the partners living apart with the acknowledgment of the State Administration, but they are not free to marry others. For many, separation is a time of reflection and decision-making, determining if resuming the marriage or proceeding to a divorce is the best course of action.

Marriage vs. Registered Partnership in Denmark

Denmark was a pioneer in legally recognizing same-sex relationships through registered partnerships, introduced back in 1989. However, since 2012, same-sex couples have been able to get married, rendering the concept of registered partnerships obsolete for new couples.

Still, those who entered a registered partnership before 2012 have the option to retain that status or convert it into a marriage. It's essential to know that the process for ending a registered partnership is akin to that of a marriage dissolution.

Thus, for the purpose of clarity and simplicity in this discussion, references to 'marriage' also encompass registered partnerships, unless otherwise specified.

divorce in denmark

Grounds for Divorce in Denmark

The decision to end a marriage is deeply personal and varies from one individual to another. Denmark acknowledges this by offering multiple grounds on which a couple can seek a divorce. By understanding these grounds, one can make an informed choice that aligns with their situation and feelings.

Immediate Grounds

Certain circumstances allow for an immediate divorce application, bypassing the need for a prior separation:


If one partner has been unfaithful, the other partner can request an immediate divorce. The partner seeking the divorce is not required to provide detailed evidence, but a declaration of infidelity is necessary.


Physical or psychological violence against a partner or any children in the marriage is a valid ground for an immediate divorce. It's essential to prioritize safety, and seeking support from local authorities or organizations can provide protection during such times.


Being married to more than one person at a time is illegal. If it's discovered that a partner is already married to someone else, this is a valid ground for immediate divorce.


If one partner has left or abandoned the other without an agreement, it may be considered grounds for divorce.

After a Separation Period

In situations where none of the immediate grounds are present, couples often opt for legal separation first.

Mutual Agreement

If both partners mutually agree to end the marriage, they can first seek a legal separation. After living apart for six months, they can then apply for a divorce.

Unilateral Decision

In cases where only one partner wishes to end the marriage, the separation route is usually taken. Here, the couple must be separated for a full year before applying for divorce.

It's worth noting that during the separation period, partners are not free to remarry. It's a period designed to give couples space and time, ensuring that divorce is the right step forward for them.

The Legal Process of Divorce

Embarking on the path to divorce is not just an emotional journey but also a legal one. Denmark has laid out a structured process to ensure both parties' rights are considered and upheld. By understanding this process, one can navigate it with greater confidence and poise.

1. Application to the State Administration (Statsforvaltningen)

Every divorce, whether immediate or post-separation, begins with an application to the State Administration, the governing body overseeing family law matters.

For couples with children under 18, it's mandatory to attend a counseling session before the application is processed. These sessions, provided free of charge, aim to offer guidance on issues related to the children, such as custody, well-being, and communication between the parents.

2. Mediation Sessions

If both parties agree to the divorce but have unresolved issues, mediation sessions might be suggested. Mediation serves as a platform where couples, with the assistance of a neutral third party, can discuss and resolve disputes, ranging from child custody to property division.

  • Mediators in Denmark are specially trained professionals, ensuring conversations are productive and respectful.
  • It's a voluntary process, and either party can choose not to participate.

3. Court Procedures

If mediation doesn't lead to a resolution or if one party disputes the divorce, the matter might progress to court.

  • Before a court hearing, both parties will be encouraged, and in some cases required, to seek legal representation.
  • The court will consider all facets of the situation, including children's well-being, assets, debts, and any evidence presented.
  • After the court's deliberation, a decision will be made regarding the divorce and any associated matters. This decision is binding, though there are provisions for appeals in certain situations.

The Financial Implications

The decision to dissolve a marital bond carries with it not just emotional repercussions but financial ones as well. The intertwining of two lives often means shared financial responsibilities, assets, and perhaps debts. As you navigate the process of divorce in Denmark, it's essential to be aware of and prepare for its financial dimensions.

1. Division of Assets

In Denmark, the starting principle is that assets acquired during marriage are to be divided equally. However, there are nuances:

Individual property: Assets that were kept separate throughout the marriage, perhaps through a prenuptial agreement or those explicitly gifted to one person, are typically exempt from division.

Joint property: Properties like shared homes, cars, or other valuable assets acquired during the marriage are usually subject to division. The division can be either by selling the asset and sharing the proceeds or by one party buying out the other's share.

2. Alimony and Child Support

The well-being of both partners post-divorce is a concern, and as such, alimony may be a consideration:

Spousal Alimony: Depending on the financial disparity and the circumstances, one partner might be required to pay alimony to the other. The amount and duration vary based on individual situations but are generally meant to offer support until the receiving partner becomes financially self-sufficient.

Child Support: Children's well-being is paramount. If one parent is granted primary custody, the other may need to contribute a monthly amount for the child's care. The exact amount is determined by various factors, including the child's needs, age, and the financial situation of both parents.

3. Implications for Foreigners

For foreigners residing in Denmark, the financial aspects can be slightly more layered:

Non-Danish Bank Accounts: If there are shared assets or accounts in foreign banks, these might need consideration during the division of assets.

Assets in Other Countries: Property or other significant assets outside of Denmark should be disclosed and might be factored into the financial settlement, depending on their nature and relevance.

Children and Custody

Among the myriad of concerns and considerations that arise during a divorce, the well-being of the children involved often takes center stage. Their welfare, emotions, and future are of paramount importance. Denmark recognizes this and has established processes that prioritize children's best interests when determining custody arrangements.

1. Joint vs. Sole Custody

In Denmark, the emphasis is on the belief that it's generally in the child's best interest to have both parents actively involved in their lives post-divorce.

Joint Custody: This is the most common arrangement. Even if the child primarily resides with one parent, both parents have an equal say in significant decisions regarding the child's life, such as education, health, and religious considerations.

Sole Custody: In cases where it's deemed that the child's well-being might be at risk with one parent, or if one parent is unable to partake in the child's upbringing, sole custody might be awarded to the other parent. This means that the custodial parent will have the main responsibility and final say in most decisions about the child.

2. Rights of the Non-Custodial Parent

Even if one parent is awarded primary or sole custody, the non-custodial parent typically retains certain rights:

Visitation: Regular visitation schedules are encouraged and set up to ensure the child maintains a relationship with both parents.

Involvement: The non-custodial parent has a right to be informed and involved in significant aspects of the child's life unless specific circumstances dictate otherwise.

3. Process for Determining Custody

When parents cannot agree on custody arrangements, the decision goes through a legal process.

Evaluation: A child specialist might assess the home environment, the child's relationship with both parents, and any other pertinent factors.

Recommendation: Based on the evaluation and other inputs, a recommendation is made regarding custody that aligns with the child's best interests.

Court Decision: If an agreement still isn't reached, the matter can proceed to court. Here, all evidence is considered, and a binding decision on custody is made.

Key Considerations for Foreigners

Being a foreigner in Denmark during a life-altering process like divorce comes with its own set of challenges. Beyond the already complex emotions and decisions, there's an added layer of navigating a system that might not be innately familiar. Here are some pivotal considerations to keep in mind if you're a foreign national seeking divorce in Denmark.

Residency and JurisdictionEnsure at least one spouse has the required residency; consider where to file based on jurisdiction.
International Child CustodyFamiliarize with the Hague Convention and be cautious of potential travel restrictions with children.
Legal and Cultural DifferencesSeek specialized legal counsel and be aware of cultural nuances during proceedings.
Language BarriersFamiliarize yourself with the Hague Convention and be cautious of potential travel restrictions with children.

1. Residency and Jurisdiction

Before proceeding with a divorce in Denmark:

Residency Check: Generally, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident in Denmark for a certain duration. The specifics can vary, so it's prudent to verify with the State Administration.

Jurisdictional Issues: If you or your spouse has ties to another country, consider where the divorce should be filed. Jurisdiction can impact various aspects, from asset division to custody decisions.

2. International Child Custody

Custody battles can become more intricate when borders are involved.

Hague Convention: Denmark is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. If a child is wrongfully removed or retained across borders, the convention aids in their return.

Travel Restrictions: To prevent potential child abduction, travel restrictions can be placed. If you're considering moving or traveling with your child, ensure you have the necessary permissions.

3. Legal and Cultural Differences

Every country has its nuances when it comes to divorce.

Legal Counsel: It's beneficial to consult with a lawyer familiar with international divorces in Denmark. They can guide you through the legal intricacies tailored to your situation.

Cultural Sensitivity: Respect and understanding of Danish cultural norms can be invaluable. It aids in smoother communication and can impact perceptions during legal proceedings.

4. Language Barriers

Communicating in a non-native language, especially in legal situations, can be daunting.

Translation Services: For crucial documents or during mediations and court proceedings, consider hiring a translator to ensure clarity and understanding.

English Resources: Seek out resources, support groups, or counselors who cater specifically to English-speaking individuals. They can offer both emotional support and practical advice.

Finding Support in Denmark

Divorce is a transformative experience, often marked by a rollercoaster of emotions, uncertainties, and decisions. In these moments, having a support network can be invaluable.

In Denmark, a country known for its focus on the well-being and happiness of its residents, there are various avenues of support available for those navigating the complexities of divorce.

1. Counseling Services

Denmark offers an array of counseling services that cater to individuals undergoing divorce.

State-Provided Counseling: Especially for couples with children, the state offers mandatory counseling sessions to guide through the potential impacts on children and provide support for parents.

Private Therapists: Numerous trained therapists specialize in relationship transitions. They provide a space to process emotions, find coping mechanisms, and work towards emotional healing.

2. Legal Assistance

Understanding and navigating the legal side of divorce can be a challenge.

Legal Aid Services: Denmark provides some legal aid services to those who might not have the means to afford private legal consultation. This can be invaluable for understanding rights and the legal process.

Lawyer Referrals: Various organizations and platforms can connect individuals with lawyers specializing in family law and international situations.

3. Support Groups

There's immense strength in shared experiences.

Local Support Groups: Many local communities in Denmark host support groups where individuals can share their stories, challenges, and triumphs related to divorce.

Online Platforms: For those who might not be comfortable attending in-person sessions or for English speakers looking for a specific community, online support groups can be a sanctuary.

4. Integration and Community Centers

For foreigners, integration centers can be more than just places to learn the language:

Workshops and Seminars: Some centers host workshops on topics like divorce, single parenting, or adjusting to life changes in Denmark.

Community Connection: These centers can also be a way to connect with others in similar situations, fostering friendships and bonds that can be supportive during challenging times.

5. Resources for Children

Children, too, can find the divorce process challenging.

Child Therapists: Specially trained to assist children in processing their emotions and adjusting to changes.

School Counselors: Schools in Denmark often have counselors or support systems in place to help students navigate personal challenges.

Life's challenging chapters, like divorce, are undeniably tough. However, in Denmark, there's a robust network of support waiting to be tapped into. By reaching out, seeking assistance, and connecting with others, one can find the strength, guidance, and hope to transition gracefully into the next phase of life.



Peter Simonsen helps foreigners looking to explore life in Denmark. With a wealth of knowledge about the Danish culture and way of life, Peter helps newcomers adjust and thrive in their new environment.

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