Divorce in Sweden: Everything you need to know in 2024




If you’re living in Sweden as a foreigner and facing the prospect of divorce, it’s important to arm yourself with information. This article aims to guide you through the intricacies of divorce in Sweden, from legal requirements to emotional well-being.

We’ll delve into the Swedish legal system, discuss how spousal support and child custody are determined, and talk about property division. We’ll also consider the emotional toll divorce can take and point you toward resources to help manage the stress.


  • Divorce in Sweden emphasizes fairness, with specific legal requirements for filing.
  • Initiating the divorce process often involves a “cooling-off” period, especially if children are involved.
  • Spousal support is less common in Sweden due to societal values of gender equality and autonomy.
  • Legal representation can be invaluable, especially for foreigners unfamiliar with the Swedish legal system.
  • Cultural considerations like open dialogue and equality influence the divorce process in Sweden.
  • After the divorce finalization, both practical and emotional steps must be taken to adjust to the new life phase.

Legal Requirements for Filing for Divorce in Sweden

Understanding the legal aspects of divorce is crucial, especially when you’re in a foreign country. The rules may differ significantly from what you’re accustomed to, and understanding these nuances can make the process smoother. In Sweden, certain requirements must be met before you can file for divorce.

Eligibility Criteria

First and foremost, you must be legally married to file for a divorce. This might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning, as different countries have different forms of partnerships that might or might not qualify as marriage under Swedish law. In addition, at least one spouse must be a resident of Sweden or be a Swedish citizen for the Swedish courts to have jurisdiction over the divorce.

The Reflection Period: “Betänketid”

Sweden has a unique legal requirement known as “betänketid,” or a reflection period, which aims to ensure that both parties have ample time to contemplate the decision to divorce.

If there are children under the age of 16 involved, or if one party does not consent to the divorce, a reflection period of six months is imposed before the divorce can be finalized. During this time, the couple remains legally married. After six months, either party must file again to proceed with the divorce.

Initiating the Divorce Process

Embarking on the path to divorce is never easy, and it often comes with a mix of emotions like sadness, anxiety, and sometimes relief. In Sweden, the process of initiating a divorce is designed to be as straightforward as possible, but it still requires attention to detail and an understanding of the legal steps involved. Here’s how to begin your journey through the Swedish divorce system.

Submitting a Petition to the Swedish District Court

The first formal step in the divorce process is to submit a petition for divorce to the Swedish District Court (“tingsrätt”). The petition can be jointly submitted if both parties agree to the divorce. If one party does not agree, the other can still file a unilateral petition.

The document must include basic information about the marriage, such as the names of both spouses, their personal identification numbers, and any common children. It should also specify whether spousal support or child custody is being sought.

Required Documentation

In addition to the petition, certain documents need to be submitted to the court. These may include:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Proof of Swedish residence or citizenship for at least one spouse
  • Identification documents for both parties
  • Any prenuptial agreements, if applicable

All documents that are not originally in Swedish must be translated by a certified translator. This is particularly important to note for foreigners who may have important documents in other languages.

After submitting the necessary forms and documents, the court reviews them and, if everything is in order, initiates the reflection period if applicable. At this point, the court may also make preliminary decisions on urgent matters like child custody or spousal support, pending the final divorce.

Spousal Support and Child Custody

When a marriage ends, the legal and emotional components often intertwine in complex ways. Questions about spousal support and child custody are not just legal issues; they are deeply personal and can carry a significant emotional weight. In Sweden, laws around these topics aim to be as fair and equitable as possible, taking into consideration the well-being of all parties involved.

Spousal Support

In Sweden, spousal support, or “underhållsstöd,” is not as commonly awarded as in some other countries. It’s generally considered that each individual is responsible for his or her own financial support following a divorce.

However, there are circumstances where spousal support may be granted, such as when one spouse has sacrificed career opportunities for the benefit of the family, or in cases where there is a substantial difference in the spouses’ income levels.

The amount and duration of spousal support are determined based on factors like each party’s ability to support themselves, their standard of living during the marriage, and the length of the marriage itself.

Child Custody

The well-being of children is a paramount concern in Swedish law, which emphasizes the child’s right to a close and good relationship with both parents after a divorce. If parents can’t come to an agreement regarding custody, the court will make a decision based on what is considered to be in the child’s best interests.

Various aspects are considered, such as:

  • The child’s own wishes, depending on their age and maturity
  • The child’s need for a stable and secure environment
  • Any risks of harm or abuse to the child

It is common for parents to share custody, but sole custody can be awarded if it’s deemed to be in the child’s best interests.

Child support, or “underhållsbidrag,” is generally paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, to cover the costs of the child’s living expenses. The amount is usually determined through an official calculation that takes into account the non-custodial parent’s income, among other factors.

Related: Child benefits in Sweden

Property Division

The division of property in a divorce is often one of the most complicated and sensitive aspects of the process. Homes, financial assets, and even personal belongings can carry emotional weight and signify different things to each person involved.

In Sweden, the legal principles guiding the division of property aim to be as fair and impartial as possible, but they can also be complex, especially if you’re not familiar with the Swedish legal system.

Rules Around Property Division

In Sweden, the general rule is that marital property is to be divided equally between the spouses upon divorce. Marital property usually includes assets that were acquired during the time of the marriage for the couple’s joint use or benefit.

It’s important to note that gifts or inheritances specifically intended for one spouse are not generally considered marital property unless they were used for the family’s common benefit.

The Process of Property Division

Once a divorce is underway or finalized, either spouse can request a division of property, also known as “bodelning.” This is a formal process where the assets and liabilities of both parties are listed and valued. Following this, the marital property is divided equally, unless there are exceptional reasons for an unequal division.

Here are some key steps often involved in the process:

  • Inventory: Both spouses list their assets and debts.
  • Valuation: Assets are valued, typically at the market value at the time of the division.
  • Division: Assets are divided equally, or as close to equally as possible.

If you and your spouse can agree on how to divide the property, you can submit a written agreement to that effect. If not, the court will decide. Given the complexity of property valuation and division, legal advice is often recommended.

Prenuptial Agreements

If you have a prenuptial agreement, Swedish courts will generally respect it, provided it was properly executed and is not considered unfair or discriminatory. Such agreements can specify which assets will be considered individual property and thereby excluded from the division.

Legal Representation

Navigating a divorce is a complex endeavor that goes beyond emotional readiness; it also requires legal literacy.

Role of LawyerProvides legal advice, represents your interests, helps with paperwork
Benefit for ForeignersHelps navigate language barriers and cultural nuances
How to Find a LawyerRecommendations, online directories, embassy listings
Importance of Client-Lawyer RelationshipChoose someone you’re comfortable with; discuss fees upfront

While Swedish divorce laws aim to be straightforward and fair, understanding the legal jargon, especially if you’re not fluent in Swedish, can be a formidable challenge. That’s where legal representation comes in.

The Role of a Lawyer in the Divorce Process

While it’s not mandatory to have a lawyer to file for a divorce in Sweden, legal representation can be incredibly helpful, particularly in cases involving spousal support, child custody, or property division. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and responsibilities, guide you through the legal processes, and represent your interests in court if necessary.

Why Legal Counsel is Beneficial for Foreigners

For foreigners, there are additional layers of complexity. Translating legal documents, understanding cultural nuances, and even knowing where to start can be confusing. A lawyer who is familiar with the Swedish legal system and also speaks your language can serve as an invaluable guide through the labyrinth of legalities and formalities.

Finding and Choosing a Lawyer

If you decide to seek legal representation, you’ll want to choose a lawyer experienced in family law and, if possible, one who understands the unique challenges faced by foreigners in Sweden. Here are some tips on how to find a lawyer:

  • Ask for recommendations from people you trust.
  • Check online directories of lawyers specialized in family law.
  • Consult your home country’s embassy or consulate for a list of English-speaking lawyers.

The lawyer-client relationship is a deeply personal one. Don’t hesitate to meet with multiple lawyers to find one with whom you’re comfortable. Costs can also vary widely, so it’s advisable to discuss fees upfront to avoid any surprises later.

Cultural Considerations

Divorce is not just a legal process; it is an emotional journey that occurs within a specific cultural context. In Sweden, the approach to divorce is often guided by societal values such as equality, autonomy, and mutual respect. These values not only impact the legal proceedings but also the emotional experience of navigating a divorce in Sweden. It’s important to understand these cultural nuances to make the process as smooth as possible.

Gender Equality and Autonomy

Swedish society places a strong emphasis on gender equality and individual autonomy. This is evident even in the divorce process, where spousal support is less common than in many other countries. The expectation is that both partners are equally capable of supporting themselves financially after a divorce. This cultural mindset may differ from what you are accustomed to and can influence aspects like spousal support and child custody arrangements.

Open Dialogue and Cooperation

Swedes generally value open communication and cooperation, particularly when children are involved. Collaborative discussions for the well-being of the children are encouraged, and joint custody is commonly awarded. Understanding this cultural perspective can help you navigate interactions with your spouse and the legal system, particularly when it comes to child custody arrangements.

Social Support Networks

Sweden has a robust social welfare system and offers various forms of support for individuals going through life changes such as divorce. This includes psychological support services, parenting courses, and assistance for children to help them cope with the emotional stress of a divorce. Being aware of these resources can provide an extra layer of support during this challenging time.

Stigma and Social Perceptions

Divorce carries less social stigma in Sweden compared to many other cultures. The focus is often on the well-being of the individuals involved rather than adhering to societal norms or traditions. While this might alleviate some of the social pressures surrounding divorce, it’s essential to remember that every individual’s emotional journey is unique.

Emotional Well-being

Embarking on a divorce is not just a legal separation; it’s a highly emotional and often stressful life event. In Sweden, where societal values lean towards rationality and open communication, the emotional aspects of a divorce are by no means overlooked. Acknowledging the emotional toll and taking steps to safeguard your well-being is essential in navigating this significant life change.

Acknowledging Your Emotions

First and foremost, it’s crucial to give yourself permission to feel. Whether you are experiencing relief, sadness, anger, or a complex mix of emotions, acknowledging your feelings is the first step toward emotional healing. Ignoring or suppressing emotions can lead to longer-term psychological issues, including depression and anxiety.

Seeking Professional Help

In Sweden, psychological support services are readily available, both privately and through the public healthcare system. You may benefit from talking to a therapist or counselor who can provide professional insights and coping mechanisms. This is particularly relevant if you find yourself struggling to handle the emotional aspects of divorce.

Support Groups and Peer Support

Sometimes, talking to someone who has been through a similar experience can offer comfort and practical advice. Sweden has a range of support groups and forums, both in-person and online, that can provide a sense of community and shared understanding. These can be especially helpful if you are a foreigner and far away from your traditional support networks.

Taking Care of Your Physical Health

Emotional well-being is closely tied to physical health. Exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can significantly affect your emotional resilience. Even simple activities like taking a walk in one of Sweden’s beautiful natural spaces can be a form of emotional therapy.

Involving Your Children

If children are part of the equation, their emotional well-being is equally important. Encourage open dialogue with them and consider seeking professional help if they show signs of stress, anxiety, or depression. Sweden offers child-focused support services to help them cope with the emotional toll of a family breakup.

Next Steps After Finalization

When the legal proceedings come to an end and your divorce is finalized, it can bring a mixture of emotions—relief, sadness, or even a feeling of emptiness. While this marks the end of one chapter, it also signifies the beginning of another.

Moving forward involves both practical steps and emotional adjustments, and understanding what to expect can help you navigate this new phase with greater ease.

Updating Personal Documents

One of the first practical tasks is updating your personal documents to reflect your new status. This might include changing your name back to your maiden name if you wish, updating bank accounts, and modifying any other legal or official documents. For foreigners, this may also involve notifying your home country’s embassy or consulate.

Financial Reorganization

Your financial landscape will likely look quite different post-divorce. Budgeting as a single individual, transferring assets, closing joint accounts, and potentially selling property are all steps you may need to take. If spousal or child support has been determined, setting up the appropriate payments is crucial.

Parenting Plans

If you have children, establishing a stable routine as quickly as possible is vital for their well-being. Clear communication with your ex-spouse about parenting responsibilities, visitation schedules, and other day-to-day details can help make the transition smoother for everyone involved.

Emotional Recovery

Emotionally, the finalization of a divorce can be both liberating and challenging. You might experience a newfound sense of freedom along with feelings of loneliness.

It’s a time for self-discovery, for re-evaluating your goals and what you want in this new chapter of your life. Support from friends, family, and possibly a therapist can be incredibly helpful during this time.

Re-entering the Social Scene

While there’s no “right time” to begin socializing or dating again, re-entering the social scene is a step you might consider eventually. Sweden’s open societal norms mean less stigma around divorce, which might make this transition somewhat easier. However, always go at your own pace and consider what feels right for you.

Continued Communication with Your Ex-Spouse

If you have children or shared responsibilities, your relationship with your ex-spouse will continue in some form. Sweden’s cultural emphasis on open dialogue and cooperation can serve as a model for how to maintain a civil relationship moving forward, particularly for the sake of your children.

The journey doesn’t end when the legal process does. A divorce is a significant life change that requires adjustments on multiple fronts. Whether you’re dealing with logistical concerns or emotional healing, taking each step deliberately and thoughtfully can make all the difference in this new chapter of your life.


  • The Swedish Bar Association: Provides a searchable directory of lawyers, including those who specialize in family law.
  • Legal Aid Offices: Found in most major cities, these offices offer free or low-cost legal advice, sometimes even in English.
  • BRIS (Children’s Rights in Society): Provides support for children experiencing emotional difficulties.
  • Fryshuset: Offers various programs aimed at children and adolescents, including those going through family transitions.
  • Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan): Provides information about child support and parental benefits.
  • Budget and Debt Counseling: Available in various municipalities, these services can help you reorganize your finances post-divorce.

SFI (Swedish for Immigrants): While not directly related to divorce, improving your Swedish language skills can make it easier to navigate legal documents and other aspects of Swedish life.


As our Lifestyle Coordinator, Erik is the go-to resource for all things related to living and thriving in Sweden. He was born and raised in Stockholm and knows the city like the back of his hand.

2 thoughts on “Divorce in Sweden: Everything you need to know in 2024”

  1. It was very important news that will help everyone who will take a decision to get a divorce however, the one question in my mind is , if the immigrants get divorce may the immigrants lose his right to live and work in Sweden? What action will Swedish immigration take with them who are living here based on his marriage like spouse? I hope I will get my answer in my email.

    • Thank you for your comment. In Sweden, the right to live and work can be affected by a divorce, especially for those whose residence status is tied to their marital relationship with a Swedish citizen or a permanent resident. If you are in Sweden on a spouse visa and get divorced, your right to stay may be re-evaluated by the Swedish Migration Agency. It’s crucial to seek legal advice or contact the Swedish Migration Agency directly to understand how your specific situation may be impacted and to explore your options.


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