Family law is the section of civil law regulating the family’s legal status and the rights and obligations between the family members. We deal with all types of family law issues, both Swedish and international. We can assist in various financial matters, e.g. prenuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, co-ownership agreements, gifts, division of property issues and issues concerning maintenance to ex-spouse as well as maintenance allowance to children. We also work with issues of child custody, residence and visitation rights between children and their parents. In these matters, we also have employees wo undertake assignments as mediators.
We can provide legal counselling and drafting of documents as well as assist in any legal disputes regarding this area of the law. As for international matters, different countries’ legislation might be applicable to separate parts of the matter, which we are well prepared to help bring to clarity.
When someone wants to give their property to someone else, it may be necessary to draw up a deed of gift. For the gift to be valid, certain procedural requirements are stipulated, depending both on the character of the property in question and the recipient of the gift.
In addition to the stipulated procedural requirements, other issues may arise concerning gifts, for instance whether or not the gift shall be considered to constitute an advance inheritance and/or if the gift shall constitute the recipient’s private property. The donor might also wish to stipulate other conditions regarding the gift, as for instance restrictions for the recipient to sell, mortgage or give away the thus received property without the donor’s consent. It is important that the legal effects of various conditions associated with the gift are considered and clearly stated so that no future conflicts arises as a result of the terms or its legal effects.
A well formulated and carefully considered deed of gift drawn up in accordance with the procedural requirements may prevent uncertainty and counteract possible future conflicts. Our recommendation is therefore to always have an experienced lawyer assist in establishing a deed of gift. We regularly provide our clients with such assistance in establishing and registering deeds of gifts.
Division of property
Division of property refers to the distribution of assets between spouses or cohabitants that is usually required at the dissolution of marriage or cohabitation. The main principle is that such division shall be made by a written agreement between the spouses or cohabitants. In this situation, a need for legal assistance for each of the parties often occurs. This is especially true if the parties have opposing views as to how the division shall be made. We are often trusted to assist one of the parties in these matters.
If the spouses or cohabitants are unable to agree either on their own or with legal assistance, the court may appoint a so called Estate Distribution Executor. We are appointed as such on a regular basis. The Estate Distribution Executor’s assignment is to make the parties agree on how to divide the property and, if such agreement cannot be reached, decide in the matter in dispute and divide the property between the spouses or cohabitants.
A division of property is usually necessary also when a marriage or cohabitation is dissolved by the death of one of the spouses or cohabitants. In most cases, the division is handled within the estate administration. Ref our section on Succession law.
A prenuptial agreement is a contract between spouses or prospective spouses in which it is determined whether the property belonging to or accruing to one of the spouses shall be his private property. A prenuptial agreement can be entered during a marriage or before a marriage. What distinguishes private property is that it shall not be part of a future division of property, meaning the property to be divided upon divorce or the death of either spouse, see our section Division of Property.
A prenuptial agreement should clearly specify what property the spouses agree shall constitute each spouse’s private property, so that upon a division of property, it is clearly stated what assets are to be included in said division. If not sufficiently specified, the stated property, or its possible return, can cause future disagreements and disputes.
When a spouse dies, a prenuptial agreement may also be relevant to the deceased’s heirs, who are normally not involved in forming the agreement. A well formulated and carefully thought out prenuptial agreement can prevent confusion and counteract possible future conflicts. Our advice is to always seek experienced legal assistance when establishing a prenuptial agreement. We are experienced in these matters.
An equivalent to married couples’ prenuptial agreement is the cohabitation agreement for cohabiting couples. When a cohabitation relationship ends for any reason other than the cohabitees marrying each other, the cohabitees’ jointly owned property is distributed between them by a division of property if requested by one of the cohabitees, see our section on Division of property. A cohabitation agreement is a contract between cohabitants or prospective cohabitants in which it is determined that certain property shall not be included in the division of property, or that a division of property shall not take place. A cohabitation agreement may be needed, for example in the case where only one of the cohabitees have acquired the property which is intended to be the cohabitees common residence, or in the case where both cohabitees have jointly, but not evenly, paid for the residence.
Cohabitees may also own property other than the residence and household goods in common, i.e. on a joint ownership basis. In these cases it may be necessary to establish a joint ownership agreement, governing the cohabitees’ rights and obligations with respect to the co-ownership. It is particularly important in cases where only one of the cohabitees is recorded on the purchase agreement of the jointly acquired property.
If not properly regulated in a cohabitation agreement or a joint ownership agreement, these questions can lead to confusion and possible future conflicts. Our opinion is therefore that cohabitation agreements and joint ownership agreements should always be drawn up with experienced legal assistance. We undertake such assignments regularly.
Custody, residence, visitation and child support
The term custody refers to who has the legal responsibility for the child and who can make vital decisions regarding the child, such as where the child shall live, where it shall go to school etc. The general rule is that the parents have joint custody of the child, but sole custody can also occur, i.e. that only one parent has custody.
The custodians of the child make decisions about the child’s residence and civil registration. If the parents have joint custody, the decisions are made jointly. If a parent has sole custody he/she decides where the child shall live and where it shall be registered. A child can live with one parent or alternate between both parents.
When the child lives with only one parent, an agreement regulating how to arrange the child’s visitation rights with the other parent is needed. It is the child who has visitation rights with the other parent and it is also the child’s need for contact that should govern the agreement on visitation rights, as opposed to the parents’ need.
In addition to the need for a visitation rights agreement when the child lives with only one parent, the parent not living with the child shall pay child support for his/her child. The size of the child support depends both on the needs of the child as well as the parents’ total finances.
In cases where the parents can jointly agree on child custody, residence and visitation rights as well as on how much child support shall be paid, there may be a need to regulate these agreements in a contract. If not documented in a clear and well thought out manner, these issues can lead to confusion and possible future conflicts between the parents. Our advice is that a written agreement is drafted and that it is done with experienced legal assistance. We are happy to help in these matters.
If the parents cannot amicably settle questions as mentioned above, as well as cooperate in matters concerning custody, residence, visitation rights and child support, the local municipality department for family law can arrange so-called cooperation talks in order to find a good solution for all parties.
If the parents still cannot agree, it is ultimately the District Court who decides in these matters. Before you turn to the District Court to apply for a decision, it is our recommendation that you have legal counsel representing you and who caters to your interests. We assist in such situations.
Alimony to spouse
Although less common in Sweden, in some situations after a divorce, a spouse is entitled alimony from the other spouse. Even during a marriage, certain obligations between spouses may need to be performed through alimony, for example in the case of separate residence.
In marriages between spouses involving the legislation of other countries, alimony can be of great financial importance, which might be worth considering when examining if divorce proceedings should be initiated in another country.