New rules for divorcing parents in Denmark

Two parents walk with their child between them holding their hands. One of them pushed a pushchair. They are viewed from the back, walking through a park during a sunny, early autumn day

writer icon Peter Karlsson     Mabel Amber   |   Culture     🕐 13. Dec. 2018

As of April 1st 2019, parents seeking to divorce in Denmark will be required to take an obligatory course before their divorce can be granted.

The course is designed to ensure that parents consider what divorce looks like from a child’s perspective. It also addresses how the adults should communicate with one another during and after the divorce period.

Delivered via an app
This course is called Cooperation after Divorce (Samarbejde Efter Skilsmisse or SES). It is entirely digital and can be completed on a smartphone via an app. The entire process is supposed to take around thirty minutes.

It is based on an already existing and tested digital platform that has been developed by researchers from the University of Copenhagen. Results from testing by the university showed that divorcing parents who follow the course report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

This compulsory process has come about as part of the law reform surrounding divorce in Denmark. Today, a married couple can decide to divorce, fill in an online form, pay the required 350 DKK and then have everything finalised within one week. 

Divorce statistics in Denmark are high compared to the rest of Europe. Figures for 2017 showed that 47% of marriages end in divorce. This is down from a peak of 53% back in 2013, but it is still almost one in every two marriages. 

Three months to reflect
After April 1st 2019, parents will no longer be able to divorce so quickly. Instead, they will go through a period of reflection that lasts three months. During those three months, they will be expected to complete the digital course.

Also available in the app, alongside the course, is the opportunity to receive help from experts and have discussions with other parents. The aim is for people to talk to each other, and gain a better understanding of how the divorce can affect everyone, not just the married couple.

We know more
Swedish psychologist Anna Bennich told TV4, “we have increased quite a lot both in knowledge and focus on children during a separation”.

She was pleased to see the Danish app and course, particularly as it is based on actual research. She is hopeful that something similar will now happen in Sweden.

“We know how important it is, how we parents relate to children when it comes to different types of crisis”
, Bennich said.

The key element to the app appears to be encouraging communication, not discouraging divorce. There does not seem to be an agenda to bring down divorce rates.

Rather, there is a focus on promoting better contact between all parties, and in particular on improving the well-being of children of divorcing parents.

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