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23 Feb, 2014
Child Custody

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In Scandinavia, child custody is usually worked out between the parents and children. Money has a small or no influence on child custody decisions, because child support is a small, fixed amount to cover the basic needs of the child, not the needs of the parent.   The is no financial windfall if one parent obtains primary custody, because the amount of child support generally does not exceed the cost of raising the child. Moreover, shared custody arrangements are common.

The following is taken from the Swedish government publication “Swedish Courts“:

“If the parents are married with each other, they both have custody of the child.
If the parents get married after the child’s birth, custody normally becomes joint as of the marriage.
The joint custody also continues in most cases if the parents get divorced.”

The U.S. system, in contrast, creates perverse financial incentives to “win” primary child custody. In the U.S., the “primary custodial parent” is awarded an amount of money that is in proportion to the non-custodial parent’s income, even if this amount is in vast excess of what is needed to raise the child.  Moreover, the more custody time awarded to the custodial parent, the larger the child support payments. U.S courts have thus created a financial incentive for parents to fight over custody time.

By eliminating the financial incentive to “win” custody, the Scandinavians have taken the “fight” out of custody arrangements. Parents generally agree to a common sense arrangement that works for the family. Only rarely do Scandinavians hire lawyers or go to court because of a disagreement involving custody.


4 thoughts on “Child Support In Scandinavia

  1. This seems like a very sensible arrangement in Sweden. I would be interested to know what percentage of divorced Swedes are happy with the post divorce arrangements and compare this to the USA

  2. I wonder whether “Money has a small or no influence on child custody decisions, because child support is a small, fixed amount to cover the basic needs of the child, not the needs of the parent” means that it is a flat support figure per child or whether it is still tied to income ratios?

    That’s the problem in our country–even under a 50/50 arrangement, my husband was transferring $3000/month in child support each month to his x-wife for two kids–on top of forking out 60% toward child care, camp, tuition, and all their extracurricular activies. My husband has about $1,000 left over each month, after paying alimony, to cover 100% of his needs and the time the kids are in our home.

    This is transfer of wealth, pure and simple, and has nothing to do with the kids. The State collects their federal matching funds, themselves incentivized to keep payment amounts high so that they get higher matching funds.

    • In our view child support should not be tied to income levels. It should be the same, fixed amount for every child within an “economic zone”, be that a town, county, or state.

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