Divorce in Finland – 6 things to take into account
This blog post begins a 4-part series on issues relating to a divorce in Finland. The aim of these posts is to clarify the process and any consequences of a divorce. Please note that these posts are written on a very basic, general level. Should you need more specific help in your specific situation, you may contact Sanna Svahn or make an appointment with her.
Part 1: Divorce in Finland – 6 things to take into account
Part 2: Divorce in Finland – What happens when you have children?
Part 3: Divorce in Finland – How can I protect my assets before filing for a divorce?
Part 4: Divorce in Finland – How is our matrimonial property divided?
1 – Applicable law – when does a Finnish court have jurisdiction
When the following requirements are met, you may file for a divorce in Finland:
- Either you or your spouse are domiciled or habitually resident in Finland.
- You as a petitioner were domiciled in Finland or have some other close link to Finland; and obtaining a divorce in the your spouse’s country would cause unreasonable inconvenience; and admitting the matter to be handled in Finland would be justified taken into consideration the circumstances in your case.
2 – Language of the proceedings
The process very rarely includes a physical hearing as the process is normally undertaken entirely on written materials (petition, appendices, written evidence, emails, etc). You will, however, need to petition in either Finnish or Swedish. For this you may have an English document translated, but the official documents are always required in either Finnish or Swedish.
The actual petition is in most cases very straight forward and simple. In international cases it may need some further evidence or reasoning on why the Finnish court in question has jurisdiction to handle the petition.
3 – Timeline
Once the petition has been filed at the courts (if jointly petitioned) or once the petition has been served by the court on the other spouse (if one spouse only petitions), this will start a six (6) month reconsideration period. Before this period has elapsed, the spouses may not file for the final phase of the divorce.
The final phase of the divorce must be filed within one year of the start of the reconsideration period or the divorce proceeding lapses. In this case, if the divorce proceedings are to be initiated again, a new petition must be issued and a new reconsideration period will begin.
Exception to the reconsideration period
If you have lived separately for the last two (2) years, then you may immediately be granted a divorce without the reconsideration period.
4 – Grounds for divorce
The court does not examine the grounds for divorce and there is no such a provision in the Marriage Act either. The only requirement, in addition to the applicable jurisdiction and that the marriage is valid, is that the petition has been filed by either party or together.
5 – Important dates and their effects
Assuming that there is no agreement to the contrary, Finnish laws shall apply also to the matrimonial property regime. Accordingly, there are 3 main dates and events to take into consideration during your divorce proceedings.
a) Date when the petition is filed at court
This is the day when the assets and liabilities of both parties are to be listed. The actual start date of the reconsideration period may start later and it has no effect on the date as to when the property is listed. This in effect means that there is no financial gain in trying to avoid being served the petition.
Oftentimes the respondent spouse may try to hide their assets from being listed and thereby being excluded from the financial inventory and as a result try to avoid the bailiffs and postpone the date of serving. This of course does not bring the desired results.
This date also enables a legally valid marriage settlement agreement to be signed and also the marital property to be divided. Before the date when proceedings have started, any such an agreement would have to be re-signed after the proceedings have been initiated.
b) The date of marriage settlement agreement
This is the date around which the assets, other than bank accounts, are valued. So even though the assets and liabilities are listed based on ownership at the time of the initiation of the proceedings, the valuation is considered and at times updated closer to the date when the settlement agreement is signed.
This is to protect the parties from any increase in the value of any property due to a delayed divorce process. However, this may also result in a decrease in the value as often is in case of publicly held shares.
c) The date when the final divorce is granted
This is the date when any rights to claim compensation arises for the use of jointly owned or one’s solely owned property. Before this, any such use is considered in most cases to fall under the spousal maintenance rules.
6 – What you should do next?
Instead of attempting to save costs or to use a DIY – service, it is always strongly advisable to seek legal advice in international cases where you don’t either know the Finnish law, you are being pressured into signing a document the consequences of which you don’t really understand, or simply if you just want to make sure your rights are being protected. Even if just to get clarity and advice on the main issues and what to consider in your specific case.
How to contact us?
In the next blog post in this series we will consider what things to take into account when children are involved.