Custody of minor children in a cross-border family situation

Children and young people are under the custody of one or more guardians until they turn 18

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If you have custody of your child, it is your responsibility to provide for and take care of the child until they reach the age of 18. This means, among other things, that you shall care for the child and ensure they have food, clothes, housing, etc. You are also obliged to protect the child from threats of any kind, and you shall make sure that all of the child’s needs are covered.

If you and the child’s other parent have joint custody of the child, then your decisions shall be made jointly, and you shall mutually take care of the child. However, joint custody does not mean that you must make all decisions jointly. The parent with whom the child has their official address or lives most often is the parent who independently makes a large number of decisions.

If you have sole custody, then you decide what the child will and will not do. For example, you decide the child’s name, where they will live, where they will go to school, their religion, and everything else of significance for the child.

When you have or share custody of a child, you are also a guardian of the child. In other words, you are responsible for the child's income and any assets until they reach the age of 18.

When you as parents break up, separate, or divorce, there are no changes with regard to custody. In other words, if you had joint custody of your child before the split, you also have joint custody after the split. And if one of you had sole custody of your child, then that remains the case.

Custody is not necessarily tied to the child’s residence. In other words, even if one of you has sole custody, the child may well reside with the other parent. You can also have shared visitation, meaning that the child spends equal time with each of you.

It is possible to change the custody, i.e. from joint custody to sole custody or from sole custody to joint custody. In special cases, it may also be transferred to a third party.

If you as parents are in agreement, you can decide for yourselves which of you shall have custody of your child.

You can change the custody from sole custody to joint custody, from joint custody to sole custody, and transfer custody from one parent to the other.

The agreement shall be notified to the Agency of Family Law on a specific form in order to be valid. The form shall be signed by both of you. Once we have received the notification, we will send you a confirmation of receipt. Once you have received the confirmation of notification receipt, the agreement is valid.

You can submit notification of a change in child custody by using one of the following digital forms:•

  • Notification of agreement on joint custody
  • Notification of agreement on termination of joint custody
  • Notification of agreement on transfer of custody from one parent to the other

You and the other parent of the child can also agree that someone other than you parents shall have custody.

If you need help with your parental cooperation and to reach an agreement that works well for your child, you can contact the Agency of Family Law. For example, you may disagree about where the child shall live or you may be uncertain about who shall have custody. If you want help from the Agency of Family Law, you shall complete and submit the form ‘Application for change of custody’. You can use the form to describe what you need help with.

When the Agency of Family Law receives your request, we will assess how we can best help you. In the vast majority of cases, you will be called in for a meeting so that you can get guidance, counselling by a child expert, or conflict mediation, so that you yourselves can find good solutions for your child. Initially, we will try to help you reach agreement on a solution. It’s always best for your child if you find a solution with which you can cooperate. As part of the process, we may also have a conversation with the child.

If you do not manage to come to an agreement on who shall have custody or where the child shall live, you may request the Agency of Family Law to forward the case to the courts. Such request shall be made no later than four weeks after we have closed the case. The Agency of Family Law cannot make final decisions on custody or residence, only the courts can.

If we determine that there is a need to do so, we can decide which of you shall have interim custody or residence. You must be aware that the courts can only dis counselling solve joint custody if you are deemed incapable of cooperating in the best interests of the child.

If you as parents disagree about custody, the child’s residence, or visitation, the Agency of Family Law handles the case and helps you find a solution. The Agency of Family Law considers the child’s perspective and in some cases will also speak with the child.

If your child is at least 10 years of age, they can independently request the Agency of Family Law to call you in for a meeting to change, for example, custody and the child’s residence. This is called the child’s right of initiative.

Visitation and custody are not directly related to each other. A child has a right to both parents, and it is your responsibility as parents for the child to have a good relationship with both of you. You can therefore still see your child even if you do not have custody of them. The child can even spend equal time with each of you without a joint custody arrangement.

In most cases, the parents reach visitation agreements on their own. If you cannot come to an agreement, you can get help from the Agency of Family Law.

If you and the other parent are in agreement that you shall have joint custody of your child, you shall submit a notification of joint custody. The form is a notification of an agreement and can only be used upon agreement.

Remember that custody cannot be sought if paternity has not yet been established.

Notification of termination of joint custody

If you and your child’s other parent have joint custody, you can agree to terminate it. If you agree on which of you shall have sole custody going forward, then you can fill in a form. 

Notification of transfer of custody from one parent to the other 

If one of you has sole custody of your child, you can agree to transfer custody to the other parent. If you agree on which of you shall have sole custody going forward, then you can fill in this form. 

Apply for change of custody – If you are a parent of the child 

You can apply for a change of custody, if you are a biological parent of the child.

Apply for change of custody – If you have a different relationship to the child 

You can apply for a change of custody, if you have a different relationship to the child.

When the Agency of Family Law makes a decision on visitation, the child’s residence, or custody, the decision states how you can appeal against it.

You shall send an appeal to the Agency of Family Law no later than four weeks after you have received the decision. Once the Agency of Family Law has received your appeal, we pass it on to the Family Court.

The Agency of Family Law may also decide to reopen the case if:

  • The appeal contains an application on which the Agency of Family Law has not taken a position
  • The appeal contains significant new information
  • The case contains significant information on which the Agency of Family Law has not taken a position
  • There have been procedural errors, which potentially have a bearing on the decision.

You cannot appeal against:

  • The Agency of Family Law’s registration or noting of an agreement cannot be brought before the Family Court, but the Agency of Family Law can instead reopen the case.
  • The Agency of Family Law’s decisions on access to documents by virtue of the Public Administration Act or the Danish Open Administration Act cannot be brought before the Family Court. However, the Agency of Family Law shall resume processing the request for access to documents.
Last updated: 12 December 2020