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Mikä on perhe?

What is a family?

The Finnish concept of a family is narrower than that of many other countries. Parents and children form a family, but a childless couple is also a family in Finland. A family is also formed by a single parent and their children.

Definition of a family

A family in Finland is formed by

  • spouses
  • common-law husband and wife
  • under 18-year-old unmarried child or children and their guardian or guardians living in Finland

In Finland, a family is most often considered to consist of the nuclear family, i.e. the parents and children. For example, if grandparents, parents and children live together in the same home, officially only the parents and children form a family. The grandparents are a separate family of their own.

A family may include children or a childless couple can form a family. The adults of a family can be of the opposite or same sex. A family can also consist of a single mother or father and his or her children.

A stepfamily refers to a couple that has a child or several children from the couple’s previous relationships living with them. The couple may also have children together.

If you are divorced, you can remarry without the permission of your previous spouse. According to Finnish law, you do not need permission from your previous spouse to remarry even if you have had children together.

Rainbow families

Rainbow families are families of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender parents and their children. They include, for example, families with same-sex parents and families that have more than two parents.

If spouses of the same sex are married, they have the right to adopt a child or carry out an adoption inside the family. Adoption inside the family means that a spouse adopts the child of his or her spouse and officially becomes the second parent of that child. In Finland, a child can have no more than two legal guardians.

If you are planning an adoption inside your family, contact the social services office of your municipality.

The Rainbow Families Association is an association that supports and advises rainbow families and organises activities for them. Contact information can be found on the website of the association.

Maintenance liability

According to Finnish law, parents are obliged to take financial care of their underage children and spouses of each other. Maintenance liability for family members does not extend to other relatives, such as grown-up siblings or grandparents. In Finland, private people are not expected to look after their relatives who are in a poorer financial situation than they are. The necessary support is given by the society in the form of social security.

A couple’s relationship

A couple can choose whether they want to live together in a common-law relationship or in a marriage. It is worth noting that the form of a relationship has an influence on the spouses’ rights and obligations, property and inheritance issues, as well as the custody, maintenance and adoption of a child.

Advice in family matters

The Family Federation offers phone and e-mail counselling when you need to discuss issues related to bringing up children or family relationships. The phone services are available in the following languages:

Kurdish (Sorani), Dari, Persian tel: 050 325 6450

Russian and English tel: 050 325 7173

Read more on the InfoFinland web page Bringing up children in Finland.