A single-parent family is one where one of the parents lives with their children without a spouse. In this case, the parent may be a single parent or joint custody parent. A single parent bears the sole responsibility for their child’s upbringing. A joint custody parent agrees upon their child’s affairs with the other parent.
In joint custody, parents decide on many things together, including the child’s
- place of residence
- health care
- using the child’s property
Joint custody requires that the parents are able to work together for the best interests of their child. For example, a passport application must have both parents’ consent.
A single parent makes all the decisions concerning the child themselves. Authorities, such as the day-care centre and school, only give information about the child to the guardian. The other parent can, however, make decisions regarding the care and upbringing of the child when the child is staying with him or her.
When parents get a divorce, whether they are married or in a common-law relationship, they must decide on their children’s guardianship, maintenance, accommodation and visiting rights. Read more on the InfoFinland page Children in a divorce.
A child can also be adopted alone. Adoption is enacted in the Adoption Act. If you would like to adopt a child alone, ask the social services office of your municipality for advice.
The Association of Single Parent Families (Yhden Vanhemman Perheiden Liitto) offers information and organises activities for single parent families. You can find out about the Child Custody and Right of Access Act on the Finlex website.
The Single Parents’ Association is a civic organisation founded by single parents which offers activities for its member families.
Association of Single Parent FamiliesInformation for single parent familiesLink redirects to another website
Single Parents' AssociationActivities for single parent familiesLink redirects to another website
Child maintenance support
Both parents are responsible for the maintenance of their children under the age of 18, even if they no longer live together. When parents separate, they have to reach an agreement concerning the maintenance of their children and possible child maintenance support (elatusapu).
The amount of child maintenance support is calculated on the basis on the child’s maintenance needs and the parents' maintenance capacity. The child’s maintenance needs refer to the sum of money that is needed to support the child on a monthly basis. It includes, for example, food and clothing costs and possible day care fees. The child’s maintenance needs are divided between the parents in accordance with their maintenance capacity. Maintenance capacity is calculated by subtracting taxes and other obligatory costs from the parent’s income. You can ask your municipality’s child welfare supervisor (lastenvalvoja) to help you calculate the amount of child maintenance support.
It is advisable to make a written agreement on child maintenance support and have the Social Welfare Board confirm this agreement. An agreement confirmed by the Social Welfare Board is just as official as a court decision. Ask a child welfare supervisor of your municipality to provide you with the Social Welfare Board confirmation.
If parents cannot reach an agreement concerning child maintenance support, they can ask family mediation to help. Ultimately, the matter will be solved in a district court. More information on family mediation is available on the InfoFinland web page Divorce.
Child maintenance allowance
In some situations, the parent who is living with the child can apply for child maintenance allowance (elatustuki) from Kela.
You can apply for child maintenance allowance from Kela in the following situations:
- You are entitled to child support from the other parent, but they have not paid it.
- Child support has not been confirmed because the other parent’s income is low.
- The confirmed child support is lower than the child maintenance allowance due to the other parent’s low income.
- You have adopted a child alone.
- The child was born out of wedlock, the father has not been confirmed, and the child does not have two parents with maintenance obligations.
- The child was born into the marriage of the mother and her female partner, but the child does not have a confirmed father and the mother’s partner has not adopted the child.
You can receive child maintenance allowance if you live permanently in Finland. You may also receive child maintenance allowance if you have come to Finland to work from another EU or EEA member state or Switzerland. A child who resides permanently in Finland or stays temporarily abroad for a maximum period of 6 months is entitled to child maintenance allowance.
You can ask Kela for more information on child maintenance allowance.