Denmark introduces mandatory divorce course for parents seeking separation


COPENHAGAN: Gone are the days in Denmark when parents could get a divorce with a simple online click – now they have to complete a course before their marriage can be dissolved.

As part of a new divorce law that entered into force on April 1, parents with children under the age of 18 who want to end their marriage must take a 30-minute online course designed to help them and their children adapt as smoothly as possible to their new situation.

There is also a new three-month reflection period before a divorce is finalised.

With almost half of all marriages ending in divorce in Denmark, the course has been designed as an aid to improve communication and avoid some of the most common pitfalls that can arise when a family breaks up.

“The digital course answers some of the most fundamental questions that you are left with during a divorce,” Denmark’s Ministry of Children and Social Security told AFP in an email.

If parents fail to complete the course – which is available online or on a mobile phone app – within the three-month waiting period, the couple will remain married.

Set up by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, the programme has 17 modules offering concrete solutions to potential conflict areas, ranging from how to handle birthday parties to how to talk to your children when they’re upset.

Experts say the course is a good first step, but they would like to see divorcing parents offered even more counselling.

“It’s a good start,” Trine Schaldemose, the deputy head of family help association Moedrehjaelpen, told AFP, saying an online course was an “easy and cheap decision”.

But, she noted, it’s only helpful “if the conflict level between parents is not too high”.

Joint custody rising:

In 2018, the Scandinavian country registered 15,000 divorces, or 46.5 percent of marriages recorded last year, according to Statistics Denmark.

The country has long been a champion of children’s and family rights, offering year-long parental leaves and universal public daycare.

Last year, around 70 percent of children lived together with both their parents, compared to 85 percent in 1980.