Sweden and Divorce

Sweden likes being ranked at the top – from happiness levels to rates of divorce.

February has been themed all around love this month. We’ve talked about dating, marriage, and babies. Now it only seems fitting to discuss the other side of the coin: divorce (skilsmässa).

While marriage rates are down in Sweden, divorce rates are up. In fact, they are the highest here in all of the European Union. According to Statistics Sweden, around one in two marriages ended in divorce in 2018. And that figure has remained mostly unchanged over the past two decades.

So why is divorce so prevalent in Sweden? Three reasons: it is cheap, easy, and safe.

A divorce costs 900 SEK (~$100 USD) in Sweden. Yep, that’s it. Cheaper than renewing your passport.

A Swedish divorce is also relatively easy to request. If both partners want the divorce and neither has custody of a child under 16, you just file a joint application form and send it to the district court in the region where you are registered. The processing time is a few weeks. And there is no need to provide a reason for divorce on the form.

If one partner does not want to get divorced, or if at least one of them has a child aged under 16, you must enter into a six-month wait (similar to a separation in the US). After this period of reflection you can file a second application for the divorce. Interestingly, apparently many partners choose to select the box for the six-month period of reflection even if they agree on filing for divorce, and end up getting back together before the second request is filed.

A divorce is also “safe” in Sweden. In that, I mean that you are protected and cared for by the government. Regardless of your marital status, you can’t inherit someone else’s debt or mortgage in Sweden, but if you inherit things that aren’t fully paid off (like an apartment you jointly still owe a mortgage on), you have to make sure that all debts are paid before you can keep what’s left.

Divorce is also made easy here in part because of the strong emphasis on gender equality. Women in Sweden are less financially dependent on men (yay!) so divorce among heterosexual couples feels more stable for the women. The protection provided by social welfare in Sweden makes child-rearing cheaper, education free, and jobs extra protected. So it is easier to go it alone and not depend on a spouse.

And because of all of the above, Swedes are opting to divorce (att skilja sig) more than ever, and Covid-19 hasn’t helped things.

In 2019 a total of 25,408 divorces were completed in Sweden, according to national number-crunchers Statistics Sweden, who said last month that the number of divorces in the first half of 2020 were at their highest level since 2013 – the year when more people got divorced than any other year during the new millennium.

Similarly, joint applications for divorces have increased 7% during the pandemic, with 15,497 applications submitted between and including January to August.

Where is divorce most likely? Ockelbo in Gävleborg county, topped the list with 3.7 divorces per 1,000 residents. Second were the Stockholm suburbs Gnesta and Sundbyberg with 3.6 divorces each. Your best chance for a lasting marriage is in Nordmaling in Västerbotten county. In 2018, the rates here were just 0.8 divorces per 1,000 residents. I find this surprising considering the limited sunlight during the majority of the year in northern Sweden. I would have guessed that people there would have been more fed up with partners as they are inside together so often! However, the dating pool is much more limited in Northern Sweden, perhaps making the pickin’ slim for a possible “replacement”.

With a divorce rate that is the highest in the European Union, maybe the secret to happiness is leaving unwanted marriages? The Swedes, at least, seem to think so.

Fun Facts:

  • In 2018, the most common age group for divorces in Sweden was from 40-44 years. There were 7,766 divorces in this age category alone of the year.
  • The second and third age groups are 45-49 years and 35-39 years, respectively.
  • The average length of marriage has been decreasing over the last years. A Swedish marriage lasted on average 11.3 years in 2018, until the couple divorced.
  • Sweden’s divorce rate is the highest in the EU.

Tess’ Tips:

  • As we learned in this post, there is no need in Sweden to rush into a marriage (or to get married in general). So take your time in deciding! And if it doesn’t work out, know that divorce is an easy and cheap option here!

Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!

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