14 September 2011

Swedish families

In Sweden it is possible to constitute a couple in a number of different ways: as married people, as sambor (living together, but not married - this is what we are now), and as särbor (living apart and not married - one could say that Lisbeth and Tue were särbor until Lisbeth moved to California .. that was just before this blog started). All three options are gender neutral so what you choose to be is initially mostly about your personal attitude(s) towards marriage and the concept of living together.

But of course from a legal point of view it matters. As särbor you have no particular legal rights, as sambor only a few and as a married couple by far the most.

If for example you get a child together, the law in Sweden (as well as in Denmark) stipulates that the father of the child is the person the marriage points to. If you are married when the child is born Skatteverket (The Swedish Tax Agency) will automatically register both the father and mother, and just as automatically joint custody will be granted. If, on the other hand, you are not married Skatteverket will only register the mother of the child and she will initially get sole custody. Later on, it is the responsibility of the municipality to determine who the father is, at which point you can apply for joint custody. Naively we assumed these things would be formalities quickly dealt with...

Lidingö city hall

Our biggest problem was the timing. While all of our friends here in Sweden thought that it was downright fantastic that our daughter was born Midsummer's Eve itself, the fact remains that Sweden for practical purposes shuts down during the month of July. Thus it was around the beginning of August before we were contacted by Lidingö municipality. When we were finally able to book an appointment at city hall we were quite puzzled as to why they wanted to know the birth weight. It turned out that when establishing the fatherhood the municipality is required to inform the 'potential' father of the time of conception (calculated based on the date of birth and the birth weight) before he signs the form in the presence of 2 witnesses. All this feels a bit awkward when as a sambo you show up voluntarily to get registered as the father of your child - and not particularly useful when it comes down to the details as the calculated time of conception is given as a 6 week interval.

Only then did Skatteverket register the fatherhood and the joint custody, so that we finally were able to get on with our lives and apply for the acceptance and registration of the complete name of the child...

Most recently we've learned that the joint custody only is valid from the day Skatteverket registers it and not already from the birth of the child. In other words: after falling prey to a bout of municipal peeping (*) one still has to put up with 'only' being the father (with the all the privileges and duties that entails) as of a rather random date mostly influenced by both municipal and national slovenliness as well as the efficiency of the mail service.

(*) In Danish there's an excellent expression for municipal peeping, i.e. when authorities violate (or border on violating) your intimate privacy in the name of following rules and regulations: dyneløfteri, which literally translates as 'lifting of duvets'.

No comments: