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Marriage and relationships

People of the opposite sex or two people of the same sex can enter into a marriage. Marriage has legal consequences for the spouses in a number of areas.

Marriage
A marriage is entered into when the parties to the marriage come together before a solemniser of marriage. When both are present, they must declare that they wish to enter into a marriage together. The solemniser then declares them to be married. Before the parties can marry, the national registry authorities (the Tax Office) must verify that they comply with the conditions in the Marriage Act.

Registered partnerships
The Registered Partnerships Act, which entered into force on 1 August 1993, gave a homosexual couple the right to enter into a registered partnership. A registered partnership has largely the same legal consequences as a marriage. 

The Registered Partnerships Act was repealed when the Marriage Act was passed. This means it is no longer possible to enter into new registered partnerships. The parties can convert an existing registered partnership into a marriage if both request this. They must then send written notice to the Tax Office.

A registered partnership that is not converted into a marriage will remain in force. A registered partnership entered into abroad under foreign law may still be recognised according to Norwegian law.

Cohabitation
The legislation does not generally treat cohabitants and spouses as being the same. Cohabitants are treated as spouses in some areas and as single people in other areas.  

Whether or not cohabitants are to be equated with spouses is determined within the respective set of rules. The same applies to who is to be considered a cohabitant (the definition of a cohabitant). In some areas, the definition is restricted to cohabitants who have children together. Cohabitants without children together are also included in other areas, but it is normally a requirement that there has been cohabitation for a certain period of time. 

The Children Act equates cohabitants with spouses. Among other things, this applies to the establishment of parental responsibility, the rights and duties of children and parents in the case of disputes between parents and access arrangements. Cohabitants who together have children under the age of 16 must also attend mediation proceedings in the event that cohabitation is terminated. In order to be entitled to the extended child benefit (child benefit for one child more than the actual number of children) following cohabitants breaking up, a mediation certificate must be presented. 

The general rule in the area of finances is that each of the parties in a cohabitant relationship is considered single. The regulatory framework is based on the cohabitants being able to regulate their financial affairs though agreements.

Unlike spouses, cohabitants have no duty to provide reasonable maintenance for one another. Cohabitants with children together are entitled to a limited inheritance from one another and to remain in undivided possession of their estate. This also applies to cohabitants who have had or are expecting a child together. Cohabitants who do not have children together have no right of inheritance under law. This is stipulated in the Inheritance Act.

Family welfare
The family welfare offices offer assistance to anyone who needs to talk about difficult situations a family may be facing. The service is free of charge and readily available. You can book an appointment yourself and a doctor’s referral is not necessary. 

The family welfare office provides advice and guidance regarding cohabitation problems, either to the entire family, to couples or to people who are single. One can receive help with continuing in a relationship or assistance in connection with a breakup or separation/divorce.

The service encourages clients to seek help at an early stage to avoid the conflicts from becoming entrenched. There are family welfare offices in all Norwegian counties.

Pursuant to the Marriage Act and Children Act, the family welfare office must also provide parental mediation. Many family welfare offices also carry out preventive work focussed on the general public in the form of information services, lectures, guidance etc. 

The family welfare offices are staffed by inter-disciplinary teams at specialist level, principally psychologists and social workers with further education in family therapy. 

  • More information about the family welfare offices can be found at their website.

Relationship initiatives
The intention of relationship initiatives is to support couples and, among other things, involves creating a safe and stable upbringing for children. The government provides support for various initiatives to support relationships. 

Local relationship courses and development initiatives in the area of relationships
The purpose of relationship courses is to support relationships, both for cohabitants and spouses and, among other things, to create a safe and stable upbringing for children. There is also an allowance for courses for ex-partners who have children together and for course leader training in established and knowledge-based courses. 

The development work is primarily focussed on the specialist content of the course. Voluntary organisations, municipalities, family welfare offices, institutions and others can apply for funding. Funding is not given to private individuals or initiatives that are operated on a commercial basis. 

Children with disabilities
Parents who have children with disabilities often face major challenges relating to the child’s disability, the relationship with the support services, other siblings in the family, living together, relations, work life and, not least, reactions and feelings.

“What about us?” (relationship course for couples) and “What about me?” (course for single parents) are nationwide services offered to parents who have children with disabilities. The courses are meeting places where parents can share experiences, relevant knowledge and facts about life in these types of family situations. 

Couple courses for first time parents
“Living well together” is a couple course for first time parents. The intention of the course is to provide inspiration and support to new parents during a period in which their relationship faces major challenges. The objective of the initiative is to reduce relationship conflicts and avoid breakups. The municipal health clinics are responsible for arranging the service. Parents can sign up for the course at the website of the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs.

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