If a child's parents are not married at the moment of the child's birth, paternity is declared by acknowledgement. The child welfare officer of the mother's place of residence handles issues relating to affiliation and declaration of paternity. The child welfare office receives a notice of each child born out of wedlock in their municipality. Based on this notice, the parents of a child born out of wedlock receive convocation for a paternity investigation. The parents may also arrange an appointment on their own initiative for a paternity investigation.
The acknowledgement of paternity officially confirms the family relationship between father and child. If there are unclarities regarding the paternity, the paternity is established through a legal DNA paternity test, which aims at ensuring the biological paternity of the man concerned. If the legal DNA paternity test is carried out before the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, the test will be free of charge. The test DNA sample can only be taken at an authorized physician and with a referral by the responsible child welfare officer.
Once paternity has been declared, the child can be given the father's family name. Once paternity has been confirmed by the Civil Registry, the child will have the same equal legal rights as children born in wedlock.
The law on child custody and meeting rights defines the issues having to do with children's maintenance, guardianship and meeting rights.
The goal of child custody is to guarantee a balanced development and well-being on children while also considering their individual needs and desires. The main idea of guardianship is to ensure positive and close relationships especially between children and their parents. The parent or guardian has the right to make decisions about child care, upbringing, living place and other personal matters regarding the child. The holder of parental responsibility also has the right to acquire information from different authorities in issues having to do with the child.
The parents, both parents together, of a child born in wedlock are considered as holders of parental responsibility. If a child is born out of wedlock, only the mother of the child is regarded as the holder of parental responsibility. If the parents divorce or split up, or once the paternity is acknowledged, a decision will have to be made as regards how the parental responsibility will be exercised in the future. In case of a divorce, the responsibility can be continued as a shared guardianship, or the parents can agree on the guardianship to be carried by either of the parents. In connection with a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, the parents can also agree on shared guardianship.
If the parents get divorced, they will also have to agree on with which parent the child will live and how the visiting rights will be arranged. The child has the right to meet and to keep contact with the parent with whom the child does not live permanently. The parents shall in mutual agreement and in the best interest of the child strive for realizing the goal of the visiting rights.
Once the parents agree on the issues named above regarding the child's custody, an agreement on the child's maintenance, guardianship, living place and meeting rights can be made in writing and confirmed by the child welfare officer at the social services office of the child's area of residence. In case the parents cannot reach an agreement on child custody, living or visiting rights, they can take legal action to settle the matter.
In accordance with the Finnish legislation on child maintenance every child has the right for a sufficient maintenance and both parents are liable to take responsibility for their children's maintenance to the best of their ability. If the parents do not live together, the parent living outside the child's home shall fulfil their legal child maintenance obligation by paying a monthly maintenance fee. Once the parents have agreed on the sum of the maintenance fee a maintenance agreement can be drawn out and confirmed by the child welfare officer. The maintenance agreement is made in the municipality of the child's permanent residence. If no agreement can be reached by the parents on the matter, the parents can take legal action to settle the matter in district court.
The parents carry parental responsibilities until the child turns 18. In accordance with the Finnish law, however, the parents shall carry the responsibility of the child's education also after the child has turned 18 in case this is considered reasonable. An agreement on education allowances can also be made with the child welfare officer.
The ministry of justice in cooperation with the ministry of social affairs and health have published guidelines for assessing and determining the amount of maintenance fees. These guidelines are not binding and they shall be considered as recommendations.
Ms Anita JääsköSocial worker - Child welfare officer +358 44 497 2260, telephone hours 9 am -10 am.
© Kempele Municipality, 2017