Divorce filings spike in Sweden during pandemic

Divorce filings spike in Sweden during pandemic
It is not uncommon for divorces to spike during times of turmoil. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
Almost 22,000 divorce applications have been filed with Swedish courts so far this year.

If both partners are agreed about ending the marriage and neither of them has custody of a child aged under 16, requesting divorce is administratively speaking a relatively straightforward matter in Sweden.

All you have to do is fill out a joint application form and send it to the district court in the region where you are registered. The request usually only takes the court a few weeks to process.

Joint applications have increased by seven percent during the pandemic, according to new court figures reported by Swedish public radio SR, with 15,497 submitted between and including January and August.

Another 6,038 requests filed in the same period were not submitted jointly by both spouses.

If one partner does not wish to get divorced (or at least one of them has a child aged under 16) the couple must enter a six-month period of reflection after the first request, then file a second one at the end of that period.

Such applications have not increased at the same rate, which a court analyst told SR could be because there is a certain delay when the partners are not in agreement.

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Unlike in many countries, there's no need to provide a reason for choosing to dissolve the marriage in Sweden, so it is not immediately possible to say why there has been an increase in divorces.

But Glenn Sandström, who researches demographic history at Umeå University, told SR the increase was expected, and that the corona-fuelled economic crisis takes a toll on relationships. “Divorces have tended to increase during all economic crises since the Second World War,” he said.

Sweden's economy has not been quite as badly affected by the pandemic as initially forecast, but that's not to say it is not bad; the country is still going through one of the words financial crises it has seen in years.

The number of divorce requests will not necessarily directly translate into how many people got divorced in Sweden. For example, many partners choose to tick the box for the six-month period of reflection even if they agree on filing for divorce, and may end up getting back together before the second request is to be filed.

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.

Swedish vocabulary

marriage – (ett) äktenskap

to get married – att gifta sig

divorce – (en) skilsmässa

to get divorced – att skilja sig

spouse – make (masculine) or maka (feminine)


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