Families and Children

Marriage and Divorce

In Norway, parents or others cannot enter into marriage contracts on one’s behalf. If such contracts are entered into, they are not binding.

Here, after dating for a while, couples usually opt to live together and are then called cohabitants (samboer). Depending on the couple’s choices and backgrounds, marriage may or may not be on the cards. Therefore, it is best not to make presumptions about people’s marital statuses. It is not a prerequisite here to be married before having children. Therefore, do not be surprised if you get invited to a wedding and the ringbearer and flowergirl are the couple’s own children.

Single-parent families and young parents are pretty common occurrences in Norway. None of this is taboo here.


In Norway, divorces are granted by county governor offices. Divorce is common in Norway and there is no social stigma attached to it.


Norway ranks top in the world as the place to be for mothers and babies. The 2015 Save the Children Mother’s Index analysed a number of factors which contribute to the health and well-being of mothers and their children, including education, economic opportunities and access to health care. The study found that Norwegian women are well paid, have a generous government-mandated maternity leave and good access to birth control.

Laws regarding children are geared towards providing the best for the kids. Fathers and mothers are granted a generous amount of paternity and maternity leave when a child is born or adopted. In Norway, women who breast-feed their babies are entitled to one hour leave per day for that purpose after they return to work.

Also, to care for children when they are ill, Norwegian fathers and mothers alike have the right to miss work for a total of ten days a year until the child reaches 12. The parents receive full pay for the days they are absent, and those parents who have three or more children may take up to 30 days paid leave to care for sick children. Single parents are entitled to twenty days of paid leave.

It is common for both the mother and father to work in today’s society (also, household chores are usually shared between mums and dads). As such, childcare facilities are abundant in Norway. There is also a variety of the types of childcare available. Depending on which companies the parents work in, it may be possible to opt to go back to work part-time instead of full-time. And here in Norway, part-time does not automatically mean one works 50%. It can be any percentage (depending on the company’s policies).

Today, about three-fourths of Norwegian children have only one or two siblings, and almost one-fifth have no sibling.

It is common for children to be born out of wedlock in Norway. It is just as common for children to tell you about their half-siblings and step-siblings. “My children, your children, our children….”, is a good description of the “newest” family type.

Norwegian children tend to be trained to be independent from when they are very young. Parents are encouraged to teach their kids how to dress themselves properly as early as possible to facilitate efficiency in the kindergartens (barnehager). Toilet training is also begun early.

Many Norwegian children are also trained to go to and come back from school on their own. The sight of young school children (about 7-8 years old) taking public transport alone used to shock me (I would tend to look around for their parents). It is also common to see young children playing at the parks and playgrounds in little groups, with no adult supervision. It is so refreshing to see that children here can grow up and play in a safe environment.

Right of Co-determination

A parent/guardian’s duties will always be limited by the child’s own right of self-determination and co-determination.

If a child is over 14, his/her parents/guardian must ask him/her what they want, before they take decisions about financial circumstances.

As a child develops and matures, his/her parents/guardian must listen to him/her before they take decisions about the child’s personal circumstances. When one turn seven, he/she must be allowed to give their opinion before any decisions are taken about his/her personal circumstances. When one turns 12, a great deal of weight must be given to what the child says. The Children Act also states that parents must give their children greater right of self-determination as they get older. On day-to-day issues such as clothing, haircut, etc. it is natural for children to be able to make their own decisions at quite an early stage.

As a general rule, a child should be allowed to make his/her own decisions in line with his/her capability to look after his/her own interests properly. These principles should also act as a guide for the guardian.


There are special provisions covering specific circumstances, for example allowing one to choose his/her education once he/she has reached the age of 15. Girls over 16 are allowed to make their own decision regarding abortion.

Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion

Disclaimer: Do note that everyone and every family is different. The above is just general information and observations gathered from different sources.