Custody of children and visitation rights

Joint custody is a basic principle in Icelandic law, according to which, in the event of the dissolution of a marriage or cohabitation, children will be able to associate with and be cared for by both parents.

Custody of children

  • Parents have joint custody of their children after a divorce or the dissolution of a registered cohabitation, unless otherwise decided.
  • Joint custody includes the following:
  • Parents must consult each other regarding all major decisions that have to be made with respect to the interests of the child, such as where the child resides and goes to school.
  • One of the parents may not leave Iceland without the other parent's approval.
  • It is presumed that the parents agree on the domicile of the child being the same as the child's permanent residence.
  • If the parents of a child are neither married nor in a registered cohabitation when the child is born, then the mother alone will have custody of the child and the child will have its residence with the mother.
  • If the parents wish to change the custody arrangements, they must go to the district magistrate.

Visitation rights

  • Rules concerning visitation rights are intended to ensure that a child can have regular visits to/from the parent it does not live with. This applies equally for joint custody and cases where only one parent has custody.
  • At the time of a divorce or dissolution of cohabitation, the parents are expected to reach a settlement on visitation rights. The arrangements concerning visitation are unrelated to the implementation of the custody of the child, and a special decision must be made concerning this.
  • Agreements concerning visitation rights can be both verbal and in writing. The district magistrate can be asked to notarise a written agreement concerning visitation rights.
  • There are no formal rules applying to the further arrangements for visitation rights.

Disputes concerning custody or visitation rights

  • If there is a dispute between the parents over custody or visitation rights, they will be offered specialist counsel through the offices of the district magistrate. The goal of the counselling is to assist the parents with finding a solution to their dispute, taking into consideration the best interests of the child.
  • If the parents are not able to reach an agreement concerning custody, then a custody case can be brought before a court of law.
  • If the parents are unable to reach an agreement concerning visitation rights, the district magistrate will decide the arrangements for visitation rights and will base the ruling on the interests of the child.
  • The ruling of the district magistrate can be appealed to the Minister of Interior.
  • Under certain circumstances the district magistrate may order visitation rights to be executed under supervision or for an intermediary to fetch the child and bring it back.
  • If a custodial parent prevents the execution of visitation rights that have been ordered by a court, a ruling or a notarised agreement, a petition can be presented to the district magistrate to apply enforcement measures.

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