Rights and responsibilities

Last updated: 24/2-2023

The Swedish Children and Parents Code is the most important law for children and families. The code includes children’s rights in relation to their parents and parental responsibilities towards the child.

Healthcare rights for parents and children

Healthcare rights for parents and children

Both the child and you as their guardian will receive information about the child's care and have the opportunity to decide on related measures. For example, this might mean that you need an interpreter.

Parental rights in schools

Everyone who works in a school must cooperate with the guardians to develop the school's content and activities.

At least once per term, the teacher will invite guardians to a parent/teacher meeting about the pupil's situation at school.

According to the Children and Parents Code, children have the right to care, security and a good upbringing. Children shall be treated with respect to their person and individuality and may not be subjected to physical punishment or any other demeaning treatment.

Compulsory schooling

Almost all children who live in Sweden must attend school. Compulsory schooling means that pupils must participate in activities arranged in schools unless there are valid reasons for why they cannot participate. The person who has custody of a child of compulsory school age must make sure the child attends school.

Maintenance obligation

Parental maintenance obligation applies until the child turns 18 years old. If the child is still attending school after the age of 18, the parental maintenance obligation continues until the child completes schooling, however no longer than once the child turns 21.

The child's best interests are to be the deciding factors in matters regarding custody, housing and access. Consideration must always be paid to the wishes of the child, taking into account their age and level of maturity. If it is in the child's best interests, the aim is for both parents to have joint custody.

Custody of children

Custody of children means that the legal guardians, usually the parents, have legal responsibility for the child. This means that you have the right and the obligation to look after the child. The law states that children must have legal guardians until they are 18 years old.

Acknowledgement of paternity

When a child (up to age 18) is granted a residence permit, paternity must be acknowledged by the father if he is not married to the mother. This applies whether or not the father is with the family in Sweden. In most municipalities, the social welfare board deals with issues of paternity, but this may also be handled by social district boards or municipal district boards. Contact the municipality to find out what applies where you live.

Joint custody

Joint custody means that both parents share responsibility for the child. They must make decisions relating to the child together. Both parents have the same obligations, even if they do not live together. If you are a legal guardian, you also have the right to receive information about your child. This means that you have the right to know things about your child concerning preschool, school, healthcare, social services, the police and other public authorities.

Sole custody

Sole custody means that only one of the parents has responsibility for the child and makes decisions concerning them. If you are married, you automatically have joint custody of your children. If you are not married, you must fill in a form at the social welfare department (family law section) stating who the father of the child is. You will then be given joint custody.


A guardian will be appointed to children who come to Sweden without their parents or another adult. The guardian is responsible for the child's personal situation and takes care of the child's interests in place of the guardian and custodian.

The family courts

If you are getting divorced and are not in agreement about who will have custody, you can contact the family law section. They can help you find a solution. If you do not come to an agreement, it becomes a legal matter to be judged in the district court. The district court then asks the family law section to conduct an investigation before the district court decides which of the parents is to have custody and where the children will live.

In Sweden it is illegal to use physical violence or psychological abuse against a child. This also applies to parents raising a child and in schools.

It is also against the law to expose children to seeing or hearing some types of domestic crimes. For example, children must not be exposed to (see or hear) assault, threats or sexual abuse between parents, siblings or relatives. This means that violence between parents is also violence against children. The crime is known as “barnfridsbrott” in Swedish and is punishable with imprisonment. Children who witness domestic crimes are crime victims and may be entitled to damages.

Physical violence is all types of violence directed against the body. Light slaps, pulling hair and pinching is also physical violence.

Psychological abuse can be threatening, frightening, isolating or locking up a child. Psychological abuse can harm the child's self-esteem and development just as much as physical violence.

If you are concerned that a child is being mistreated, you can contact Social Services. If you have witnessed violence against a child, you can contact the police via telephone on 114 14.