Different ways to live together

Last updated: 12 11 2021

Image Boken om Sverige
This material is from the book About Sweden.

It is common in Sweden for couples to live together and have children before they get married. Many also choose not to marry. They live together as a cohabiting couple.


Everyone in Sweden must be 18 years old to get married. This is the law. The law applies to all people in Sweden, even if they are not Swedish citizens. There may be other rules in other countries, but Swedish authorities only approve foreign marriages if they comply with Swedish law.

Before you get married, you have to apply for a consideration of impediments to marriage. This is a check to ensure that there is nothing to prevent you being able to get married. The consideration of impediments to marriage is performed by the Swedish Tax Agency in the county in which you are registered. If there are no impediments, you receive a certificate that is valid for four months. Give the certificate to the person who is officiating at your wedding. If you or the person you are marrying is not entered on the population register in Sweden, the consideration of impediments to marriage has to be performed in the country in which you or the other person is registered.

According to Swedish law, the following are impediments to marriage:

  • if you or your partner are under the age of 18,
  • if you are closely related to the person you want to marry,
  • if you or your partner are already married, or are registered partners.

Swedish law also forbids forced marriage. This means that no one can force anyone else to marry. Everyone has the right to decide who they want to marry.

You always have the right to say no to getting married.

Swedish authorities can refuse to approve a foreign marriage if someone has been forced to marry.

A wedding is the ceremony when two people get married. A wedding can be religious or civil. For a wedding to be valid, it must be performed by a registered and approved celebrant. This can be a priest, imam or a registrar, for example. Civil marriages are performed by a person who has been appointed by the county administrative board. A civil marriage is a ceremony that is unconnected to any religion. If the wedding is a religious ceremony performed by a celebrant who does not have the right to solemnise marriages, the marriage is not official in the eyes of the law. For it to become official, a civil marriage is also required.

Marriage in Sweden is gender neutral. This means that two people of the same gender can get married in the same way as a woman and a man. A registrar may not say no if two people of the same gender want to get married. However, an officiant from a religious faith, e.g. a priest from the Church of Sweden, can choose whether to say yes or no. If a priest says no, you can ask a different priest.

A law called the Marriage Code applies to those who are married. The Marriage Code contains rules about inheritance, with the surviving person in a marriage inheriting all assets, together with any children.

Photo: Johnér


When two people live together as a couple without being married, this is called cohabiting.

It is common for people to cohabit in Sweden and in the Nordic countries. It is also common to have children without being married. There is a law about cohabitation called the Cohabitants Act. The Cohabitants Act lays down rules about matters relating to cohabitants' homes and the items they own together. If one of the cohabitants dies, the other has the right to continue living in their shared home. The surviving cohabitant may also inherit their shared items in the home. If order to inherit other assets, e.g. money in the bank, a will must have been drawn up.


In Sweden you can divorce the person you are married to even if s/he does not want to. If you want to get divorced, you need to contact the district court in the municipality where you are registered and make a divorce application.

You and your husband/wife can fill in an application together. If you are not in agreement, you can apply for a divorce alone.

If you make a joint application and do not have any children, the district court can issue a judgement (a decision) as soon as possible. If you have children under the age of 16, or if one of you does not want to get divorced, you will be given time to consider your decision. This means that you have time to think about if you really want to get divorced. The time for consideration is at least six months and up to one year.

If you still want to get divorced after six months, you have to contact the district court yourself. This is known as going through with your divorce. If you do not submit a letter stating that you want to go through with your divorce, the district court will terminate your application and the divorce application will not be valid. If the district court believes that one of you has been coerced into marriage (forced marriage), a divorce can be granted immediately, without time for consideration.

Custody of children

Child custody 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. If your child is studying at the upper secondary level, you are obliged to guarantee his/her maintenance until s/he turns 21.

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 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 service administration (family law section) stating who the child's other parent is. You will then be given the option of registering joint custody.

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, custody becomes a legal matter for the district court to rule on. The district court will then ask 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 are to live.