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Act on the Dissolution of the Household of Cohabiting Partners entered into force on 1 April

Ministry of Justice
8.4.2011 11.30
Press release -

The new Act on the Dissolution of the Household of Cohabiting Partners entered into force at the beginning of April. The objective of the Act is to protect the rights of cohabiting partners when the partnership ends.

According to the new Act, cohabiting partners are entitled to apply for appointment of an estate distributor to carry out the separation of property. Under certain conditions, cohabiting partners also have a right to compensation for contributions for the benefit of the shared household. The reform does not entail that the rights of cohabiting partners become comparable to the rights of married couples.

The reform aims to promote justice in the separation of property accumulated during the partnership and to offer a procedure for resolving disputes, when cohabiting partners are unable to come to an agreement. Cohabiting partners may derogate from most of the provisions of the Act by an agreement.

Scope of the Act

The Act applies to cohabiting partners who have lived in a shared household for at least five years or who have, or have had, a joint child or joint parental responsibility for a child. The Act does not apply to cohabiting partnerships where one or both of the partners are married.

The provisions apply both to opposite and same sex partnerships. The Act alsoapplies to cohabiting partnerships that have started before the entry into force of the Act. On the other hand, the Act does not apply to cohabiting partnerships that have ended before the Act entered into force.

The consequences of the new Act

Under the new Act, a cohabiting partner has the right to demand separation of property when the partnership ends. The premise in the separation of property is that each cohabiting partner keeps his or her own property. Moveables are considered as joint property, if it cannot be established which partner a certain object belongs to.

A cohabiting partner is entitled to compensation, if he or she has assisted the other cohabiting partner in accumulating his or her property and separation of property solely on the basis of ownership would result in enrichment at the expense of the other. However, the right to compensation does not exist, if the disproportion in the contributions can be deemed insignificant.

For example domestic work at home, while the other cohabiting partner accumulates his or her property by working, may be deemed a contribution entitling to compensation. Also significant building and repair work or long-term care work at home for the benefit of the other cohabiting partner may entitle to compensation.

Estate distributor may be appointed to carry out the separation of property

According to the new Act, cohabiting partners can make an agreement on the separation of property and compensation. If the partners are unable to come to an agreement, they may apply to the district court for appointment of an estate distributor. The estate distributor carries out the separation of property and decides on possible compensation. The separation of property is documented in a separation deed. If an application to appoint an estate distributor has not been made, a claim for compensation can also be taken to the district court for resolution.

The right to compensation lapses, if compensation has notbeen claimed within six months of the separation of the property. If the cohabiting partners do not separate the property, the right to compensation lapses within three years of the date the partners moved permanently apart or of the death of the cohabiting partner.

Protection in case of death of a cohabiting partner

By the new Act, the protection of a cohabiting partner is improved so that a partner may receive discretionary support from the estate of the deceased partner. The support may also consist of a right to use the property. The support is used to cushion the sudden change in the livelihood of the cohabiting partner, if he or she has been financially dependent on the deceased partner. A cohabiting partner does not have a right to inherit the property of the other cohabiting partner.

Further information:
Senior Adviser, Legislative Affairs, Salla Lötjönen, tel. 09 1606 7703
E-mail: [email protected]

Tuija Brax
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