thelocal.dk, 15 Dec 2014

The author of a new book on Danish custody law argues that Denmark’s focus on forced cooperation leaves mothers – and particularly foreign mothers – feeling like they have no way out.

The Danish custody law is a trap. And if you become pregnant in Denmark or if you bring children to live in Denmark, you are already trapped. Except you won’t know it until it is too late.

The Danish custody law, the ‘Parental Responsibility Act’, prioritizes shared parenting over children’s need for protection. Children must be handed over for visitation almost regardless of the circumstances. The Danish law requires that divorced parents ‘cooperate’ even when there is a history of violence or abuse.

These parents are traumatized because the Danish system prohibits them from protecting their children. Lifting the burden of proof is almost impossible. Instead, there is an increasing tendency to place protective parents under suspicion for lying.

A fragmented custody system
When trying to resolve the situation, these parents come up against a custody system so fragmented that cases can circulate between the State Administration (Statsforvaltningen), social services and the courts for years.

A sample assessment indicates that once lost in the Danish custody swamp, it takes an average of 5.4 years to complete a high-conflict case. And even resourceful and well-educated parents are left traumatized and unemployed on welfare.

Protective parents feel caught behind a glass wall. No one sees it coming. But no one can pass through it. They struggle to maintain hope that one day, they will be free again.

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Foreigners are shocked
We have had several tragic cases in which a foreign mother or child was not protected against violence or abuse. In such cases, when the mother tried to return to her home country, the children were taken from her.

While it is legal to move within the country, moving a child to a new school is considered justification for placing them with the other parent. Thus, moving involves a risk of losing the children. You can argue that this will limit your career and life options, but do keep your voice down. Such arguments are considered selfish.

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