Guidance on Forms, Procedures, and Contacts Regarding Finland

A Caseworker's Guide to Processing Cases with Finland

"A Caseworker's Guide to Processing Cases with Finland" provides contact and policy information and describes basic requirements for forms and procedures for use in cases between Finland and U.S. jurisdictions.

Finland is a Republic State wherein the courts are generally responsible for establishing both paternity and support orders and recognizing enforceable child support orders. Most frequently, paternity and support are established outside of court by consent and are then confirmed administratively. Enforcement takes place by an administrative enforcement authority. The agreement between the United States and Finland for the enforcement of maintenance obligations is binding on courts and other authorities.

The text of the international agreement between the United States and Finland may be found in Part A or at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/finland-frc. For Finnish contact information, please access the Intergovernmental Referral Guide at https://extranet.acf.hhs.gov/irg/contactResults.html?internationalGeoBox=246&selection=INT.

This Caseworker's Guide for Finland contains the following information:

Part A: International Agreement between the U.S. and Finland

AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

AND THE GOVERNMENT OF FINLAND

FOR THE ENFORCEMENT OF MAINTENANCE (SUPPORT) OBLIGATIONS

The Government of the United States of America

and

the Government of Finland (hereinafter referred to as the Parties),

Resolved to establish a uniform and effective framework for the enforcement of maintenance obligations, the recognition of maintenance decisions, and the determination of parentage,

In accordance with section 459A of the Social Security Act, Title 42, United States Code, section 659A, and as authorized by the laws of Finland,

Have agreed as follows:

Article 1

Objective

Subject to the provisions of this Agreement, the Parties hereby seek to provide for:

  1. the recovery of maintenance or the reimbursement of maintenance to which a maintenance creditor or a public body having provided benefits for a maintenance creditor subject to the jurisdiction of one Party (hereinafter referred to as the claimant) is entitled from a maintenance debtor who is subject to the jurisdiction of the other Party (hereinafter referred to as the respondent), and
  2. the recognition and enforcement of maintenance orders, reimbursement orders and settlements (hereinafter referred to as maintenance decisions) made or recognized within the jurisdiction of either Party.

Article 2

Scope

  1. This Agreement shall apply to maintenance obligations arising from a family relationship or parentage, including a maintenance obligation towards a child born out of wedlock. However, a maintenance obligation towards a spouse or former spouse where there are no minor children will be enforced under this Agreement on the basis of reciprocity between Finland and the individual States and other jurisdictions of the United States.
  2. This Agreement applies to the collection of payment arrears on a maintenance obligation and to the modification in amounts due under an existing maintenance decision.
  3. The remedies provided for in this Agreement are not exclusive and do not affect the availability of any other remedies for the enforcement of a valid maintenance obligation.
  4. This Agreement shall not apply if such application would be manifestly incompatible with the public policy of the Requested Party.

Article 3

Central Authorities

  1. The Parties shall each designate a body as Central Authority which shall facilitate compliance with the provisions of this agreement.
  2. The Central Authority for Finland shall be the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  3. The Central Authority for the United States of America shall be the Office of Child Support Enforcement in the Department of Health and Human Services, as authorized by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.
  4. The Parties may designate other public bodies to carry out any of the provisions of this Agreement in coordination with the Central Authority.
  5. Any changes in the designation of the Central Authority or other public bodies by one Party shall be communicated promptly to the Central Authority of the other Party.
  6. Communications shall be addressed by the Central Authority or other public body of one Party directly to the Central Authority or other responsible public body of the other Party as designated by that Party.

Article 4

Applications and Transmission of Documents and Judicial Assistance

  1. An application for the recovery or reimbursement of maintenance from a respondent subject to the jurisdiction of the Requested Party shall be made by the Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requesting Party, in accordance with the applicable procedures of the Requesting Party.
  2. The application shall be made on a standard form in English and Finnish or Swedish, to be agreed upon by the Central Authorities of both Parties, and shall be accompanied by all relevant documents. All documents shall be translated into the language of the Requested Party.
  3. The Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requesting Party shall transmit the documents referred to in paragraphs 2 and 5 of this Article to the Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requested Party.
  4. Before transmitting the documents to the Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requested Party, the Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requesting Party shall satisfy itself that they comply with the law of the Requesting Party and the requirements of this Agreement.
  5. When the application is based on or the documents include a decision issued by a competent court or agency establishing parentage or for the payment of maintenance:

    1. the Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requesting Party shall transmit a copy of the decision certified or verified in accordance with the requirements of the Requested Party;
    2. the decision shall be accompanied by a statement of finality or, if not final, a statement of enforceability and by evidence that the respondent has appeared in the proceedings or has been given notice and an opportunity to appear;
    3. the Central Authority or other designated body of the Requesting Party shall notify the Central Authority or other designated body of the Requested Party of any subsequent change by operation of law in the amount required to be enforced under the decision.
  6. In carrying out their tasks under this Agreement, the Parties shall provide each other assistance and information within the limits of their respective laws, and consistent with any treaties related to judicial assistance in force between the Parties.
  7. All documents transmitted under this Agreement shall be exempt from legalization.

Article 5

Functions of the Central Authority of the Requested Party

The Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requested Party shall take on behalf of the claimant all appropriate steps for the recovery or reimbursement of maintenance, including the institution and prosecution of proceedings for maintenance, the determination of parentage where necessary, the execution of any judicial or administrative decision and the collection and distribution of payments collected.

Article 6

Cost of Services

All procedures described in this Agreement, including services of the Central Authority, and necessary legal and administrative assistance, shall be provided by the Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requested Party without cost to the claimant. The costs of testing blood or tissue for parentage determinations shall be borne by the Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requested Party. However, Finland, when executing requests for the establishment of parentage and the establishment of maintenance, may assess costs against a losing claimant if it determines that the claim was frivolous. The Central Authority or other designated public body of the Requested Party may assess costs in any proceeding against the respondent appearing in its jurisdiction.

Article 7

Recognition and Enforcement of Maintenance Decisions

  1. Maintenance decisions, including maintenance decisions arising from a determination of parentage, from one Party shall be recognized and enforced in the other Party to the extent that the facts in the case support recognition and enforcement under the applicable laws and procedures of the latter Party.
  2. Maintenance decisions made after the failure of the respondent to appear shall be considered as decisions under paragraph 1 if it is demonstrated that notice had been given and the opportunity to be heard had been satisfied in a way to satisfy the standards of the Requested Party.
  3. The Requested Party shall take all appropriate steps to establish a maintenance decision if it is unable, under paragraph 1, to recognize a maintenance decision of the Requesting Party.

Article 8

Applicable Law

  1. All actions and proceedings under this Agreement by either Party shall be carried out pursuant to the law including choice of law provisions and procedures of that Party.
  2. The physical presence of the child or custodial parent shall not be required in proceedings under this Agreement in the Requested Party.

Article 9

Territorial Application

  1. For Finland, this Agreement shall apply to the whole country.


  2. For the United States of America, this Agreement shall apply to the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, and any other jurisdiction of the United States participating in Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.

Article 10

Federal State Clause

With respect to the United States, any reference to the law or requirements or procedures or standards of a Party or of the Requesting or Requested Party shall be construed as a reference to the law, requirements, procedures or standards of the relevant State or other jurisdiction of the United States.

Article 11

Entry into Force

  1. This Agreement shall enter into force thirty days after the date when both Parties have notified each other in writing through the diplomatic channel that the legal requirements under domestic law for entry into force have been fulfilled.
  2. This Agreement shall apply to any outstanding maintenance decision, or payment accrued under such decision, regardless of the date of that decision.

Article 12

Termination

  1. Either Party may terminate this Agreement by notification in writing addressed to the other Party through the diplomatic channel.
  2. The termination shall take effect on the first day of the third month following the receipt of the notification.

  3. In the event that either Party's domestic legal authority to carry out its obligations under this Agreement ceases, in whole or in part, either Party may suspend application of this Agreement, or with the agreement of the other Party, any part of this Agreement. In that event, the Parties will seek, to the fullest extent practicable in accordance with domestic law, to minimize unfavorable effects on the continuing recognition and enforcement of maintenance obligations covered by this Agreement.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, being duly authorized thereto, have signed this Agreement.

Done at Helsinki in duplicate, this 3rd day of April, 2006, in the English and Finnish languages, each text being equally authentic.

FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FINLAND

Part B: Outgoing Child Support Packages from the U.S. To Finland

The address for Finland's Central Authority can be found at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/finland-frc.

Cases are to be sent to Finland's Central Authority, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. They are then forwarded for action to the appropriate Social Services Department for the municipality where the obligor resides to ascertain whether a settlement can be reached. If the obligor pays voluntarily, no further action is taken unless the applicant especially requests or payment stops. Otherwise, the maintenance order, reimbursement order, or settlement is filed in court and recognition of enforceability is requested. In paternity and support establishment cases, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs transmits the creditor's application to the Legal Aid Office in the municipality where the putative father or obligor is found. The public legal counsel initiates the proceeding in court and assists the U.S. applicant. Voluntary paternity acknowledgments are not available if the child does not reside in Finland.

Payments

In Finland, an obligor's voluntary payments are made directly to the custodial parent. The requesting State should specify in the petition that any voluntary payments must be made through the State Disbursement Unit. Note that, in the case of voluntary payments, the money will not go through the municipal social authority or the Foreign Ministry.

Because the Finnish authorities will not track payments in these cases, in cases where the obligor fails to comply with the settlement agreement, the U.S. caseworker must advise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the matter will proceed to judicial enforcement. U.S. petitioners may request in the original transmittal that the case proceed directly to recognition and enforcement. However, Finnish authorities advise that the formal court process is very lengthy, perhaps 10-12 months, and strongly recommend attempting a voluntary settlement.

Maintenance Action

In Finland, a maintenance action must be brought in the court of justice corresponding to the domicile of the child's custodian or legal representative. If they are not domiciled in Finland, the court of justice where the child's custodian or legal representative previously resided is the proper venue. If there is no present or former domicile, then section 23(2) of the International Family Law Act is applied and the case is heard in the court of justice of the child's permanent place of residence or, if the child does not permanently reside in Finland, in Helsinki District Court.

If responding to a court or agency request, the U.S. response should be sent directly to the requestor.

Forms

Finland, under the terms of its international child support reciprocity agreement, has agreed with the United States to accept service requests on bilingual international forms (see Part E). The bilingual international forms are in English and Finnish. Forms are internationalized versions of the Federally-promulgated UIFSA case processing forms used in domestic cases, together with two additional forms required by Finland. The following chart, Forms from the U.S. to Finland, summarizes the forms that need to be sent to Finland to process various case actions.

Please note that, while the headings and questions are in both English and Finnish, the answers need to be in a language acceptable to the responding tribunal. Finland requests that all cases sent from the United States use the English/Finnish forms, including Finnish translation of supporting documentation. (If a Finnish translator is not available, a Swedish translation may be used.) While proper names need no special treatment, care must be taken that other information (e.g., eye color) is translated and that the unit of currency is identified.

A locate-only request, for a person and/or for financial data, should be sent to Finland's Central Authority and then it will be forwarded to the appropriate municipality. The Locate and Financial Data form includes information on the obligor and purpose of the request. The form states that the information requested will be used exclusively for the purpose of establishing or enforcing a child support order. In Finland a change of address notification must be made to the local registrar office within seven days from the date on which a person residing in Finland moves. The population information system makes it easier for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to verify the address of the parent whose location is sought. However, if a person has not notified the local registrar's office, it is almost impossible to locate him/her. Where the requestor has sought financial information, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs requests the local Social Service Department to contact the obligor to ascertain his/her income and property.

In addition to the general international bilingual forms, Finland requests that U.S. States provide a Form of Authority signed by the individual applicant. Also, a Certificate of Enforceability (certifying that the order is enforceable in the issuing jurisdiction) must accompany any request to register an existing order. Finnish law requires certification by the issuing court. It is the practice of the Court of Appeal of Helsinki to check carefully this certification. To date, a clerk of the issuing tribunal has signed in every case sent to Finland and it is Finland's request that this practice continue. However, where the IV-D agency is authorized under State law to prepare and execute the Certificate of Enforceability, the State should reference and provide a copy of the applicable State law. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will not reject a Certificate of Enforceability, but if the document is not accepted by the Court of Appeal, the submitting State will be requested to provide one signed by the court. [The Ministry of Foreign Affairs understands that in the U.S. the issuing tribunal may be a court or may be an authorized administrative hearing agency.]

Finnish authorities request that U.S. States provide a copy of the order that is certified or verified and translated into Finnish. Where enforcement of support and/or paternity orders is sought in Finland, the U.S. order must recite the basis of jurisdiction over the respondent, confirm notice of the hearing, and specify whether he/she participated in the hearing. If the decision was entered by default, either the order itself, or an accompanying original or certified document, must show that notice of the institution of the proceeding and of the hearing was properly served on the respondent, in accordance with the law of the issuing State.

Where arrears exist and payment has been made through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU), States may use the 1-page Short Form Statement of Arrears to which a certified copy of the official payment record is appended. Should there be a question or challenge, the Finnish authorities will request the more detailed form. However, where payment has been made directly to the custodial parent, use the 4-page Pay Record Statement to detail the claimed arrearages.

Maintenance may not be ordered until paternity has been established with "a legally final judgment." A demand for maintenance for a child may be submitted in the context of a paternity suit. In a paternity trial, where the respondent is a Finnish citizen, Finnish law is applicable. Finnish law does not specify what law is applicable when the respondent is a foreign citizen; however, the Finnish Supreme Court has ruled that Finnish law is applicable (Supreme Court Decision KKO 1983 II 117). In an action to establish a support order in Finland, Finnish law again applies.

In Finland, the threshold to modify an existing order is relatively high. This is done on a case-by-case basis when there is an essential change from the time the order was entered. (See Part D for more detail.) While States are not precluded from seeking such a modification, the applicant should anticipate that reassessment will rarely be granted under current law.

Further information about Finland policy and procedures may be found at www.om.fi and http://ec.europa.eu/civiljustice/homepage/homepage_fin_en.htm and in the policy template at Part D.

Forms from the U.S. to Finland

IF the person in the U.S. wants to THEN complete these bilingual forms and documents

Establish a new (initial) support assessment/order in Finland, including the establishment of paternity

  • Form of Authority
  • Transmittal
  • Uniform Support Petition
  • General Testimony including supporting documentation/evidence
  • Affidavit in Support of Establishing Paternity (where applicable)

Enforce an order or agreement established in Finland

  • If enforcement of an agreement entered in Finland, the original or a certified copy must be provided
  • A limited services request can be used to obtain a certified copy of a Finnish order

Register and enforce an existing order in Finland

  • Form of Authority
  • Transmittal
  • Registration Statement, with certified or verified copy of the existing (controlling) order (translated)
  • Certificate of Enforceability (see discussion above)
  • Statement of Arrears
Register & modify an existing order in Finland because the order is not modifiable in the U.S.

[Note: In Finland, the courts do not modify a maintenance decision or order in the context of recognition and enforcement proceedings. If there is such an order, which is nonmodifiable in the U.S., the applicant must start a new proceeding in order to have a new order entered in Finland.]

  • Form of Authority
  • Transmittal
  • Registration Statement
  • Certified or verified copy of the existing (controlling) order
  • Certificate of Enforceability (see discussion above)
  • Uniform Support Petition
  • General Testimony (only sections applicable to reason for modification, recalculation of support, and jurisdiction to modify), with supporting documentation/evidence

Request modification of an existing Finland Order or Agreement

[See discussion above regarding the high modification threshold in Finland]

  • Form of Authority
  • Transmittal
  • Certified or verified copy of the Finnish order or agreement
  • Uniform Support Petition
  • General Testimony (only sections applicable to reason for modification, recalculation of support, and jurisdiction to modify), with supporting documentation/evidence
Locate a person or provide leads to assets in Finland
  • Locate and Financial Data

Request status, assistance, or information (ex: requesting income information for a modification, service of process, etc.)

  • Transmittal & Acknowledgment

Part C: Incoming Child Support Packages from Finland to the U.S.

After having satisfied itself that the application and the relevant documents are sufficient, Finland's Central Authority will send the case to the specific State in which the obligor resides. As with other international agreements, the physical presence of the child or custodial parent is not mandatory to establish and enforce a case. A maintenance obligation towards a spouse or former spouse where there are no minor children can be enforced on the basis of reciprocity between Finland and the individual State. In addition, States must accept Finnish requests to collect interest on arrears.

Advance Payment in Finland

Finland has a system of advance payment for children who are domiciled in Finland. If a person liable for the maintenance of a child has defaulted on payment of the maintenance, an advance payment can be paid to the child by the Finnish social authorities. In order to obtain the advance payment, the custodian or the representative of the child files a support action in his/her place of residence. If an application is made on the grounds that the person liable for the maintenance has defaulted on his/her obligation, this person will generally be given an opportunity to be heard regarding the application. Once the advance payment of a guaranteed amount has been authorized, Finnish social authorities have the right and obligation to recover from the non-custodial parent the child support arrears, accrued interest on any past due arrears and the monthly payment due.

If the obligor resides outside of Finland, the support order is entered often by default. While this procedure is sufficient for Finland's advance payment system, such orders might not be enforceable in the U.S., because the obligor did not have an opportunity to be heard (summons had been published in an Official Journal in Finland). Accordingly, in such cases, Finland may request, in the alternative, that the State enter a new support order, retroactive for the period allowed by State law.

Hearing Notification

If a hearing is to be held in the U.S. State, Finland requests that the notice of the hearing be sent through the initiating Finnish social authority to the custodial parent, not directly.

Small Payment Amounts

Because the cost of cashing the check often exceeds the amount of a small payment, Finland suggests that small payments should be held and forwarded as a combined payment. As noted in PIQ-04-01, a IV-D agency may obtain permission from the Finnish custodial parent to send payments using an alternative disbursement timeframe, i.e., bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly. The IV-D agency needs to document the custodial parent's consent in its records (see PIQ-04-01 at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/processing-cases-with-foreign-reciprocating-countries). In advance maintenance payment cases, the child receives a maintenance payment from the government and the child support collected from an obligor is paid to the Finnish government. In these advance maintenance payment cases, the Finnish authorities can ask the State to make combined payments and specify the hold period (e.g., monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually) on the Transmittal, together with the verification that the Finnish authority is acting as an agent on behalf of the custodian (and on its own behalf) and is so authorized under Finnish law.

Cost of Living Adjustments

Finnish law provides for cost of living adjustments, set annually by the Ministry for Social Welfare and Health, if there has been a 5% or greater increase in the cost of living. Under current law, reassessment is determined each October and published through a decree the Ministry issues in November. The social welfare board will, upon request, make a notation of the reassessed maintenance in the agreement or judgment. The increase becomes effective with payments due the following January. Finnish officials will notify the individual State (on an annual basis) of the effective date of the increase and the adjusted child support amount in each individual case. Notice will be either a Transmittal or e-mail stating: "Under Finnish law, all orders were increased by x percentage as of _______(date). The appropriate child support obligation is now $y."

Locate

If the State in which the obligor is living is unknown, Finland may send a request to the U.S. central agency, the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, so that Finland's Central Authority can use the Federal Parent Locator Service to try to locate the State in which the obligor resides.

Forms

The following chart, Forms from Finland to the U.S., summarizes the forms that Finland will send to the U.S. to process various case actions. Finland has agreed to use the attached bilingual English and Finnish forms to initiate service requests to the U.S. However, if the custodial parent or initiating municipal authority is Swedish-speaking, Finnish law requires that forms be available in Swedish. The end result is that the bilateral forms and the orders filed in the U.S. may have been translated from Swedish rather than Finnish.

Forms from Finland to the U.S.

IF the person in Finland wants to THEN complete these bilingual forms and documents

Establish a new (initial) support assessment/order in the U.S. including the establishment of paternity

  • Transmittal
  • Uniform Support Petition
  • General Testimony, with supporting documentation/evidence including verification that no other enforceable support order exists (see discussion above)
  • Affidavit in Support of Establishing Paternity (where applicable)

Register and enforce an existing order in the U.S.

  • Transmittal
  • 2 copies of the existing order (translated), including a verified copy from the Social authorities (or a certified copy)
  • Statement of Arrears

Register & modify an existing order in the U.S. because the order is not modifiable in Finland

  • Transmittal
  • 2 copies of the existing order (translated), including a verified copy from the Social authorities (or a certified copy)
  • Uniform Support Petition
  • General Testimony (only sections applicable to reason for modification and recalculation of support), with supporting documentation/evidence

Request modification of an existing U.S. Order or Agreement

  • Transmittal
  • 2 copies of the existing order (translated), including a verified copy from the Social authorities (or a certified copy)
  • Uniform Support Petition
  • General Testimony (only sections applicable to reason for modification and recalculation of support), with supporting documentation/evidence

Locate a person or provide leads to assets in the U.S.

  • Locate and Financial Data

Request status, assistance, or information (ex: requesting income information for a modification, service of process, etc.)

  • Transmittal


Part D: Policy for Finland

AGE OF MAJORITY

Age of majority in Finland 18
If not stated in the order, at what age is child support automatically terminated as a matter of State law? Qualify, if necessary. Generally, the termination date of the child support obligation is stated in the support order. If it is not mentioned, the obligation terminates by operation of law when the child reaches age 18. Only a specific provision in an order or agreement may extend the obligation beyond age 18.

The parents are responsible for expenses incurred in the education of the child even after the child reaches the age of 18 years, if this is deemed reasonable. In such situations, a new order will be provided by the court or social authorities based upon special consideration of the aptitude of the child, the duration of the education, and the amount of expenses incurred, as well as the responsibilities the child has himself for the expenses of his education, after the education is concluded. (This is quite rare in Finland, because Finnish government pays a study allowance for Finnish students.)

Does child support end if the child leaves the household but does not emancipate?

Child support belongs to the child and if s/he moves to live with another person, the child support must be paid to the custodian.

A minor child's right to receive maintenance from parents may diminish or come to an end if the child is able to maintain himself or herself, as determined exclusively by a court. The court may consider:

  • the ability and opportunity of the child to be responsible for his own maintenance; and
  • parental circumstances under which they are held responsible for no or only minor expenses for the maintenance of the child.

Therefore, it is possible that child support ends before age 18 if the child is capable of supporting himself.

Does Finland allow support to be paid beyond the age of majority under any circumstances (for example, the child is handicapped or in post-secondary education)?

An order or agreement may state that support continues beyond age 18, but that would be rare. If such a child were handicapped, the child would receive a social benefit from the government.


SERVICE OF PROCESS

Check which of the following methods are used to serve process on an individual:

_X__personal service by a bailiff

____ regular mail (no receipt)

_X__regular mail with receipt from the addressee

_X__registered mail (receipted by anyone at the address)

_X__publication (example: in an official journal, newspaper, public posting) - for purposes of advance payment

_X__by diplomatic channels

(Note: According to the Finnish Code of Judicial Procedure, a case amendable to settlement shall be decided by a default judgment on the request of a party, if the opposing party has failed to appear at the hearing or has not submitted a requested written statement indicating his opinion on the issues listed in the request.)

How is a non-resident or person whose whereabouts are not known, notified of proceedings?

If the whereabouts of the recipient (or a person empowered by him/her to receive service) cannot be discovered, the court shall perform service by public notice. The Code of Judicial Procedure provides that service of notice be performed by keeping the document and its annexes available in the court registry, and by publishing a summary of its contents and the place where it is kept in the Official Gazette, in the first issue of any calendar month. The court may, additionally, publish the notice in a newspaper. And, the notice is posted on the court bulletin board without delay.

 

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

Is there a statute of limitations for past due support? If yes describe.

5 years from the January 1st following the date a payment is due, the arrearage "falls off" in one year increments. However, there are ways to stay this statute. Also, payments are applied to the oldest child support debt.

Is there a statute of limitations for establishing paternity? If yes describe.

According to Paternity Act section 22, the child has a right of action to establish paternity. The putative father has a right of action for the establishment of paternity within one year from the date the man was informed that the local registrar office did not approve an acknowledgment.

Paternity may not be acknowledged before the birth or after the death of the child.

Will Finland accept a petition if the only issue is support for a prior period, that is, no child is currently entitled to support?

While a judgment debt for a prior period is enforceable, Finland generally will not establish such an order.


AMOUNT OF SUPPORT

In setting the amount of support, whose income is considered in addition to the income of the non-custodial parent (for example: custodial parent's, custodial parent's new spouse, child's, etc.)? Both parents and the child.

How is the amount of support determined (for example: by formula, % of income, tribunal discretion, etc.)?

There is no set formula. Child has the right to sufficient maintenance to meet the "material and spiritual needs of the child as well as his care and education, and the coverage of the resulting cost." Parents are responsible in accord with their abilities. Consideration is given to the age, ability and opportunity to work, and other statutory maintenance responsibilities of the parents. The ability of the child to meet his/her own maintenance is also considered, as well as "circumstances on the basis of which the parents are not burdened with any expenses, or are burdened with only minor expenses, for maintenance of the child."

If the obligor is insolvent (for example, his/her income is below the protected income in enforcement, currently 567 euros per person), no support obligation is set. The court might order the obligor to pay child support, if it considers that the unemployment is only temporary. However, if the obligor's income is below the protected income, an existing support order cannot be enforced.

If the parents reach a written agreement, it is submitted to the municipal social welfare board for approval. When approved, the agreement can be enforced the same way as a court judgment. If there is no agreement, a proceeding is filed with the court. In a court proceeding involving a marital child, the law of the State where the child is a citizen applies (§19, Act on Certain International Family Relationships).

When the proceeding involves a non-marital child, Finnish law applies (§21, Act on Certain International Family Relationships).

If the child lives in a country other than Finland, consideration is given to the cost of living in that State.

(NOTE: A proposition for a formula has been published in June 2006 and it will go to circulation for comments. This formula is meant for Social authorities' use mainly, but might also have an impact on the court establishing child support. It interprets current law and is not binding.)


Does Finland allow for support for a period before the parent applied? If yes, what is the period allowed (for example, from the birth of the child, from date of separation, retroactivity support is limited to X years, etc.)?


Child Support Act §10 provides that the court set support as of the date the action was brought or at a later date. However, the court may order earlier support for up to 1 year prior to filing the action, where the court finds there are "especially weighty reasons." The requesting party must assert some basis for the retroactive period.

If child support is sought within one year of establishment of paternity (by acknowledgement or order), support may be retroactive to the birth of the child, if deemed reasonable. However, the retroactive period in such a paternity case may not be more than 5 years prior to bringing the action.


MODIFICATION OF ORDERS

May either party request a review for modification? Yes.
Will Finland modify its existing domestic judgment when one of the parties resides in the USA and will not return for - or refuses to participate in - the proceedings?

No such restriction was found. "When the maintenance is assessed in Finland according to Finnish law, the same provisions apply irrespective of in what State the applicant or respondent lives."

According to the Finnish Child Maintenance Act, the threshold for modification is very high. (See earlier description.) The court will provide both parties with an opportunity to be heard.

Does Finland law require automatic adjustments (for example, based on changes in the cost of living, or X% every 3 years, etc.)?

Yes. Reassessment is done by the Ministry for Social Welfare and Health and is tied to an index on the cost of living. If the cost of living has risen at least 5% annually, the Ministry will fix the percentage of reassessment. This is done based on October figures. The percentage is set in November and the increase applies starting the following January.

If yes, are the automatic adjustments considered to be modifications of the order?

Yes.

Is a new order issued as a result of an automatic adjustment?

Upon request, the municipal social welfare board or the court will make a note of the reassessed maintenance in the agreement or judgment. In international cases, such an entry is routinely made by social authorities but a court judgment is not required.

Is there a minimum or threshold amount of change that must occur before a modification is made? (For example, the order would need to change by 25 dollars or more, or at least by 10%.)

A 5% annual change in the cost of living is required to trigger the automatic increase.

Otherwise, maintenance may be modified if he/she shows that the circumstances used in setting the award (see above) "have changed to such an extent that alteration of the maintenance shall be deemed reasonable in view of the circumstances of both the child and the parent responsible for the payment of maintenance. If the maintenance is based on an agreement, he/she must show the agreement is now 'unreasonable'".

(NOTE: The new formula proposition described above also provides a threshold for modification -- a 15% change in the amount of child support. Again, this formula is being proffered as an interpretation of current law and is not binding.)


COST RECOVERY

What costs, if any, are recovered from the custodial parent? None if an applicant. (See Decree on the Granting of Free Legal Aid in Certain Cases 833/89; International Co-operation Act 10.6.1921/171, Chapter 4 22.4.1988/737; and Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Maintenance Orders Act 8.4.1983/370). However, in court proceedings involving a paternity or maintenance establishment petition, costs may be assessed against a losing claimant found to have filed a frivolous claim.
What costs, if any, are recovered from the non-custodial parent? Agency services are cost-free. The general rule regarding cost is that the losing party may be ordered to pay the legal fees of the other party. Costs may be assessed against the respondent. Genetic testing fees are paid by Finland if the Social Welfare Authority or court orders the testing. Otherwise, the person requesting testing is obligated to pay. Enforcement is cost-free for the obligor as well.

Part E. Bilingual International Forms for Finland

Bilingual international forms for Finland are presented on the following pages:

Please note that forms are presented in pdf/jpg format. They are, however, available in Microsoft Word. Those interested should contact ocseinternational@acf.hhs.gov for the Word version of the forms.