Minister wants joint custody at birth

Having a child is a joint venture, so parents should automatically share custody when a child is born, says Family and Consumer Minister Henriette Kjær

Children always have two parents, who should both be responsible for them from the day they are born.

Today in Denmark, only mothers are granted custody over their children at birth, unless the parents are married or have requested joint custody from local authorities.

Conservative Family- and Consumer Minister Henriette Kjær wants to change that.

"We know some fathers find it difficult to spend time with their children after a divorce," she said. "It´s one of the problems we hope to put an end to by changing the law."

Parents are also to get joint custody if they separate before their child is born.

Kjær said automatic joint custody would send a clear signal that parents are both responsible for their children.

Chairman of the National Council for Children, Klaus Wilmann, welcomed the proposal.

"Cases where fathers want to see more of their children will hopefully be easier to solve if parents share custody from the beginning," he said.

Radical Liberals and Social Democrats in the parliamentary opposition said they were not very impressed by Kjær´s ideas, as unmarried parents are now asked to fill out a form after the birth of their child, where they can request joint custody.

Danish People´s Party MP Pia Kristensen was more skeptical about the proposal.

"It´s not in a baby´s best interest if the father can demand to spend time with him or her during the first months, when babies are totally dependent on their mothers because of breastfeeding," she said. "We support joint custody, but not automatically for babies."

But Kjær rebuffed any notion of exclusive motherhood.

"A baby is just as fine with his father as with his mother, and after a short while breastfeeding problems can be solved with a bottle," she said.

Kjær will establish a committee to draft the legislative change on joint custody already next week.

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