Fewer marrying immigrants, more divorces and custody clashes

Statistics reflect big changes in family structures in Denmark

Fewer immigrants are marrying Danes, according to figures from the national statistics office, Danmarks Statistik. DR Nyheder reports that several factors – most notably eastern Europeans bringing their partners from their home country and the heated immigration debate – have led to the decline.

In 2004 almost half of the immigrants who got married did so to Danes. Last year the proportion dropped to less than a third.

The proportion of second-generation immigrants marrying ‘ethnic Danes’ has also fallen over the course of the past decade, from a third to a quarter.

Anika Liversage, a senior researcher at the social research centre SFI, told DR Nyheder that couples often seek homogeneity in their relationships. “When we find a partner we often look for someone like ourselves,” she said.

“Couples often have the same values, opinions and level of education. It’s important for stability in a family that you agree on the fundamentals.”

Professor Garbi Schmidt of Roskilde University emphasised the polarity of the debate surrounding immigration and said that can create prejudices both among immigrants and non-immigrants. “If the one group finds the other group problematic, it is harder to convince mum and dad that you should marry an immigrant,” she said.

“It’s not ‘that type of person’ you take home.”

Record divorce rate
In other news, 19,435 married couples got divorced last year – the highest ever number in one year and 23 percent above average over the past decade.

The child and family researcher Per Schultz Jørgensen told Kristeligt Dagblad that this represented a transitional phase in family structure in society.

“The divorce rate is so significant that it is an actual break-up,” he said.

“We find ourselves in a transitional phase from the old family structure to the new, and we can no longer roll back the clock and get the nuclear family again. Single existence has almost become the new norm. You choose not to have a partner and sometimes not to have children, and that has become more acceptable.”

Child custody cases
But those couples who do have children are setting another record – last year was, according to figures from the court service Domstolsstyrelsen, also a record year for the number of disputes in child custody cases.

A total of 2,527 cases were brought by parents contesting that the other parent wasn’t respecting the custody agreements.

Rasmus Kjeldahl, the head of the children’s organisation Børns Vilkår, explained to Politiken that the cases that reach the bailiff’s court represent long disputes.

“When the cases have come so far that they reach the bailiff’s court, the psychological pressure on the children is huge,” he said.

“Even though the parents try to hide it, the children live in a field of tension.”

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