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Personal matters

Marriage, Cohabitation & Divorce

Marriage is primarily a civil institution. In marriages in Iceland, both women and men have the same right and shared responsibilities towards their children.

Same-sex marriage in Iceland is legal. A married couple can apply for a legal separation jointly or separately.


Marriage is primarily a civil institution. The Marriage Act defines this recognised form of joint habitation, stating who may marry and what conditions are to be set for marrying. You can read more about the rights and responsibilities of who enter into marriage on island.is.

Two persons may enter into marriage when they have reached the age of 18. If one or both of the persons intending to marry are under the age of 18, the Ministry of Justice can grant them permission to marry, only if the custodial parents provide their stance regarding the marriage.

Those licensed to perform marriages are priests, heads of religious and lifestance-based associations, District Commissioners and their delegates. Marriage confers responsibilities on both parties while the marriage is valid, whether or not they live together. This also applies even if they are legally separated.

In marriages in Iceland, both women and men have the same rights. Their responsibilities towards their children and other aspects related to their marriage are also the same.

If a spouse dies, the other spouse inherits a part of their estate. Icelandic law generally allows the surviving spouse to keep an undivided estate. This enables the widow(er) to continue to live in the marital home after their spouse has passed on.


People living in registered cohabitation have no maintenance obligations towards each other and are not each other’s legal heirs. Cohabitation can be registered at Registers Iceland.

Whether cohabitation is registered or not may affect the rights of the individuals concerned. When cohabitation is registered, the parties acquire a clearer status before the law than those whose cohabitation is not registered in regards to social security, rights on the labour market, taxation and social services.

They do not, however, enjoy the same rights as married couples.

The social rights of cohabiting partners are often dependent on whether they have children, how long they have been cohabiting and whether or not their cohabitation is registered in the national register.


When seeking a divorce, one spouse can request a divorce regardless of whether the other spouse agrees to it. The first step is to file the request for a divorce, called a legal separation, at your local District Commissioner’s office. The online application can be found here. You can also make an appointment with the District Commissioner for assistance.

After the application for a legal separation has been filed, the process of granting a divorce usually takes approximately one year. The district commissioner issues the legal separation permit when each spouse signs a written agreement on the division of debt and assets. Each spouse shall be entitled to divorce when one year has passed from the date a permit for legal separation was issued or judgment pronounced in a court of law.

In the case where both spouses agree to seek divorce, they shall be entitled to divorce when six months have passed from the date when a permit for legal separation was issued or a judgment was pronounced.

When the divorce is granted, assets are divided equally between spouses. With exception to separate individual assets determined legal property of one spouse. For example, distinct properties owned by one individual prior to the marriage, or if there is a prenuptial agreement.

Married people are not responsible for their spouse’s debts unless they have consented to it in writing. Exceptions to this are tax debts and in some cases, debts due to household maintenance such as children’s needs and rent.

Keep in mind that change in financial circumstances for one spouse may have serious consequences for the other. Read more about Financial Rights & Obligations of Married Couples.

An immediate divorce can be granted if a divorce is requested on the basis of infidelity or sexual/physical abuse towards a spouse or their children.

Your Rights is a booklet that discusses the rights of people in Iceland when it comes to intimate relationships and communication, for example marriage, cohabitation, divorce and dissolution of partnership, pregnancy, maternity protection, termination of pregnancy (abortion), custody of children, access rights, violence in intimate relationships, human trafficking, prostitution, complaints to the police, donation and residence permit.

The booklet is published in many languages:









The divorce process

In the divorce application to the District Commissioner, you will need to address the following issues, among other things:

  • The basis of the divorce.
  • Arrangements for custody, legal domicile and child support for your children (if any).
  • Division of assets and liabilities.
  • A decision on whether alimony or pension should be paid.
  • It is recommended to submit a certificate of reconciliation from a priest or director of a religious or lifestance-based association and a financial communication agreement. (If neither a settlement certificate nor a financial agreement is available at this stage, you can submit them later.)

The person requesting the divorce fills out the application and sends it to the District Commissioner, who presents the divorce claim to the other spouse and invites the parties for an interview. You can attend the interview separately from your spouse. The interview is conducted with a lawyer at the District Commissioner’s office.

It is possible to request that the interview be conducted in English, but if an interpreter is needed in the interview, the party requiring the interpreter must provide one themselves.

In the interview, spouses discuss issues that are addressed in the application for divorce. If they reach an agreement, divorce is usually granted on the same day.

When the divorce is granted, the District Commissioner will send the National Registry a notification of divorce, the change of addresses for both parties if available, arrangements for child custody, and legal residence of child/children.

If a divorce is granted in court, the court will send a notification of the divorce to the National Registry of Iceland. The same applies to custody and legal residence of children decided in court.

You may need to notify other institutions of a change in marital status, for example, due to the payment of benefits or pensions that change according to marital status.

The effects of legal separation will terminate if the spouses move in together again for more than a short period that may reasonably be considered necessary, particularly for removal and acquisition of a new home. The legal effects of separation will also terminate if the spouses resume living together later, except for an attempt of short duration to resume the union.

In marriages in Iceland, both women and men have the same rights.