Over the years, I have received hundreds of questions from parents about various rights and obligations related to children. I believe parents should be aware of these before consulting a lawyer. Laws, of course, are constantly changing, and a significant part of the principles concerning parental legal custody and maintenance are shaped by the decisions of the Supreme Court, which parents are often unfamiliar with.


Therefore, I have gathered here the questions I have been asked the most frequently over the years. I have answered them to the best of my knowledge, based on my long-term judicial experience. However, it is crucial to understand that in disputes related to children, what works for one family may not be suitable for another. Everyone’s story is different, even if your circumstances seem similar. Therefore, when dealing with these matters, we must consider the specifics of the dispute and the well-being of the individual child. Below, I have explained general principles that apply to everyone and provide an overview of the applicable rules in simple language.


If you do not find an answer to your question here or would like a personal assessment of your situation, please feel free to book a consultation with me.

How do I share legal custody if I no longer live with the other parent?

The end of cohabitation does not necessarily mean the end of joint legal custody of the child, nor does it always require shared custody. When cohabitation ends, parents must first agree on issues the child’s upbringing, considering the child’s age, existing living arrangements, and the child’s own views. It is crucial that the child’s living arrangement is reasonable and supports their well-being.


For example, if the child’s school, residence, or general living conditions remain unchanged after separation because the parents have reached an agreement or there is no dispute, there is no reason to alter legal custody. Changes should only be made if agreement on important issues cannot be reached, one parent unreasonably prevents joint legal custody, or acts against the child’s interests, resulting in insurmountable disagreements.

If the child’s other parent does not agree to change the child’s school, is it grounds for terminating joint legal custody?

Yes, it can be, but not necessarily. Parental legal custody broadly consists of physical custody (the right and duty to care for the child) and property guardianship (the right and duty to care for the child’s property). Physical custody includes decisions about the child’s whereabouts (residence, travel), education (school choice, attendance, hobbies), and health (family physician, medical decisions). If parents disagree on a single issue, terminating legal custody as a whole is usually not justified. Instead, the decision should be made based on what the disagreement is about.


In the case of educational arrangements, it is possible to terminate joint legal custody in this matter and transfer educational arrangements to one parent as a general right (the future sole right of the parent to choose the child’s school, switch schools, establish hobby education, etc. without the consent of the other parent), but also to transfer to the parent a one-time power of decision in a specific matter – for example, in a specific case, to switch the child’s school, after which the joint legal custody is preserved and any other issues will still require the joint consent of both parents.

I can’t agree on anything with the other parent regarding the child. Could I terminate joint legal custody to make decisions on my own?

Yes, if the differences are insurmountable and each parent has a different vision for raising the child, it is likely neither possible nor reasonable to continue with joint legal custody. Termination of legal custody should be due to compelling circumstances that prevent effective parental cooperation. This often occurs in cases of violence (emotional, physical, economic, or otherwise), but also in other serious conflicts.


The child’s life should not be disrupted by parental disputes. If the parents cannot agree, the court will assess what is in the child’s best interest and which parent is better suited to make important decisions. It is important that the child does not get caught up in the arguments of the parents and that their growing environment is fully supportive of the child’s development, well-being, and best interests.

If the court grants me legal custody of the child, does the other parent lose the right of access to the child?

No. Legal custody and the right of access are separate issues. Even if one parent has sole legal custody, the other parent retains the right of access unless specifically deprived of it by the court. This is only justified if the parent is dangerous or harmful to the child.

How should a child communicate with a separated parent after separation?

After separation, parents must agree on the child’s residence and the frequency of communication with the separated parent. The child’s residence can alternate, but this depends on various factors that must be assessed individually. In 2023, the Supreme Court stated that joint legal custody does not automatically grant a parent the right to alternate the child’s residence, but it may be in the child’s best interests in some cases.


Factors such as the child’s age, opinion, parents’ work arrangements, emotional bond, previous commitments, distance between the parents’ homes, and ability to cooperate are considered. Parents should have honest and open discussion to determine the best arrangement for their child.

What if we can’t agree on future access arrangements for the child?

If parents cannot agree on access arrangements, they should contact local child protection services for assistance. If this fails, they must turn to family mediation, which is coordinated by the Social Insurance Board. Mediation is a prerequisite for court proceedings to determine access rights. The mediation procedure is not required beforehand only if a parent has been violent towards either the child or the other parent.


Mediation aims to help parents make agreements that consider the child’s needs and guide them in raising their child cooperatively. If mediation is unsuccessful, the mediator issues a certificate, allowing the parents to apply to the court to determine access rights.


Information on family mediation can be found here.

I want to move to another city with my child. Can the other parent prevent this?

Yes, if both parents have joint legal custody. Determining a child’s habitual residence always requires parental agreement as it significantly affects the child. If no agreement is reached, a court decision can be sought. The move must be justified as being in the child’s best interest while ensuring the relationship with the other parent is maintained. Exceptions apply in cases of violence.

From what age can a child refuse to communicate with a parent granted access by the court?

A child has the statutory right to communicate with a parent, but not an obligation. There is no specific age when a child’s wishes determine access rights, but their opinion should always be considered. The Supreme Court has stated, for example, that forcing a child to communicate unwillingly, contrary to what is sought, can further harm the parent-child relationship.


However, it is important to know that a 14-year-old has the independent right of appeal in court, and their opposition to the custody transfer it is binding. Younger children’s opinion are also very important, but not binding. Thus, the court may make a decision in the case that does not fall in line with the child’s opinion but is still in the best interests of the child, considering the circumstances. The court must justify any deviation from the child’s wishes.


Parents must realise that access need to evolve as the child grows and their self-image, emotional maturity, social ties and general life arrangement, among other things, are constantly changing, which is why the same right of access that was suitable when they were 7 years old may not be appropriate now that they are 13. The Supreme Court has also guidelines for gradually increasing access to rebuild and strengthen relationships between a separated parent and a child, but these may cease once the goal is achieved.


The child’s relationship with the separated parent and the parent’s efforts to maintain it are crucial. If a child refuses to communicate with a parent based on the right of access and there are objective reasons for this, it is possible to apply for an amendment of the right of access, where necessary, to limit or revoke access rights of a parent. It depends very much on the circumstances under which the aversion has arisen.


At the same time, it is also important that the parent living with the child generally must support the child’s relationship with the separated parent, insofar as the child is under the influence of the parent with whom they live and could give up communication with the other parent only because they want to be loyal to the parent living with them whose relationship with a separated parent is poor. Parents have a crucial role here not to reflect their feelings, heavy sighs, and personal disappointment about the breakup of the relationship onto the child, so that the child does not feel obliged to choose sides.

How much is child support?

Child maintenance costs in each case are individual and depend on many factors. To simplify support claims and encourage parental agreements, the legislator has set a minimum support amount. From 1 April 2024, the minimum support for one child is 287.72 euros per month. The amount changes on 1 April annually base on the consumer price index and average wages of the previous year, and includes child allowance (in 2024, 80.00 euros for the first and second child,and 100.00 euros for the third and subsequent children).

In addition to the above, other factors can affect support amounts, such as direct payments by the separated parent, time spent with the separated parent exceeding seven days per month, or having multiple children with close age differences (less than three years). Minimum support can be calculated and explanatory information can be found in the support calculator of the Ministry of Justice.

Can higher than minimum support be requested?

Yes. Minimum support applies uniformly throughout the country. However, the standard of living, including housing costs, wages, fees of children’s hobby groups, etc., are very different in different parts of Estonia, which is why there may be situations when the minimum support does not meet the child’s actual needs. It is also important that one of the components of ordering support is the assessment of the previous standard of living, i.e. if the economic situation of the parents has not changed significantly after the separation, the child’s standard of living should not change significantly either. The child’s standard of living directly depends on the standard of living of their parents, and the law obligates the parent to use the means at their disposal similarly to the child. At the same time, the law allows deviating from the equality of the maintenance obligation, for example, if the economic situation of the parents is unequal or the distribution of the child’s expenses between the parents is disproportionate.

In what cases can support be reduced?

Just as the law allows demanding higher than minimum support, the law also allows reducing support. The law does not provide an exhaustive list of what causes this, but in practice, for example, (partial) incapacity to work of the obligated parent or children from a new relationship who would be in an economically disadvantaged situation compared to the child who demands support from the parent have been considered. It is important to know that unemployment does not release the parent from the maintenance obligation. The parent is obligated to seek gainful employment and earn income according to their abilities.

Up to what age does a child have the right to demand support from a parent?

A minor child is entitled to support until they reach adulthood. An adult child (up to 21 years old) can claim support if they are in basic, secondary, or higher education, or vocational training. It is important to know that a parent can file a claim with the court on behalf of a minor, but an adult child must file a claim themselves.

Is court action necessary to get support from the other parent?

No. There is a common misconception that child support is “official” only if it has been ordered by court. This is not true.


The parent’s obligation to maintain a minor child is a statutory obligation, which does not require court order to be official. Therefore, the amount of support must be foremost agreed upon with the other parent. To avoid possible disagreements in the future, it is advisable to put it in writing – preferably in a notarised format, which also allows it to be enforced where necessary, i.e. if the parent obligated to pay support does not adhere to the notarised agreement, it is possible to initiate enforcement proceedings to collect outstanding support without going to court.


If a parent refuses to pay support to the child, does not adhere to the agreement (delays with payments, makes deductions at their own discretion) or fails to reach an agreement, it is necessary to go to court to order support.

Can support be claimed retroactively?

Yes. The law permits claiming support for up to one year before filing a court claim.

We will find answers to your questions together! Get in touch with me.

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