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In Iceland, both the husband and the wife/registered partners are entitled to a divorce, if they file for it. In other words, the divorce will become final, even if one spouse/partner denies the other a divorce. Refusing to sign under a divorce agreement can delay the process. Legal separation and divorce permits are issued by district commissioners (sýslumenn) or their deputies with legal training, if both parties are in agreement. Otherwise, divorce must be sought before the municipal courts.

According to Icelandic legislation, a distinction is made between legal separation (skilnaður að borði og sæng) and divorce (lögskilnaður).  


Legal separation
If either one or both spouses/partners have a child under 18 years of age in their custody, a conciliation procedure before a priest or a recognized representative of a religious organization to which they belong is required. If one or both spouses/partners do not belong to any religious organization, the district Commissioner (sýslumaður) or the judge, depending on the authority in charge of the matter, may attempt conciliation. Before legal separation is granted, either a written agreement on the settlement of assets and debts shall be concluded, or an official settlement procedure initiated.

According to the law on marriage (Law in the Respect of Marriages) and on registrered partnership, each of the spouses/partners has a claim to one half of the net matrimonial property of the other. Exceptions can be made if a settlement of assets and debts would otherwise be clearly unreasonable for either spouse. This issue can be settled before the municipal court. This applies, in particular, to marriages of short duration when there's been a great difference between the financial situations of the spouses/partners upon entering into marriage, or if one spouse/partner has, at the time of marriage, contributed significantly more than the other to their joint estate.

The division of property into equal halves does not apply if the spouses/partners have made a marriage settlement or a pre-nuptial agreement providing that specified property shall be separate property of either or if the provisions of a will or a donation specify that the property inherited/donated shall be the separate property of the beneficiary. 

The mutual obligation of spouses/partners to maintain each other financially shall not be affected by legal separation. When legal separation takes place a decision shall be taken as to whether one spouse/partner shall pay alimony to the other, and as to the amount of the alimony. When legal separation takes place, the custody of, and support payments for children shall be decided upon. Parents' disagreements about custody and support payments for children do however not prevent the granting of legal separation upon a claim from either of them, provided that other conditions are fulfilled.

Other effects of legal separation are for example termination of inheritance rights and duty of co-habitation. The legal effects of separation shall terminate if the spouses/partners resume co-habitation, except for a short duration attempt to resume the union. You can also enter into other relationships but neither spouse/partner can enter into a new marriage until after the divorce has become final.

In case both spouses/partners are in agreement to seek divorce, they're entitled to divorce when six months have passed from the date the permit for legal separation was issued or judgment pronounced. In any event, each spouse/partner, upon application, is entitled to divorce when one year has passed from said dates.

Divorce follows legal separation or is granted directly if the following circumstances apply (skip over legal separation stage):

a)    In case either spouse/partner commits adultery or behaves in an adulterous way

b)    If it is established that one spous/partnere has committed physical assault, or a sexual offence directed against the other spouse/partner or a child residing in their home, and, in the case of physical assault, it has resulted in injury or damage to the health of the victim. The same applies if one spouse/partner conducts himself or herself in a manner suited to cause serious fear that he or she will commit such assault/sexual offence.
c)    If the spouses/partners have lived separately by their own choice due to irreconcilable differences, for a period of at least two years, they may receive a divorce directly upon application.