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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

The Faroe Islands: A New Family Law is Born



Last year witnessed relevant news in the so-called Danish Rigsf a llesskab, the Kingdom of Denmark, which comprises Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland: as of 29 July 2018, the Faroese National Day of St. Olav, the Faroese authorities formally took over the fields of family and inheritance law and the law of persons. This fact does not only entail significant changes and challenges for the future family law in force in the Faroe Islands but also for the legal landscape in the Rigsf a llesskab.


The Faroe Islands are located in the North Atlantic Ocean. They were occupied by Norsemen around the ninth century. In 1035, they were incorporated into the Kingdom of Norway and remained as such after the union with Denmark. With the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Norway fell under the Swedish crown while Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands remained part of the Danish Realm. The Danish Constitution of 1849 applied to the Faroe Islands. They were considered an integral part of Denmark and not regarded as a colony. As descendants of Norsemen, the Faroese population is of Scandinavian origin.

The autonomy from Denmark was formally obtained after the Second World War, with the enactment of the Home Rule Act (herein, HRA) in 1948. This established that the Faroe Islands would constitute a ‘self-governing community within the Danish Kingdom’. In 2005, the so-called Takeover Act (herein, TOA) was approved. This Act meant a new impulse towards strengthening Faroese autonomy. Following its preamble, the TOA is based on an agreement between the Faroese Home Rule Government and the Danish Government as equivalent parties. The current scenario of distribution of competences between the Danish and the Faroese authorities consists of three groups of affairs. First, there is one group of core fields which are reserved to the competence of the Danish authorities. The understanding is that these fields are connected to the Danish Constitution and not transferrable to the Faroese authorities. Second, a so-called ‘List I’ which details a number of matters which may be transferred to the Faroese authorities after prior negotiation with the Danish ones. Civil law, family law and the law of successions are included in this List, as well as the administration of justice, comprising the establishment of courts.