Professor Kirsten Sandberg
Professor Kirsten Sandberg is a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Kirsten Sandberg is member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the child 2011-2019. She was the Committee’s chairperson May 2013-May 2015 and is currently its general rapporteur.
She is a Professor at the Department of Public and International Law at the University of Oslo, specializing in Child Law. She has served as Acting Justice in the Supreme Court of Norway. Prior to her work as a University Professor, Prof. Sandberg served as a judge in a Norwegian county court. She has cooperated extensively with NGOs and given a number of lectures on the Convention on the Rights of the Child to NGOs and other professionals.
She is a member of the steering committee of KIS (Kunnskap I skolen – Knowledge in School), an interdisciplinary research area of the University of Oslo. Prof. Sandberg is also a member of the editorial board of the Norwegian Journal of family law, inheritance law and child protection law.
She is a Deputy member of the Council of the Norwegian Centre for Child Research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She has co-authored a book entitled The Convention on the Rights of the Child – Children’s Rights in Norway (2008). Her doctoral thesis was on The question of returning children after foster placement (2003).
Norway – Never-ending Reforms
Parental responsibility: The term “parental authority” was substituted by “parental responsibility” in the new Children Act 1981. In the Bill the legislator stated that the courts could not decide in favour of joint parental responsibility if the parents did not agree on this point. Gradually during the 1980’s the courts started to grant joint parental responsibility even if one parent contested it, unless the court found the parents unable to cooperate. This practice, i.e. joint parental responsibility as a main rule, was finally confirmed by the Supreme Court. Today joint parental responsibility is always granted unless there are very special reasons not to.
Shared residence: For many years parents have had the possibility to agree on shared residence. A possibility for the court to grant it against one of the parents’ will was introduced in the Children’s Act in 2010 after several rounds of discussion. The court may only grant shared residence if there is a special reason, not as a general or main rule. When this new rule was adopted there was a fear that courts might choose this solution too easily without proper assessment of the child’s best interests, but so far they have faithfully upheld the criterion of a special reason.
Contact: Since the 1980’s emphasis has exceedingly been placed on children’s contact with both parents after the parents have separated. However, gradually during the first decade of this millennium one realised that Courts granted contact almost at any cost and sometimes to the detriment of the child. It had become a right of the non-resident parent rather than of the child. In 2006 there was an amendment to the Act saying that contact is not to be granted where it is not in the best interests of the child, superfluous as it may seem since the Act already provided for the child’s best interests as the paramount consideration.
Even this amendment was not considered sufficient to protect the child from harm and thus in 2012 the Government introduced another Bill in order to provide further protection to the child. No amendment of the Act was proposed with regards to contact, but the Bill is interesting reading as it explains at length the importance of not granting contact if there is any risk of violence in any form, or if the child does not want contact.
All in all there seem to be two trends, one towards shared parenting, another towards discontinuing parenting if a parent poses any risk to the child.