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Until the Reformation, it was the canon law that established when a married couple could get divorced. It could only be if there were exceptional circumstances. One example could be that one party had not consented to the marriage voluntarily, but had been forced. Other grounds were adultery, broaching and secret illnesses, which was only discovered after the wedding. The parties could be separated - but would not be allowed to remarry.

Tamper Court

After the Reformation, Christian V, and the Danish Code of 1683, the same rules carried on. But now the parties could be permitted to remarry after three years because the church no longer considered marriage as a sacrament. A couple would divorce, but their case presented by tamper law, a special church marriage tribunal. The court came together four times a year - on tamper days. The name is a "Danishization" of the Latin "quatuor tempora" - the four parts of which the church year was divided into.

Judgement or decree?

After the Regulation of 1 December 1797, the tamper law, claims, and matrimonial matters were referred to the general, civil law. You could get a divorce in two ways - by appropriation or conviction. The latter is very rare.

Mediation Protocols and form accounts

To divorce, a couple must first have been separated a minimum of 3 years. Before separation, the parties were required to go to mediation. Both a clerical with a minister, and a secular among county magistrates.

Always remember to look in the Registry of the county in which a divorced or separated couple have lived. There may be new information in mediation protocol, which will tell why the couple chose to terminate the relationship.

If a divorce is not preserved in the National Archives, you may be lucky and find it in the Justice Ministry's archive at the National Archives. Among the so-called "form accounts" you may find information or documents regarding the case.

Divorces before 1797

Zealand Diocese Konsistorums archive at the National Archives Lolland - Falster diocese and the archive at the National Archives Bornholm county archives at National Archives


Statens Arkiver. Skilsmisse. Denmark: Landsarkivet for Sjælland Lolland-Falster & Bornholm, 2008