Family counselling service

Updated: 29 September 2022

Next update: Not yet determined

New family counselling cases
New family counselling cases
26 711

About the statistics

The statistics provide an overview of cases dealt with by the family counselling offices. This includes figures on family counselling service cases and mediations for parents, clinical groups, man-years and outreach/external activities.

Family counselling service case: a journal number is created for every client unit that the family counselling service works with. Client unit is defined as all persons involved in the same case or subject, for example couples, families or individuals. If another counsellor is brought in, and for instance gives one of the parties a different course of counselling on an individual basis, this is defined as a separate case and is given a new journal number. It is considered appropriate to establish a separate case in such cases even where the same counsellor is dealing with both the couple’s case and the individual’s case. Cases that are completed may be reopened within 6 months of the last contact. Where more than 6 months has elapsed, a new journal number must be created. In the event that a client makes contact again within the 6 month time limit, but this time because of another problem (e.g. first marital problems and then cooperation in connection with a child), a new journal must also be created. Conversations with children within the framework of mediation are not to be registered as a journal. When the mediation is completed, any follow-up/subsequent conversations are registered as a journal.

A case must have at least one counselling session during the year in order to be included in the statistics.

Primary client: the person who makes initial contact with the office is registered as the primary client. If the case relates to, for example, a couple, and both attend the counselling session, the person who made initial contact is regarded as the primary client and the other person is regarded as the main interlocutor. If the person who makes contact is a child under 18, he/she is regarded as a primary client and any parents or other parties participating in meetings are regarded as interlocutors. Where the mother/father contacts the office in connection with a case that, for example, deals with a child’s substance abuse, the mother/father is registered as the primary client and the child as the main interlocutor.

Topics in the meetings: the primary client’s main reason for contacting the family counselling service is registered. The topics discussed in the counselling sessions during the year are also registered. As from 2013, there are 18 different topics that can be registered.

Clinical groups: Groups created by family counselling offices, with a reason for treatment. Participants in these groups have a client status. This differs from courses and groups organised for the public, which is part of the family counselling offices’ external activities.

Cause of enquiry: Following the re-adjustment of the statistics in 2013, the number of categories for the cause of enquiry has been reduced to four main categories, based on what the main client states as the reason for making contact. Instead, more detailed information is collected on the main subject of the cases.

Main subject: From 2013, data is collected on the main topic/main subject of the family counselling. The executive officer selects the main subject based on the main focus in the cases from the case officer’s point of view.

Main actions in the counseling: the measures that the counselor considers to be the most important in the case are registered here. This should be viewed in conjunction with who has been involved in the meetings. Although the client specifies a topic in relation to his/her partner as the most important reason for contacting the office, the main action may be individual meetings.

Employee: all employees in the county authority family counselling service are registered; full-time and part-time employees, specialists, office personnel and administration personnel. Part-time employees are converted to full-time equivalents (FTEs). Where temporary staff are brought in as cover for permanent staff, the education of the temporary staff is registered as opposed to that of the person on leave. This definition is changed from 2013. (See Man-Years)

Man-Years: A new definition of man-years was introduced in the family counselling statistics in 2013. The man-years corresponds to the sum of the number of full-time employees and part-time employees converted to full-time equivalents, excluding man-years lost due to sickness absence and parental leave. Man-years cover agreed working hours.

Outreach activities: all measures that the family counselling service has implemented during the reporting year are included. The number of measures implemented by the office during the reporting year and the total number of FTEs are registered. Outreach activities are made up of: Groups for the public; Relationship enhancement courses; Other measures for users; Information/guidance of students; Consultation/guidance of the support service; Courses/information of the support service; Information to the media.


The number of mediation cases completed in the relevant year by government-approved family counselling offices and external mediators under the provisions of the Marriage Act and Children Act. Mediation cases started at the end of the year that have not yet been completed are included in the statistics the following year. Mediation is mandatory for married couples with children under 16 upon separation/divorce (Marriage Act) and for cohabitees with children under 16 who separate (Children Act). Parents with children under 16 must also attend mediation before proceedings can be initiated concerning parental responsibility, the child’s permanent residence and access arrangements. This is registered in the mediation statistics as mediation according to the Children Act. The court may refer the parents for further mediation, which is registered in the statistics as returned from court system. The purpose of mediation is for parents to reach agreement on parental responsibility, the child’s permanent residence and access arrangements.


Family counselling offices and external mediators. The county administrator is responsible for ensuring that a competent mediation service is in place, and for granting mediation licences.

Fom 1 January 2008 onwards, Bufetat (the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs) appoints external mediators as needed; for example, lawyers, priests, social workers, psychologists or others within health and social education. (See "Regulations for mediation by the Marriage Act and the Children Act", § 3 and § 4).

Mediation licences are given to a named individual, and are tied to his/her position and workplace.

Mediation for parents is carried out by qualified professionals in government-approved family counselling offices. External mediators who have been granted a mediation licence are also entitled to work in this field. External mediators are qualified professionals employed by public health and social welfare agencies or the Educational and Psychological Counselling Service (PPT) (e.g. social workers, child welfare officers, psychologists, health visitors), priests or pastors in registered religious communities, as well as psychologists, psychiatrists and solicitors in private practice.

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Name: Family counselling service

Topic: Social conditions, welfare and crime

Not yet determined

Division for health, care and social statistics (330)

The family counselling statistics are published at office level, county level and regional level.

Until the end of 2003, family counselling services were undertaken by the county authorities. Responsibility for these services was transferred to the central government on 1 January 2004. Administrative responsibility lies with the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir). The Directorate is organised into five regions that deal with the production of the services.

The mediation statistics are a part of the reporting on family counselling. Until 2007, this work was administered by the county administrators. Since 2008, the regional offices for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufetat) have been responsible for reporting the mediation statistics to Statistics Norway, and the statistics are still reported and published at county level.

Annual. Final figures are normally published in September/October.

Not relevant

Data collected is stored by the Division for social welfare statistics until 2017, and later the data is stored by the Division for Health, care and social statistics.

The Division for public finance is responsible for the accounts figures. Submission of data in addition to published material is in accordance with an agreement between the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion and Statistics Norway.

The family counselling service has been available to families and individuals with a need for advice and treatment in connection with problems and crisis situations since 1958. There are currently 41 family counselling offices.

In 1990, overall responsibility for family counselling was transferred from the Norwegian Directorate of Health to the then Ministry of Children and Families. The Family Counselling Offices Act was introduced in 1998, at which point the Ministry transferred administrative responsibility for the service to the county authorities. During this period, the Ministry approached Statistics Norway and the work on family counselling statistics was initiated. In conjunction with central government’s takeover of the family counselling service in 2004, the administrative responsibility was transferred to the new Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir).

Prior to the county authorities assuming administrative responsibility, the family counselling offices were either run by central government or the church. The administrative structure was not standardised at that time, and the offices had different framework conditions, which has led to varying content in the service over time and in relation to ownership structure. These conditions were partly why the then Ministry of Children and Families wanted to review and restructure the service. Even after the government takeover, a distinction is made in family counselling between governmental and church family counselling offices. The church offices are independent units with an operating agreement with the regions.

Families and couples are the key target groups in the family counselling service, but individuals can also apply for help. The family counselling offices’ work is described in the legislation as clinical work/case work, preventive work and mediation for parents.

Mandatory mediation in connection with separation or divorce for all married parents with children under 16 was introduced on 1 January 1993. Mediation is also mandatory for parents who want to contest parental responsibility, the child’s permanent residence or access arrangements with the county administrator or in the courts. In 2007, mandatory mediation was also introduced for cohabitees with children under 16 who separate. The family counselling service carries out most of the mediation work, but other county bodies can also carry out mediation. As from the statistical year 2007, mediation statistics are excluded from the family counselling statistics that are presented in this area, and are published as separate statistics: Mediation for parents. With effect from 2014, statistics on the family counselling service and mediation for parents were merged into one single statistic.

The most important users of the family counselling statistics are the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, Bufdir, state governing bodies, research institutions, the media and students. The statistics can be used as control information within public planning, education and in public debate.

Not relevant

The statistics are part of the central government accounts.

The family counselling service also carry out work on mediation for parents, and these mediation cases are excluded from the cases that are published in the family counselling area. The mediation statistics (Mediation for parents) have been published as a separate statistics since 2007. With effect from 2014, statistics on the family counselling service and mediation for parents were merged into one single statistic.

Statistics Act of 16 June 1989 no. 54, Section 2-2.

Family Counselling Offices Act of 19 June 1997 no. 62, Section 8.

The purpose of mediation is stipulated in Section 26 of the Marriage Act of 4 July 1991 no. 47 and Section 52 of the Children Act of 8 April 1981 no. 7.

Not relevant

The family counselling service’s individual statistics are based on data from all cases that the family counselling offices have worked on during the reporting year, both in the public owned family counselling offices, and in the church family counselling offices. The statistics contain information on who has contacted the family counselling office, the client’s most important reason for making contact, and what topics are touched on during the course of the case.

The statistics on Man-years in the family counselling service are given in summary form, and employees are registered in the statistics by education. Vacancies are also covered in the statistics. Man-years and vacancies give a picture of the situation as at 31 December.

The mediation statistics are compiled based on all mediation cases that family counselling offices and external mediators have worked on and completed during the year of reporting.

The mediation statistics contain information on how many mediation cases were completed during the year, the reason for mediation and the legal basis, the waiting time from application to first appointment, and the amount of time spent on each mediation case. Relocation is a new category for “cause of mediation” from and including 2019.

The statistics are based on reporting from the family counselling offices in the individual regions. The reporting includes information on the individual cases that are registered at the family counselling office during the statistical year, in accordance with the guidelines in the legislation on family counselling offices. Information is also given on employees and the outreach service. Data is collected by means of annual submission of electronic data. Accounting figures are reported from Bufdir to the Division for public finance in Statistics Norway.

The statistics are based on a full count from the respondents.

The mediation statistics up to 2008 are based on reporting from the county administrators in the individual counties. The reporting includes information on all mediation carried out at the family counselling offices and by external mediators. The reported data are aggregated based on the data Bufdir collects from the family counselling offices and external mediators.

Since 2008, mediators have reported quarterly to Bufetat (the regions), and this reporting is summarised before being sent to Statistics Norway.

The statistics are based on a full count from the respondents.

Electronics forms and file extractions are used for family counselling reporting. The client statistics are reported as file extractions from the family counselling offices’ internal data systems. Before being sent, the data is encrypted in a conversion program, which is available on Statistics Norway’s website. Personnel data were previously reported by the family counselling offices on electronic forms. With effect from 2015, personnel data are collected via A-ordningen. Accounting figures are reported by Bufdir to the Division for public finance.

Before being sent, the client statistics are checked in a program that can be found on Statistics Norway’s website. Statistics Norway also runs the program on file extractions it receives. Preliminary tables and key figures, as well as error tables, are sent to the relevant family counselling office. The family counselling offices check that data is correct. The error tables are dealt with and returned to Statistics Norway for revision, which is carried out prior to final publishing. When Statistics Norway receives the data, new controls are carried out. Corrections to any errors in the reporting are made after consultation with the relevant respondent.

The data are published at two levels; as basic data and key figures. The basic data is mainly calculated by counting the number of cases with a specific characteristic. Key figures are ratios created from the basic data.

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The former county authority child welfare and family counselling service was taken over by central government on 1 January 2004. Since data is now reported at regional level instead of county level, there will be a break in the time series as from 2004. Data at county level from pre-2004 is still available in KOSTRA and the web page for this area. Together with the first year of publication for the statistics (2004), the family counselling data for 2003 will be aggregated up to regional level. With regard to accounts data, the break in time series is due to different accounting principles being applied in the state and municipal accounts (cash flow accounting and accruals principle respectively).

Mediation was made mandatory in 2007 for cohabitants with children under 16 who separate. The mediation statistics were restructured in this year and a separate area was created for the publishing of mediation statistics: for parents)

The responsibility for mediation was transferred from the county administrators to the regions in 2008.

The family counselling statistics have been re-adjusted with effect from the 2013 figures. There is new information about the main topic of the cases, client groups in family counselling and man-years in family counselling. Man-years are now collected from Statistics Norway's registers, and no longer via electronic forms. This has led to the introduction of a new definition of man-years from 2013. For outreach activities in family counselling, figures are collected from the family counselling offices’ computers systems, instead of from electronic forms.

There is a re-adjustment of the statistics on mediations for parents with effect from the 2014 figures. The change is that the form has been expanded to capture information on children's participation in mediation cases, the result of issues with regard to agreements and results in these cases, and whether notes of concern are sent or not. With effect from 2014, statistics on the family counselling service and mediation for parents were merged into one single statistic.

It is difficult for Statistics Norway to identify certain types of errors, for example where the number of family counselling cases and/or time spent is too low or too high. In such cases, the offices themselves, based on the unrevised table material sent to the offices, contact Statistics Norway to correct the errors.

Some of the reporting may include questions that have not been answered, or data that is inaccurate or contradicts other data. Information that is not given to Statistics Norway will be referred to as Unspecified in the published statistics. Even after the checks are completed, there may still be errors in parts of the material on which the statistics are based. The offices and Statistics Norway check the figures prior to final publication.


There are discrepancies in the total sums in these Statbank-tables: 10936, 10937, 10938 and 10939.

Up to 2019, the total sums shown in the above tables do not correspond to the sum of each individual figures. From 2019, these two sums are the same, however different tables show different total sums, since “Legal requirements” limited our data to reveal any link between cases and registered information in the areas covered by the table. As a result, Statistics Norway cannot provide data without these discrepancies. Statbank-table 10 937 will show the correct number of parent mediation cases.

In 2020, an urgent (emergency) exemption was introduced for attending parental mediation due to the covid-19 situation. 1,510 mediations without attendance were carried out at the family counselling offices, while around 200 by external mediators. Accordingly, it is estimated that a total number of 19,700 mediations were completed in 2020.

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