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Divorce in the Netherlands

Divorce in the Netherlands

A couple can choose to end their union in the Netherlands in one of three ways: through a divorce, legal separation or the dissolution of the marriage after the legal separation has already taken place. Divorce is usually the course of action aided by divorce lawyers in the Netherlands for many couples, and issues like the settlement, the division of assets and parental responsibility for the children are also handled during this process.

Our team of divorce lawyers in the Netherlands can help couples who have decided to end their union and also need to resolve the manner in which their joint assets will be distributed and how the responsibility for the children will partake.

Filing for divorce is a procedure during which many individuals will request legal aid. In order to be able to file for divorce, one or both of the individuals need to have been living in the country, present the valid, and appropriate documents to the court with which they are requesting the divorce (the same one where the marriage was registered).

The experts in Family Law at our Dutch law firm answer a number of questions that are common in case of divorce and can assist the parties with adequate legal representation services.

What are the conditions for obtaining a divorce in the Netherlands?

Divorce in the Netherlands can be requested by both spouses jointly and also by one of them (a unilateral request). In both cases, it is necessary that the parties to be represented by a divorce lawyer in Netherlands before the court located in the applicant’s jurisdiction.

The divorce in the Netherlands may be asked at any time after the marriage, there is not required to be married for a certain period before entering into divorce procedures. The divorce is achieved by registration of the judgment in the registers of civil status. The registration can be done only after the judgment has become untouchable (the force of res judicata). The registration must be completed within six months after the judgment has become final, otherwise it will lose its effect. If the marriage was registered abroad and the foreign marriage certificate is not included in the Dutch registers of births, the divorce procedure implies the entering of the divorce judgment in the special register of civil status of Hague.

The Ministry of Justice and Security is the one responsible for handling divorce matters. One of our divorce lawyers in the Netherlands can provide you with more information about the current laws and regulations.

How is property divided after divorce in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands has fairly specific rules concerning the income and assets during marriage. The legal system is the community of property. This implies, in principle, all property of the spouses, both obtained before and during the marriage, in the community. Our lawyer who is specialized in Family Law in the Netherlands can give you more details about these rules.

Also, all debts contracted before and during the marriage, in principle, fall within the community, regardless of which of the spouses’ debt is incurred. Any creditor can recover the debt from any of the spouses. The community property is dissolved by divorce and the the joint estate should be divided. The basic principle in the law applied for divorce in Netherlands is that each spouse is entitled to half. The spouses may agree on other division of assets on the basis of a divorce agreement or by the distribution of goods.

By making prenuptial agreement before or during (occurs very rarely) marriage, spouses can choose a different system of assets distribution than the legal system and will come in force in case of divorce.

Another possible course of action after divorce in the Netherlands is to draw up a settlement. The parties can agree upon certain maintenance, pension, and childcare issued in a specially drafted document. Our team of Dutch lawyers can assist individuals who wish to draw up this type of document. The alternative is to draw up the agreement yourselves or in the front of a civil-law notary. The advantage of working with one of our lawyers is that he can handle this step, as well as all of the other ones related to the procedure.

How are parental duties distributed after divorce in the Netherlands?

After divorce in the Netherlands, the parents continue to exercise joint custody and the custody is given to only one of them in exceptional situations. The request for single custody can be made by both parents or only by one of them. The parent who does not have authority to the child’s custody, has the right to ask the court to determine visitation.

If parents continue to exercise common custody after the divorce in the Netherlands, the intention is that together they make agreements about the finances for the care of the children. They can also ask the judge to capture these arrangements. The court may also determine the contribution to the alimony, by following a certain percent of the spouse’s income.

The decisions made concerning the children after a divorce should always have the child’s best interests in mind. According to law, parents who have minor children to think about and draw up a parenting plan.This will include the following issues:

  1. the care agreement: how the parents will share the care of the child or children and the upbringing.
  2. communication: the manner in which the separated parties will choose to communicate important matters concerning the child.
  3. costs: the general costs for child maintenance will be stipulated herein and they will include several categories.
  4. access arrangement: in this situations in which only one parent has the responsibility for the upbringing of the child.
  5. others: this category can include separate categories important for parenting, as decided by the parties.

The parenting plan can also include information about the degree of contact the child will have with the families of the parents. In essence, the parenting plan will include all of the aspects that both parties consider essential for the good upbringing of the child after divorce. This document is not only mandatory for minor children but also one that may resolve issues which can occur after the separation of parental responsibility. After the parenting plan is drawn up and agreed upon, both parents are required to sign the document.

Our divorce and family lawyers in the Netherlands recommend that you take the needed time to draw up a comprehensive parenting plan that will suit the needs of the child/children and will be mutually agreed upon with the former spouse.

What are some of the payment obligations after divorce in the Netherlands?

The court may decide, in the divorce judgment or by a subsequent ruling, that the ex-spouse who has not sufficient income for his/her livelihood to obtain financial benefits from the other ex-spouse in order to maintain a decent lifestyle. In determining this, the court takes into account the needs of the ex-spouse and the means (financial resources) of the other ex-spouse. If the court sets no time limit on the duration of the maintenance obligation, the maintenance obligation ends after 12 years. However, in case of a short (no longer than 5 years) childless marriage, the maintenance period can be set for a period less or equal to the marriage duration.

The partner maintenance obligations shall cease when the situation of the partner who was receiving the payment changes. For example, when he/she has enough income or when he/she enters into a registered partnership with someone else or moves in with someone else. One of the parties also has the option to end or change these payments and for this purpose, a lawyer must file a court petition. One of our family attorneys in the Netherlands can help you should this become necessary.

Other details about the divorce procedure in the Netherlands

The divorce in the Netherlands always begins with a petition that contains the applicant’s name, first names and place of residence of the spouses, as provided by the Dutch law. If there are minor children involved, the data on these children should also be mentioned. In addition to a request for divorce, there may also be asked for one or more ancillary facilities. The court may take an ancillary facility:

  • the authority involved in the custody of minor children;
  • the maintenance for one of the former spouses and / or children;
  • the division of matrimonial property or the settlement of the agreed prenuptial system;
  • the use of the marital home and the pension equalization.

The petition must be submitted to the court by a lawyer. The applicant who lives in the Netherlands must submit the application before the court in the district where he/she resides. When the applicant does not live in the Netherlands, but the other spouse does, the petition must be submitted to the court in the district where the other spouse lives. When both spouses reside outside the Netherlands, the request must be sent to court of Hague.

The petition for divorce in the Netherlands must be deposited along with the following documentation:

  • original extracts (up to three months old) from the population register of both spouses, indicating nationality, marital status and, when one does not have Dutch nationality, also an indication of the date of entry in the Netherlands.
  • original extracts from the register of births (up to 3 months old) of the minor children;
  • original extract from the marriage register

When minor children are involved, a parenting plan is required. A parenting plan includes agreements between the parents regarding the daily care of the children, school, sports, medical care, arrangements for special days like holidays, finance, practical arrangements.


Divorce mediation in the Netherlands

Working with a divorce lawyer in Amsterdam is common for those who live in the country’s capital city, as it is frequent for those living in other areas to employ the services of a local law firm. However, the role of mediation for divorce purposes should not be disregarded.

The divorce process is one that may include a number of agreements on the part of the future spouses. In short, they will need to settle different matters and will need to reach a number of mutual agreements, especially when children are involved. One manner in which this can be accomplished is through mediation. Divorce mediation in the Netherlands has certain advantages and can help the former couple navigate through a number of misunderstandings. It can be useful in case of the mandatory agreements regarding children, for settling partner maintenance as well as the needed child maintenance.

The agreement reached with the help of the mediator can also include guidelines for the future care of the child or children as well as the settlement of debts, if the couple had any.

The divorce lawyer in Amsterdam (if you live in this area) can still provide guidance and counsel during this period as each party can be assisted by their respective lawyer and the attorney will also be the one to help you file for divorce once you and your former spouse have agreed on the parenting plan and the mediator prepared the agreement.

The mediator is the third party who can help resolve the conflict. If this is a chosen method, the parties should know that the court case is suspended during the mediation process. If not all of the issues are resolved, the court can then resume the case, partly or completely.

Another important advantage of divorce mediation is that, overall, it can reduce the costs associated with the divorce as the entire process is thus streamlined. Moreover, there is an important implication for the children, if any. When the separation of the parents is amicable and does not last for a very long time, the minor child or children can benefit from having to transition a shorter period and have little involvement in the divorce.

When the parents can reach a mutually advantageous settlement early on, they can also be less inclined to have future conflicts involving unresolved matters. With the help of the mediator and the lawyers the former spouses will be able to address all of the areas of interest. Interested individuals should also remember that mediation is a tailored process, suited specifically to their unique needs as per the status of their former family.

The marriage annulment in the Netherlands

A particular situation, different from a divorce, is that where the union between two parties is annulled, based on the fact that it entered into existence under improper terms. The assistance of a divorce lawyer in Netherlands is also needed in this case.

According to the Family Law in Netherlands a marriage can be annulled for the following reasons:

  • one of the individuals was already married;
  • there were not enough witnesses present during the marriage ceremony;
  • one of the spouses was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage or had a mental disorder;
  • the marriage was a forced one;
  • the two parties have a close blood relationship or affinity;
  • the marriage was a sham one, solely for the purpose of obtaining the right to live in the country (when a foreign national does not have the permit allowing him or her to remain in the country).

If one of the situations above apply in a particular case, the parties will not file for divorce but for annulment. This is submitted to the district court in their areas of residence and it is performed with the help of an attorney.

Divorce statistics, presented by our divorce lawyer in Amsterdam

The statistics on divorce made available by the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics reveal the following:

  • total marriage dissolutions in 2020 due to divorce: 28,965;
  • the average duration of the marriage at the date of the divorce: 14.9 years;
  • the average age of the man at divorce: 47.8;
  • the average age of the women at divorce: 44.5.

The number of divorces per year increased steadily since the 1960s, according to the Statistical Office. While in 1965 only 6,000 married Dutch couples ended their union, almost 29,000 chose to do so in 2020. This means that while in 1965 there were 2,2 divorces per every 1,000 married couples, in 2020 there were 8,6 divorces per the same number of married individuals. However, the average duration of the marriage at divorce has increased over the years: while in 1960 Dutch nationals chose to divorce after being married for 11.1 years on average, the duration of their union grew to 12.9 years at the date of the divorce in 2020 and 14.9 years in 2020. The average age of both the man and the woman at the date of divorce also increased over the years.

Divorces are treated differently from civil partnership dissolutions for statistical purposes, however, an increase is also observed in this case, as in 2020 the number of couples who chose to end their civil partnership was 2,837.

Irrespective of the reasons that led to the breakup of the marriage, seeking legal counsel from a divorce and family lawyer in Netherlands is a helpful and needed step both when the spouses choose to separate amicably and when they end their marriage in conflict and need specialized aid for negotiation and/or mediation. If you and your partner have made the decision to end your union, you can first choose to discuss with one of our lawyers.

Please contact us for further details about the divorce procedure and particularities in the Netherlands. Our divorce lawyers in the Netherlands have experience in dealing with complex family law matters and can help you during all of the phases of the separation.