Dutch Matrimonial Property

Dutch matrimonial law
Expats are often stunned by the financial consequences of Dutch matrimonial law.

In the Netherlands, for marriages tied after 1 September 1992, the 1978 Hague Convention on Private International Law decides when couples with an international dimension are subject to Dutch matrimonial property law or to the corresponding law of another country. The Netherlands is said to be the only country in the world where universal community of property is the basic legal matrimonial property regime.

If your marriage is subject to Dutch matrimonial property law it means that all assets and debts would have to be shared between the partners. This means that you and your spouse’s assets and debts – acquired either previous to the marriage or amassed following an inheritance or gift unless the donor or testator specifically excludes them– and independent of the name in which the assets or debts have been registered, are shared from the moment you were married.

How to prevent community of property?
These consequences can be avoided by concluding a pre-nuptial agreement with your spouse in which you designate which country’s law should apply to your matrimonial property. Or, if Dutch law is applicable, you could make a pre- or post-nuptial agreement to prevent your assets from falling in the community. On the termination of your marriage by divorce, the debts and assets are divided according to the terms of the contract. Gifts and inheritances can also be left out of the community property by the donor/testator.

You must, however, keep in mind that prenuptial agreements you make in the Netherlands may not always be fully recognized in other countries

New law as of 2012
A reform of the matrimonial regime of general community property, takes effect on 1 January 2012 and sees to differences regarding the reference date for the division of assets and property and the compensation rights in case of a divorce.