Divorce in the Netherlands

Divorce: nowhere easier than in the Netherlands

There are an enormous number of things that make up a divorce. Not only the divorce petition itself, but also various further arrangements which the spouses need to agree upon. These include the parental contact, maintenance (alimony) and the allocation of assets. Agreeing on divorce arrangements is no easier in the Netherlands than any other country. However, obtaining a divorce in the Netherlands is easier.

This post was reviewed and updated on 15 July 2020

Irretrievable breakdown

In the Netherlands, a spouse who wishes to divorce simply needs to assert that his or her marriage has broken down irretrievably. That is sufficient for the court to grant a divorce. Challenging the petition is virtually useless, the divorce itself can be obtained fairly easily. However, spouses frequently argue over the further arrangements causing the divorce proceeding to go on for a long time, despite the divorce itself being fairly straightforward.

Expats are often surprised by this, as their own countries frequently impose all sorts of conditions for divorce to be granted. If spouses have not agreed otherwise, Dutch law is, in practice, almost always applicable to the granting of the divorce itself, even if there are international aspects at play.

Divorce conditions

Expats frequently pose questions, such as: “Do I have to prove my husband has been unfaithful?” As far as Dutch divorce law is concerned this is of no importance. Asserting irretrievable breakdown is sufficient. The court does not take account of the cause of the divorce. This means that in the Netherlands, the court does not have to answer the question of “who is to blame”.

This is in distinct contrast to the law in many other countries. Moreover, in other countries, the answer to the question “who is to blame” can influence the level of maintenance. I have read many English divorce petitions; these cannot be compared to Dutch petitions where, in general, scant attention is paid to the cause of the divorce. Foreigners who divorce in the Netherlands are sometimes extremely surprised by the fact that it doesn’t really matter who is to blame for the divorce (as though that were always a simple matter to determine).

Living separately

In several (European) countries, spouses have to live apart for a certain period before they are allowed to divorce formally. The period of separation can vary from one to five years. In Switzerland, spouses must have been living under different roofs for a period of two years before they are eligible to divorce. In Norway, the period of separation is one year, while in Ireland it’s five years. Italy imposes a compulsory trial period; in short, there are several European countries which still insist on a period of separation.

In the Netherlands, however, there are no such requirements. Even if the spouses are still living in the same house, they can submit a petition for divorce. Dutch divorce law is, therefore, more flexible than in many other (European) countries.


Are you a Dutch national or an international who has decided to file for divorce in the Netherlands or abroad? If so, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Learn more – get the white paper

We have updated our white paper to help expats facing divorce. Learn more about what’s included and download the divorce white paper: Top 10 FAQ about divorce – for expats living in the Netherlands.