Who will guard your child when you’re gone?

Historically, if you wanted to designate a guardian for your child, it had to be done by will. Today, a new option is available which makes this process cheaper and easier: appointing a guardian via the parental authority register.

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Top 10 FAQ about divorce in the Netherlands for expats

The world is global, and so are today’s marriages. When it comes to getting divorced this can make it complicated – but for those who wish to divorce in the Netherlands, there are 10 tips which help keep it simple. Marjet Groenleer answers the top 10 most frequently asked questions about divorce for expats living in the Netherlands.

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Help! My ex-partner took my child abroad, what can I do?

The world is global, and so are today’s relationships. With more and more children born into international relationships, the number of travelling families grows. This explains the increase of the number of child abductions. So what can you do if you are the left-behind parent?

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Registered partnership: what you need to know

Lately, there has been a steep rise in registered partnerships, especially when both partners are 40-plus. This rise reflects the assumption that dissolving a registered partnership is easier than getting a divorce. In principle this is correct; however, think twice when there are children involved.

Men, watch out!

Legally speaking, there are not that many differences between a marriage and a registered partnership. The main difference is that a baby born into a marriage is automatically recognised as being the child of the husband, while a child born within a registered partnership has only one parent by law: the mother. This holds true for both same-sex and heterosexual couples.

Thus, heterosexual couples with a registered partnership can both become parents only after the father recognises the child as his own. Guardianship/custody of a child born into a registered partnership can be exercised by the father only after a formal recognition of the child has taken place. Without such a formal recognition, in the case of a break-up of the relationship, the father will have no further say in any relevant matter of his child’s future life, such as education, medical interventions, place of residence, etc.

Termination of a registered partnership – is it really that easy?

Before being able to terminate their relationship, couples living as registered partners with (a) child(ren) must agree on a parenting plan. This is also the case for cohabiting and married parents. Their partnership will be dissolved by a judge after the parents jointly file a parenting plan. With this, they are to state their intentions on visitation, care and custody of the child. Aided by one or more lawyers or notaries, a childless registered partnership can be dissolved without the intervention of a judge by signing a joint declaration. By law, a registered partnership allows for partner alimony, whilst cohabitation does not.

Wise last words

From all of the above one can conclude that, unless a couple decides not to have children together, there is little reason to opt for a registered partnership.

Do you need advice on your legal rights regarding a registered partnership? Contact us – we’ll be glad to help.



International Child Abduction

Abduction can be extremely damaging for a child and is never the solution to a problematic situation.

International Child Abduction Centre

the International Child Abduction Centre (IKO) is a Dutch agency that serves as the first port in abduction-related matters. There are cross-border mediators affiliated to the IKO who specialise in abduction cases as well as related issues, such as moving abroad with children etc. It’s always preferable to seek an amicable solution first, instead of taking the law into your own hands.

Lawyers working together

In abduction cases, it’s advisable to make use of a lawyer in the Netherlands, but also of one in the country where the child is actually staying. Proceedings for the child’s return will namely have to be commenced in that country.

At the same time, there may be a need for certain proceedings in the Netherlands to enable the child to be returned. These proceedings could involve: applying for emergency documents, issuing a temporary care order for the child, determining the child’s habitual residence, and change of custody. It is necessary to work with specialised child abduction lawyers to seek the best possible solution for the child.

Central Authority

Since 1 January 2012, the parent who is left behind is also required to appoint a lawyer.  Previously, the Central Authority represented that parent, but this is no longer the case. However, there are still plenty of ways in which this agency can assist you. The Central Authority mediates in international family cases involving children and has a wealth of expertise.


Often, several different experts and organisations (such as psychologists and the police) are involved in abduction cases. The most important thing is to never lose sight of the child’s interests.

If you are in an abduction situation because you have taken your child away without the consent of your former partner or because you are confronted with the abduction of your child, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.


This article was updated November 2017. 


Travelling abroad with children

Don’t be caught unprepared at the airport if you’re flying with your children. Learn what the rules are for travelling abroad with your children. 

The holiday season is upon us, with the summer months bringing the most popular time for travel. If you are an international parent travelling with your child(ren), here is what you should know.

Written permission for holidays abroad

In the Netherlands, a parent travelling with their child must have permission from the other parent to take their child abroad. If the other parent has legal, parental obligations, then you must first obtain their written permission to leave the country.

To obtain permission, you need to fill out a content letter from the Centrum Internationale Kinderontvoering (the International Centre for Child Abduction). The letter asks for the name(s) and age(s) of your child(ren), the length of your trip and other information. This letter requires the signature of both you and your (ex) partner (the other parent).

This letter is required regardless of whether or not you are still in a relationship with the parent of your child. We hear from our clients that officials at Schiphol are requesting this letter with increasing frequency before allowing parents to travel with their child.

What to do if the other parent refuses permission for the holiday

If your former partner will not give you permission to travel with your child, you can apply for permission from a court, and these hearings can be scheduled at short notice. The judge will take a number of factors into account, including whether or not the country to which you are travelling is a signatory to The Hague Abduction Convention.

In a recent case with GMW lawyers, an Indonesian parent’s request to travel with her child to a family wedding in Indonesia was rejected on the grounds that the country is not a signatory to the Convention.

Moving abroad with your child

If your child is a resident of the Netherlands, then regardless of their citizenship the rules of The Hague Abduction Convention apply to them. The Convention is an agreement between nearly 100 countries which aims to eliminate child abduction.

Prior to moving abroad with your child(ren), you must obtain permission from the other parent. If you want to move during the process of separation, you can put this in your parenting plan. If you decide to move later, you will need to update your parenting plan.

Before agreeing to the move, th eother parent may request changes to the parenting plan, such as an increase in the number of holidays they are allowed to spend with the child(ren), or other specific requests. One of our Dutch clients, for instance, requested that his children be enrolled in Dutch language courses while residing abroad.

What to do if the other parent refuses permission for the move

If you are unable to get permission from the other parent to move abroad, you can ask permission from the court. The judge will take various criteria into account, the most important of which is what is in the best interests of the child(ren).

Expert help in family law for internationals

Legal Expat Desk provides experts in family law for internationals. We know how complicated and deeply personal custody cases are, and can answer your questions about divorce, parenting plans and more.

Contact our lawyers or submit your question online.


This article was published in The Hague Online magazine.

Maintenance calculation internationals part 2: extra costs for children

Part 1 of this blog series on maintenance calculation for internationals talked about maintenance for children of internationals. After a divorce within an international family, often the ex-spouses spread over different countries. Contact between the non-caring parent and his/her children therefore incurs more costs than compliance with contact arrangements within national borders. How does the maintenance (alimony) calculation deal with these extra costs?

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Maintenance calculation part 1: children of internationals

Many foreigners live and work in the Netherlands. Particularly in The Hague and surrounding areas, there are many international organisations and companies, including EPO, Estec, OPCW, NATO, ICC, the tribunals as well as Shell and Siemens.

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Child abduction by a parent: it happens more often than one might think

What is child abduction?

In legal terms, child abduction is the removal of a child from his or her habitual place of residence by one of the parents or custodial parent, without the consent and agreement of the (other) custodian or parent. Although it might not be immediately obvious, not returning the child on time, as agreed, after a holiday abroad or after a family visit to the country of origin also counts as child abduction. The same holds for expat families living in The Netherlands for short periods of time or for families living apart most of the time. In these cases, establishing the habitual place of residence of a child is more difficult than may seem at first sight.

Recent case law indicates an increase in the number of child abduction cases. Although each case has its unique circumstances, the increased dynamics of the global work force may be one reason for this development.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980) is a legal tool. It is meant to help a/the custodial parent regain access to the abducted child. This tool facilitates the return of the minor to his or her habitual place of residence. By appointing a Central Authority in each country, the signatory parties have agreed to co-operate towards the immediate return of the abducted child to his or her habitual place of residence.

The custodial parent can seek assistance from the Central Authority of his or her country of residence. This can be done within one year from the date of abduction. Upon this request, the Central Authority will contact the Central Authority in the country where the child has been removed to. This, in order to quickly return the child to its habitual place of residence. It is advisable, however, that the parent also notifies the police, filing an official complaint for abduction.

Sadly, abductions also happen in countries that are not signatory parties to the Convention. As awareness on such cases has grown internationally, case law catches up with reality. Even when a child has been held in a country that is not a signatory to the Convention against the will of the other custodian parent, quite often they manage to negotiate the return of the child via diplomatic channels. Needless to say, but good to reiterate: countries that are not signatories to the Convention are under no obligation to co-operate.

Is the Central Authority to lose its monopoly position in the near future?

The Eerste Kamer (Dutch Senate) has received a draft law asking to end the monopoly position of the Central Authority in cases of international child abduction. The custodial parent whose child has been abducted might soon be able to take action by hiring a specialised lawyer, should the draft law be passed. This would hopefully speed up proceedings, as well as widening the spectrum of available legal tools.

The mere thought of having to deal with child abduction is harrowing. Prevention is always better than having to resort to cure. Abduction might be prevented by hiding the children’s passports, keeping the channels of communication with the inlaws open or informing the police. It is essential that the parents’ problems remain negotiable; cross-border mediation has prooved to be succesful.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if your child has been abducted, if you are contemplating the abduction of your child or if you are aware of a situation where child abductions occur. Our lawyers have extensive expertise in dealing with cases of international child abduction and are happy to assist you.


Forced contact between parent and child

What do you do if after a divorce you, as a child, want to remain in contact with one of your parents, but your parent does not want to stay in contact with you? 

Case law

Let us look at the details of a case in order to illustrate the above mentioned issue:

After the relationship breakdown between father and mother, the court determines a contact arrangement for father and son. However, the father does not stick to this contact arrangement. Then, in proceedings, the son requests specific performance and an order complying the father to adhere to the contact arrangement. If he does not comply, he is subjected to a penalty of €500 per day for each day he fails to have contact.

The court determines that the father is to have contact with his son one weekend every 14 days, from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon. In interlocutory proceedings, the court issues the order subject to a penalty. The father must therefore comply with the contact arrangement, as the court judges the contact to be in the interest of the son.

The father appeals – he states he is not willing to comply with the contact arrangement despite the imposed penalties. The Court of Appeal rules that the grounds put forward by the father are not sufficient. The most important ground put forward by the father is that the mother refuses to communicate with him. Any contact with her, according to the father, results in residual feelings for him and he does not enjoy the contact with his son. The mother also does not want to modify the imposed times although this leads to difficulties for the father in connection with his work. However, the Court of Appeal rules that the interest of the son must be paramount.

Decision court

There may however be substantial interests of the father which could have a detrimental effect on the son. But in the opinion of the Court of Appeal, this is not the case here. The poor communication between the parents would not have any relevant effect on the son – at any rate the father has not made this plausible. The father also does not put forward circumstances which are of such a nature that he cannot have contact with his son. Conclusion: the father must have contact with his son despite all objections and the imposed penalties.

It is questionable, whether contact, however much in the interest of the child, should be enforced…


If you have any questions regarding children and divorce, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Update article: December 2017. 

Relocation after divorce: are the children coming or not?

Is a divorced parent permitted to relocate with his or her child without the consent of the other parent? The answer to this question largely depends on the facts and circumstances of the case in question. 


In practice it often occurs that several years after the divorce – or even during the divorce proceedings – the main caretaker meets a new partner who lives elsewhere in the country or even abroad. Other times the divorced individual is an international, whether or not temporarily residing in the Netherlands (as an expat for example), and may wish to return to his or her home country.

There are many reasons for relocation or emigration. This raises the question whether the main caretaker has permission to relocate with the child to a different city or country against the will of the remaining parent.


The answer to this question is negative. If the remaining parent has parental responsibility, he or she must give permission. If the remaining parent does not give permission, the other parent can apply to the district court for replacement permission. The court must then weigh in on the opposing interests with the interest of the child playing an important role but other interests also being relevant.

Balancing of interests

Factors which could play a role in the context of such a balancing of interests are the age of the child, his or her social life, the specific needs of the child, the quality and intensity of the contact between the child and the remaining parent, the guarantees for proper contact between the remaining parent and the child after a relocation, the necessity of the relocation etc. If an ‘expat family’ arrived in the Netherlands with the objective of a temporary stay in the Netherlands, a relocation is considered differently than if it concerns a case without international aspects.

There are numerous factors which play a role in the question whether the district court will grant the main caretaker replacement permission to relocate with his or her child. It remains customised work.

More information

If the above issue is relevant in your life and you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Update article: December 2017. 

Powers of the Dutch family court with regard to Dutch children abroad

A previous blog post discussed the obstacles encountered by Dutch nationals living abroad wishing to arrange their divorce in the Netherlands. In principle, filing for divorce in the Netherlands when abroad is only possible when both spouses have Dutch nationality.

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Relocating with children following the breakdown of a relationship

As society becomes increasingly international, more and more people are forming international relationships. This comes with the added risk that, following a divorce, one of the parents will want to return to his or her home country. Also here in the Netherlands, we are dealing with a growing number of relocation cases, often due to people finding a new love in another part of the country.

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When does Dutch law apply to divorce (part 2)?

Part 1 of this series addressed the application of the Dutch Matrimonial Property Law on the division or settlement of property and assets between spouses in international divorce. This is of special interest for expats in divorce. In part 2 we are going to focus on the effect of the law on maintenance.

Does Dutch law apply to maintenance?

The law applicable to maintenance can be different from the law that applies to the Matrimonial Property Regime.

Child maintenance

Based on The Hague Protocol 2007, the law of the usual country of residence of the person entitled to receiving maintenance is applicable for determining child maintenance. If a Dutch judge receives such a request and the children live in the Netherlands,  the Court will determine child maintenance according to Dutch law.

Spousal maintenance

Based on the protocol mentioned above, in the case of spousal maintenance, the law of the usual country of residence of the person entitled to receiving maintenance applies. There is, however, one exception. If the person obliged to pay spousal maintenance contests this law and the marriage has a closer tie to another country, then that law applies.

The protocol primarily considered the last country in which the parties had a common residence. Numerous factors play a role, such as the location where the marriage took place. Other factors are the length of residence of the spouses in the different countries, their nationality, etc. This possibility to exception can lead to lengthy discussions in international divorce. This holds especially for expats that often have a closer tie to the country of their common nationality.

Be well informed when it comes to maintenance payments. The differences between countries are enormous, especially where spousal maintenance is concerned. The length of the maintenance obligation differs, as well as the amount. In Norway, for example, spousal maintenance does not exist.


If you are an expat living in the Netherlands and you are involved in an international divorce, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice on how to find the best solution.


Can a Dutch couple abroad always get a divorce in the Netherlands?

Previous blog posts (here and here) mainly focused on whether foreign nationals living in the Netherlands can file for divorce in the Netherlands. This blog post will look at Dutch nationals living abroad and competency of the Dutch court. 

Dutch nationals living abroad

In the case of Dutch nationals living abroad, the Dutch court may grant the divorce when both spouses have Dutch nationality or if one of the spouses has dual nationality. In divorce proceedings, the Dutch court is competent to rule on issues such as alimony and child support. The court can also decide upon the division of joint assets or can enforce a prenuptial agreement.

However, the Dutch court may not make decisions concerning children. These concern the establishment of contact arrangements, assigning the children’s primary residence, allocating parental authority, etc. This is, assuming that the children of the Dutch couple do not live in the Netherlands either. Solely the court of the country in which the children live is competent to decide on such issues, even when the child(ren) has Dutch nationality.

Thus, solely the financial aspects of the divorce can be settled in the Netherlands. Which law will be applied by the Dutch court is another question. This depends on the facts and circumstances of the individual case. This subject is too extensive to expand on here.

Recognition and enforcement of a Dutch divorce abroad

Is a divorce that is granted in the Netherlands always recognised in the former spouses’ country of residence? This depends on the country’s legislation. Member states of the European Union have agreed to recognise each other’s divorces. In these countries, there will be no problems with recognition of the divorce and other agreed issues.

For countries with which there are no such agreements, the internal law of the state determines whether the decision of the Dutch court is recognised, and if so, under what conditions. For its enforcement, the same applies as for recognition. It would therefore be advisable for a Dutch couple to first figure out whether and to what extent their country of residence recognises Dutch divorce before embarking on divorce proceedings in the Netherlands.


Are you a Dutch national living abroad with children? Do you have questions regarding divorce proceedings and the competency of the Dutch court? Or do you have any other related questions? Please do not hesitate to contact us.


This article was updated November 2017. 

Changes in international family law

In the EU, most matters of international family law are regulated by the European Commission. The Commission draws upon the Hague Conference on International Private Law. Recently, legislative efforts in Brussels and The Hague have resulted in three significant changes. These changes will reshape some core aspects of international family law:

1. Abolition of legal representative competence of the Central Authority 

On January 18, 2011 the Dutch Parliament adopted the following legislative proposal: abolition of the legal representative competence of the Central Authority (CA) in matters of international child abduction and child protection. At present, this proposal is waiting for approval by the Dutch Senate.

When a parent brings a child from abroad into the Netherlands who is in breach of the custodial ruling concerning that child, this qualifies as child abduction. In such cases, the Central Authority (CA) would assist the other parent in facilitating the return of the child; if necessary in court as well.

The new legislative proposal aims to abolish the competence of the CA to legally represent the other parent. Therefore, he or she will need to be the assisted by an attorney in order to act. Once this legislative proposal takes effect, the CA will lose its monopoly position.

2. The Hague Child Protection Convention 1996

The Hague Child Protection Convention 1996 was taken effect on May 1, 2011 in the Netherlands, replacing the Hague Child Protection Convention 1961.

The Convention starts from the premise that the country of the child’s habitual residence has jurisdiction to take measures to protect the child. Protection measures include custody, visitation, habitual residence, co-parenting, etc. Rather than taking into account the nationality of the child and the parents, the judge will apply the law of the country of the child’s habitual residence.

3. Child Maintenance Regulation

The Child Maintenance Regulation has taken effect on 18 June 2011, allowing for the recognition and enforcement of child maintenance provisions in all EU member states. Thus, in most cases, a ruling concerning child maintenance obligations can be enforced without much further ado in another EU member state.

The Regulation also spells out the competent judge and the applicable law, in cases of cross-border child maintenance obligation disputes. The Regulation replaces, in the EU context, all national and international legislations that were previously applicable. However, the recognition and enforcement of child maintenance obligations can still be a complex and tricky procedure.


If you need advice or further information about Child Maintenance, please contact us.