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.
This post was reviewed and updated on 15 July 2020
1 – Can I get divorced in the Netherlands?
Yes, in most cases it is possible to get divorced in the Netherlands. (There are exceptions to every rule.) This applies even if you are not Dutch by nationality, and even if you were married in another country.
If you can get divorced in more than one country, the applications will be treated on a “first come, first served” basis. So if you wish to get divorced in the Netherlands, you must apply for divorce in the Netherlands first. If your future ex-spouse has already applied for divorce in another country, then it will be too late for you to get a Dutch divorce.
2 – Will Dutch law apply to my divorce?
No, not necessarily. Every application for divorce in the Netherlands is examined individually. Depending on the national and international rules that apply to your specific situation, you may get divorced in the Netherlands, but have a foreign country’s law apply to your divorce.
The law which applies to your divorce will determine your rights and obligations. This can affect how your marital property is divided, the rules for paying maintenance, and even the time it takes to start divorce proceedings, so it’s extremely important.
3 – Does the reason for divorce matter in the Netherlands?
No. In the Netherlands, the reason for divorce is not considered to be legally relevant. You do not need to provide a reason to get divorced and all divorces are considered no-fault.
4 – Will other countries recognise my Dutch divorce?
A Dutch divorce will be recognised by any country in the European Union (EU). Outside of the EU, the law of that country will determine whether your Dutch divorce will be recognised.
Registered partners and same-sex couples, proceed with caution! Not all countries recognise registered partnerships or allow same-sex marriage. In that case, those countries would not recognise the dissolution of your partnership or marriage either.
5 – Do I need a lawyer to get divorced in the Netherlands?
Yes, you must retain a lawyer to file for divorce in the Netherlands.
You and your ex-partner may choose to share a lawyer or you may each retain your own lawyer. While it is less costly to share a lawyer, it could be to your advantage to hire your own lawyer, so that they can represent your best interests independently.
As an expat in the Netherlands, it is wise to get a lawyer who specialises in international divorce. Their knowledge of the rules of international family law means you will get the right advice for your situation.
6 – Do I have to share my marital property when I get divorced?
If, according to international family law, Dutch law applies to your matrimonial regime and you do not have a pre-nuptial agreement, then yes. According to Dutch law, all the property (and debts) that you and your future ex-spouse have will be considered as community property and will be divided 50/50 when you divorce. If Dutch law applies, you will also have to share the pension you accrued during the marriage.
Married before 1 January 2018? Then the community property probably includes foreign inheritances or gifts you have received as well as premarital assets.
7 – Do I have to pay spousal alimony and child maintenance?
Dutch law provides for both spousal alimony and child maintenance, but these are determined as separate issues.
Yes, either you or your ex will probably need to pay maintenance for your children. The calculation for child maintenance is different for international families (expats) and is determined according to the costs of the children.
Depending on you or your ex-partner’s financial situation, you may also need to pay spousal alimony so that your ex-spouse can continue to live at a reasonably suitable position. This alimony is calculated according to the financial situation of the family and a determination of the maintenance recipient’s needs. Specific calculations are made for expats. Since 1 January 2020, under Dutch law spousal alimony can be paid for a maximum of 5 years, and stops when the ex-spouse receiving alimony lives with another person as if they are married.
8 – Will I have to pay tax on maintenance?
Child maintenance is paid net of tax in the Netherlands, so the tax has already been paid. Spousal alimony is paid before tax, so the ex-spouse who receives the alimony will need to pay tax on the amount they receive.
9 – Do I need my ex-partner’s permission to leave the Netherlands with my children?
If your ex-partner has shared parental authority over your children, the answer is yes. Whether you wish to move back home or move to another country, you need written permission from your ex-partner to take the children with you. Even if you are just taking the children on a short international holiday, you will need this written consent.
If you take your children out of the Netherlands without written permission from your ex-partner, it will be regarded as child abduction.
10 – How do I start getting divorced?
Speak to an expert in international divorce law. They can give you essential advice at the beginning of the process that will help you make the best possible decisions. This includes clear answers on the country in which you will get divorced, which law will apply to your divorce, how this will affect your rights, and how to protect the interests of your children.
International divorce lawyers are accustomed to dealing with complicated cases, so they can cut through the confusion and make the difficult process of getting divorced just a little easier.
This article was originally published on IamExpat.
More information? Get the white paper
GMW lawyers has released a 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.
Marjet Groenleer is an attorney-at-law and associate partner at GMW lawyers in The Hague. She has been active in family law for more than 15 years, focused on on (international) divorces. Marjet is a trained divorce mediator with the vFAS (Dutch Association of Family mediators and lawyers).
Marjet has a particular interest and a profound knowledge of the international aspects of family law. She is an expert in dealing with complex financial and multi-jurisdictional cases of an international family breakdown. Because of her experience and previous jobs, she is familiar with several foreign legal systems. A great number of her clients are expats. She understands the needs of expats working for the various international organisations and companies based in The Netherlands, specifically in the area of The Hague (lsuch as EPO, Estec, OPCW, NATO, the tribunals, ICC, Shell, etc.)
Marjet worked as a lecturer in International Civil Law for several years and at the Court of Appeals in The Hague in the family law sector. Today, she is a deputy judge in the Court of Appeals in Amsterdam. Marjet publishes regularly in professional journals and keeps you informed of the various complex aspects of (international) divorces with her weblogs.