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Netherlands makes changes to marriage and divorce regulations17 December 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
The Dutch government has announced and proposed changes to legal circumstances surrounding marriage and divorce in the Netherlands.
A new bill has been sent for advice to various Dutch organisations by the State Secretary of Security and Justice on changes to divorce settlement, while a majority of Dutch MPs want to change the marriage law regarding shared ownership.
Divorce settlement in the Netherlands
The new bill allows couples to settle their own divorce in the Registrar’s Office, provided there is mutual agreement and no minors (young children) involved.
Couples who want a divorce will be able to apply for one at the Registrar’s Office. The divorce will be announced at least two weeks after the application is submitted.
Currently, court intervention and the assistance of an attorney are compulsory, which will no longer be the case under the new regulation.
Couples are, however, free to seek legal advice from an attorney, notary public or mediator through the Registrar’s Office.
Court intervention will also still be possible if couples wish it, and mandatory in the case of couples with younger children. They will be obliged to devise a parenting plan which will be assessed by the court.
For registered partnerships, it is currently possible for partners without children to terminate the partnership through the Registrar’s Office.
Previously, though, they needed to have an agreement on termination drawn up by an attorney or notary: that is no longer necessary.
Annually, there are around 34.000 divorces in the Netherlands, of which 14.000 do not involve minors. The government expects the Registrar will be able to pronounce the divorce for over half of that 14.000.
Shared ownership in marriage
Most Dutch MPs want to change the marriage laws so that shared ownership only covers those assets built up during the marriage.
In general, marriage in the Netherlands automatically takes place with community of property, even if one or both partners are residents (i.e. not Dutch citizens) in the Netherlands.
Community of property, or shared ownership, covers all assets, debts and inheritances brought to the marriage by both partners, as well as those achieved during the marriage.
Couples who wish to keep assets separate now need a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up by a solicitor.
This change would bring the Netherlands into line with the international standard for marriage contracts, as well as prevent any unpleasant surprises should an old debt from one partner surface in a marriage.
Their recent survey by solicitors' network Netwerk Notarissen showed that a majority of engaged people did not want to share assets built up before the wedding and 75 per cent did not want to share their partner's debts.
Source: Government of the Netherlands