Getting an international divorce: What you should know
Peggy Franssen from Franssen Advocaten answers five frequently asked questions by expats living in the Netherlands about international divorce.
1. What is an international divorce?
We speak of an international divorce if one of the spouses does not have Dutch nationality - whether married in the Netherlands or abroad - or when a Dutch couple married and /or lived abroad during their marriage. In that case, foreign law can be applicable to the matrimonial property regime which first needs to be determined by the lawyer before starting a divorce procedure. Also, the court will investigate which law is applicable to the matrimonial regime, spousal maintenance, child support and parental authority.
2. When will the Dutch court have jurisdiction to deal with a divorce case?
The Dutch court can only decide upon a divorce petition when both spouses are living in the Netherlands or if at least one of the spouses has their residency in the Netherlands and has lived in the Netherlands for at least 12 months prior to the date of the filing of the divorce.
If the petitioner has Dutch nationality, they should have lived in the Netherlands for at least six months prior to this date.
When both spouses are Dutch, they can always ask the Dutch court in The Hague to pronounce the divorce. This is also the case if both spouses are living abroad.
3. Can you also start a divorce case in your home country when living in the Netherlands?
Yes, when your home country has jurisdiction (because, for example, the couple has joint nationality of this country) you can. If a petition for divorce has been filed in another country already, the Dutch court will decline jurisdiction. This means that the spouse who files the divorce first can choose which court will deal with the divorce case; the Dutch court or a foreign court who also has jurisdiction.
4. What kind of decisions can a Dutch court make when dealing with a divorce case?
The court can not only pronounce the divorce but can also decide about ancillary matters such as arrangements for the children (for example, where the children will live after divorce) and how much spousal maintenance and child support needs to be paid after the divorce. Besides this, the court can decide in which way the assets and debts will be divided between the spouses after the divorce.
5. Do you lose parental authority after a divorce?
If you were married or had a registered partnership when the children were born, both parents will have joint parental authority. After the divorce, this will continue. The Dutch court will decide where the children will have their main residency after divorce.
Both parents will keep their parental authority, which means that one parent needs the approval of the other parent when moving with the children, applying for a passport or for the child’s medical treatments. Also, when you travel abroad as a single parent with minor children, you need written permission of the other parent (travel permission letter).
Peggy Franssen is a family lawyer specialised in international divorce cases. She is able to assist international clients with their divorce as a lawyer and as a mediator. Her law firm also consults international clients about the consequences for their residence permit after divorce and assists them with changing these permits when possible.