Kids, ex-partner and moving house: what to do?
The Legal Expat Desk (LED) is an information hub by GMW advocaten, advising the expat community in the Netherlands since 2006. LED regularly publishes articles covering a wide spectrum of legal topics.
If you share custody of children together with your ex-partner you cannot simply pick up and move house. Moving to another country with your children without your ex-partner's permission is regarded as child abduction, with all the consequences that entails.
Permission is essential
Even a move within national borders without your ex-partner’s permission is not allowed. If your ex-partner refuses to grant it, you will have to go to court to get permission before you move.
Joint custody in the Netherlands
Permission is required for parents who share joint custody. Custody refers to the rights and obligations that parents have with respect to their children. Custody indicates control, and therefore also the authority to decide where a child lives.
Parents with joint custody have equal say over where their children live. If a parent nonetheless moves house without the other parent’s permission, he is already losing 1-0 in the eyes of the court if a court case ensues.
Taking the law into one's own hands is not appreciated. This parent had better have very good reasons if the court is to decide not to reverse the move, naturally depending on the age of the children, how long they have now been living in their new home and numerous other factors.
Sole custody in the Netherlands
If you have sole custody of your child, you do not in principle need your ex-partner’s permission to move with your child. However, judges have been taking a different view of this these days.
An example of this is a decision from the preliminary relief judge in the District Court of Midden-Nederland of 15 October 2014 (not published).
The mother held sole custody, to the exclusion of the father. Their son lived with his father half the time, and the mother moved without the father's permission. The distance made the co-parenting illusory.
The district court ruled in preliminary relief proceedings that despite the fact that the mother had sole custody, she was not free to move with the parties’ son without the father's permission.
The father and son had a good relationship and always lived together as a family. The father's interests were unacceptably adversely affected by the move.
The district court was of the opinion that the interest of the parties’ son would be best served if he remained in his familiar environment. The mother had already moved. This meant that the district court temporarily placed the parties’ son with the father pending a definitive decision on where the son would live.
What you should consider
Three conclusions can be drawn from this decision:
› Even if you have sole custody, this does not always mean you can move with your child without your ex-partner’s permission.
› If you move with your child without your ex-partner’s permission, you must keep in mind that the district court may disapprove of this after the fact. Judges do not take kindly to people who take the law into their own hands.
› Furthermore, you must be aware that in such a case, the district court can decide to place your child with your ex-partner if the latter has requested this.
If you are dealing with relocation issues - or you know someone who is - don't hesitate to get in touch with Marjet van Yperen-Groenleer, a specialist in Family Law at GMW advocaten / Legal Expat Desk.