Moving home after divorce: with or without the children?

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The Legal Expat Desk (LED) is an information hub by GMW Advocaten, advising the expat community in the Netherlands since 2006.

As a specialist in Family Law, I am asked with some regularity whether a divorced parent can move home with a child without first obtaining permission from the child’s other parent.

The answer to this question depends greatly on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Living arrangements after divorce

In practice, it is not uncommon for the main carer to find a new partner who lives elsewhere in the country, or even abroad, within several years of divorcing - or even during the divorce proceedings.

Foreign nationals or expats, who are living temporarily or permanently in the Netherlands, have also been known to want to return to their country of birth or to be reassigned elsewhere, either in the Netherlands or abroad.

There are numerous reasons for moving or emigrating. If this happens, former spouses then face the question as to whether the main carer can simply decide to pack up and move with their child to another town, city, or even another country, against the wishes of the parent who is left behind.


The answer to this question is NO. If the parent who is not moving has custody of the children, he/she will have to give his/her consent. If this consent is not given, the other parent can ask a court to give substitute consent.

If a parent flouts this requirement, and moves away from the Netherlands, without consent of the court or the other parent, this will be considered as child abduction - which is a criminal offence. A parent may not relocate even within the Netherlands without consent.

Weighing of interests

In such circumstances it is necessary to do a weighing of interests. Whilst the child’s interests are paramount, there are other relevant interests to consider such as:

 the main carer’s right to, and interest in, relocating, and his or her freedom to start a new life.

 the necessity for relocation.

 how well-prepared and thought-out the relocation is.

 the sharing of care duties and the continuity of care.

 the alternatives offered by the main carer and measures to mitigate and/or compensate the children and the other parent for the consequences of the relocation.

 the rights of the parent who is left behind and the children to undiminished contact with each other in their familiar environment.

 the frequency of contact between the children and the parent left behind prior to and following the relocation.

 the age of the children, their opinion, and how settled they are in their environment or whether they are accustomed to relocating.

 the (additional) costs of contact as a result of the relocation.

 whether and how much the parties can communicate with, and consult each other.

Circumstances for expats

Where an "expat family" has come to the Netherlands with the aim of taking up temporary residence in this country, any post-divorce relocation is viewed differently than if it were a matter without international dimensions.

So there are many different factors that can affect whether the main carer will obtain substitute consent from a court to move home. Therefore each case is judged on its own merits.

If you are dealing with relocation issues - or you know someone who is - don't hesitate to get in touch with me. Together, we can work out an acceptable solution.

Marjet van Yperen-Groenleer is a specialist in Family Law at GMW Advocaten / Legal Expat Desk. For more information, please comment below or contact the firm directly.

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Marjet Groenleer


Marjet Groenleer

Marjet Groenleer is an attorney-at-law and associate partner at GMW lawyers in The Hague. Her focus is on (international) divorces, in particular the financial aspects thereof. She is a member...

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