What expats need to know about divorce in the Netherlands

What expats need to know about divorce in the Netherlands

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The world is global, and so are today’s marriages. When it comes to getting divorced this can make it complicated. Marjet Groenleer, from GMW Lawyers and Legal Expat Desk, answers the top 10 most frequently asked questions about divorce for expats living in the Netherlands.

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 apply for divorce in more than one country, your 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 is 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 legally relevant. You do not need to provide a reason to get divorced; 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 specific country will determine whether your Dutch divorce is recognised.

Registered partners and same-sex couples, proceed with caution! Not all countries recognise registered partnerships or allow same-sex marriage. These countries would therefore 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 January 1, 2018? Then the community property probably includes foreign inheritances or gifts you have received as well as premarital assets.

You do not need to provide a reason to get divorced; all divorces are considered no-fault.

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 in 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.

Under Dutch law, spousal alimony is paid for a maximum of 12 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 however, 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 shares parental authority over your children, the answer is yes. Whether you wish to move back home or 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 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 regarding the country in which you’ll 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 that little bit easier.

Marjet Groenleer is an expert in family law and international divorce for GMW lawyers and Legal Expat Desk. If you are thinking about getting divorced or are in the middle of one and need advice or assistance, please contact her.

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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