Divorce & Separation in the Netherlands

Divorce & Separation in the Netherlands

Just as there are separate options for a couple to legally formalise their relationship in the Netherlands, there are separate ways in which to end that relationship too.

Ending a marriage

If you and your partner have decided to end your marriage you must submit your application to the court via registered legal representation. There are two options you can pursue:

Divorce (echtscheiding)

A divorce terminates the relationship and any legal ties which existed immediately upon its conclusion.

Legal separation (scheiding van tafel en bed)

In this case you and your partner remain married in the eyes of the law but are free from the obligations required and rights afforded to you when married. After a time, a legal separation can be dissolved, resulting in a full divorce.

Ending a registered partnership

If a couple wish to end their registered partnership in the Netherlands, the matter can be very simple as long as there are no children involved. If the partners have children then the procedure must be conducted as if it was a divorce.

If no children are involved the partners simply draw up an agreement in the presence of a lawyer or a notary and it is filed in the local municipality. There is no need to go through the courts.

Ending a cohabitation agreement

Couples entering into a cohabitation agreement in the Netherlands are recommended to make provision for the procedure to follow in case of the relationship coming to an end. If this is the case, the procedure outlined should be followed.

If a couple living together without any agreement wish to separate, a division of property and inventory, as well as a decision on the future use of the shared property should be agreed upon.

Maintenance & Pensions

Following a divorce or legal separation there are a number of rules which govern the division of pension funds, the payment of maintenance and the care of any children born during the relationship.


A couple who have had children during their marriage or registered partnership are obliged to make a parenting plan which ensures that their offspring are taken care of.

An agreement must be reached in person, or by the use of a mediator, and then submitted to the court on issues such as:

  • The division of responsibility for the upbringing of the children.
  • The sharing of expenses related to the upbringing of the children.
  • How important decisions in the child's life will be taken.

The child's wishes should also be taken into account in the drawing-up of the parenting plan.


If one-half of the couple is unable to support him or herself following the separation, the other half is obliged to provide partner maintenance. This obligation ends whenever the dependent partner enters into another marriage, registered partnership or begins cohabiting with someone else.

Pension division

Each partner is entitled to half of the pension accrued during the relationship - although this can be divided differently if they would like.

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