Divorces in the Netherlands: all you need to know

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Divorce in the Netherlands can put expats in a tricky and unknown territory. However, it’s good to know that you’re not alone — and that you have come to the right place. 

The path to understanding the ins and outs of the Dutch divorce process might seem winding at first, but we’re here to guide you through each step.

From understanding the key principles of Dutch divorce laws to discussing residency requirements, the divorce proceedings, financial aspects, and alternatives, we’re tackling it all. 

Getting a divorce as an international in the Netherlands

Getting a divorce as an international in the Netherlands may seem confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Image: Freepik

First things first, let us tell you that the fact that you are getting a divorce as an international should have no effect on your divorce proceedings. 

As long as the Dutch courts have jurisdiction (more on this below), you will have the same rights as any Dutch citizen. 

I want a professional, now what? 

Now it’s time to find experts in divorce in the Netherlands who know the complexities of an international divorce. GMW lawyers are here to specifically fill this role. They know Dutch law — and they also know how it affects internationals. Reach out to them for expert guidance on Dutch divorces

Yes, the divorce could affect your residency permit (more on this below). However, the bottom line is that you should still receive the same treatment as any Dutchie while going through divorce proceedings.  

Unpacking no-fault divorce in the Netherlands

You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a divorce in the Netherlands doesn’t play the blame game. 

That’s because Dutch law considers an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage as grounds for divorce.

Basically, if it’s clear that the relationship isn’t working out, a divorce can be granted. There’s no need to throw accusations at one another and air out dirty laundry: simply say, “It’s not working,” and the Dutch law will take your word for it. 

It’s a more humane approach that acknowledges the complexities of relationships, making the Netherlands a good country to untie the knot. 

Different ways of divorcing in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, there are different ways of divorcing. Image: Freepik

When you and/or your partner opt for a divorce, you need to decide together how you should approach it. Can the two of you tackle this breakdown of the marriage side by side? Or will you be coming at it from different angles? 

Your answer will determine which route to divorce you will take. 

  • Perhaps the most favourable option is a joint divorce. In a joint divorce, you both share an attorney or (attorney)-mediator. They will help the two of you reach an agreement together. 
  • If approaching the divorce together isn’t an option, you and your partner can opt for separate attorneys. In consultation with the two of you, your attorneys will try to come to a mutual agreement about the specifics of the divorce. 
  • If an agreement between your two attorneys isn’t possible from across the table, then it’s time to take the divorce to court. The court will then decide how the divorce should be carried out. 

Good to know: In the Netherlands, it is compulsory to either have a shared attorney or separate attorneys when your divorce is taken to the Dutch court.

Embracing mediation for a smooth divorce in the Netherlands

M is for marriage — but when it comes to your divorce, it’s also for mediation

The emotions involved in getting a divorce can be messy, and even when you have the best intentions, it can be hard for negotiations not to get heated. 

This is why you should opt to get a mediator involved. This process involves a neutral third party — the mediator — who helps you and your partner find a mutually beneficial resolution to your issues. 

It’s a way to keep the conversation civil, reduce conflict, and lay the groundwork for a positive post-divorce relationship (which is especially crucial when kids are involved.)

When can you divorce in the Netherlands?

Can internationals get a divorce in the Netherlands? Yes! If they meet certain requirements. Image: Freepik

With the above in mind, let’s answer the simple question: when can you get a divorce in the Netherlands as an international?  

In short, a link with the Netherlands is needed in order for the Dutch court to have jurisdiction. 

This link with the Netherlands could be, for example, that you and/or your spouse have Dutch nationality or that you and/or your spouse live in the Netherlands. 

Having lived in the Netherlands in the past or merely being married in the Netherlands with no other link to the Netherlands is insufficient for the Dutch court to have jurisdiction over the divorce.

In need of a legal expert? GMW lawyers are experts in family and divorce law. They’ll navigate you through the Dutch divorce process with care, attention, and expert advice for your personal situation. Find out more. 

If you are legally married 

This one is quite self-explanatory, but yes, you have to be legally married in order to get a divorce. 

It doesn’t count if you dressed your golden retriever as a wedding officiant, gave each other a kiss, and then all danced around the garden. 

Unless you’ve signed all the papers and dotted all the i’s, you’re not legally married, and a divorce cannot be carried out. 

Mastering the divorce procedure in the Netherlands

It’s best to get an expert involved when you are going through a divorce in the Netherlands. Image: Freepik

It doesn’t matter if this is your first divorce or your seventh. No matter what your experience, you’re going to need the experts involved in order to tackle divorce in the Netherlands — but don’t stress, it’s relatively simple.  

Filing for divorce in the Netherlands

First things first, you’ve got to officially file the paperwork. Getting started with a divorce in the Netherlands might seem intimidating, but fear not! Your attorney will submit a petition to the District Court on your behalf. 

If both parties are on the same page, a joint application is highly recommended as it simplifies the procedure.

Mediation and settlement

Once you have both agreed to a joint application (or perhaps you haven’t), it’s time to call on your mediator. 

The mediation process can be an invaluable tool during your divorce in the Netherlands. It’s a chance to discuss and resolve issues privately, reducing potential conflicts and fostering a collaborative environment.

Through mediation, you and your partner can tackle the stickier stuff involved in a separation. 

Covering everything from asset division to child custody, a mediator can help the two of you reach a settlement agreement in a less confrontational setting.

Navigating the (financial) aspects of divorce in the Netherlands

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of any divorce is making financial decisions. Image: Freepik

If there’s one huge element in divorce, it’s the (financial) issues that come along with it. 

After years of marriage, who decides who gets that duck-shaped wine holder? Those porcelain cows? Or that broken-down bike?

More importantly, is there alimony involved? What happens with the care arrangements for the children? And do you have to divide the pensions that you accrued? 

Before we look at this in more detail, it is good to know that every international divorce case is different. When you divorce in the Netherlands, the Dutch court does not apply Dutch law automatically. 

Instead, the (international, European and/or national) treaties and laws determine what law the Dutch court needs to apply.

Did you live outside the Netherlands at the time of your marriage? For example, in Spain? The division of assets and debts may then have to take place under Spanish law in the Dutch courts. 

An international divorce can get complicated, but the good news is that you do not have to find this out on your own. An international divorce attorney or mediator can help you with this.

GMW lawyers are experts in family and divorce law. They’ll guide you through the Dutch divorce process with care and can offer expert advice for your personal situation. Find out more.

Property division in a divorce in the Netherlands 

When Dutch law applies to the property division, you automatically enter into what is known as a ‘limited community of property system’ (gemeenschap van goederen), unless you arranged a prenuptial agreement before or during the marriage.

However, how the community of property is applied may still vary depending on factors such as when you were married. 

Alimony in the Netherlands: what you need to know 

Much like property division, when it comes to alimony in the Netherlands, there are a number of variables that will determine how it is applied in your personal situation.

In the case where Dutch law is applicable, the court will examine whether alimony is needed. If it is, which type of alimony should it be? For example, partner alimony and/or child alimony. 

Whether or not you receive these is determined by aspects such as your child’s age. 

Pensions and retirement funds: planning for the future post-divorce 

If the question of your pension does fall under Dutch jurisdiction and Dutch law is applicable, then something called pensioenverevening is applied. 

This translates to pension equalisation and essentially means that any pension built up during the marriage will be split into two equal parts. 

However, when it comes to international couples, there can be some complications. 

Waarom? Because you may have accrued your pension through an international company — and foreign pension funds do not always recognise the Dutch court’s rulings. 

The child comes first when you get a divorce in the Netherlands. Image: Freepik

More important than the assets are any children involved. In the Netherlands, children’s best interests are paramount in any divorce proceeding. Let’s look into this in more detail.

If your situation falls under Dutch jurisdiction and Dutch law, this is how the child-related matters of your divorce will be handled: 

Parenting plan: a roadmap for your kids’ future

Since 2009, the Dutch divorce process must also include the submission of a parenting plan (ouderschapsplan) for those with children.

Your parenting plan will outline how you and your ex-partner will handle key decisions about your child’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and other important areas. 

It’s a way to ensure your children continue to receive love and support from both parents without putting them in the middle of future disagreements.

Parental authority when getting a divorce in the Netherlands

Speaking of both parents, the Dutch courts often favour shared parental authority. 

This means that even after divorce, both parents are responsible for matters involving the child, such as education and the managing of the child’s assets.

When parents divorce, they can make a contact arrangement as to when the child spends time with one parent or the other. 

Child support in the Netherlands: ensuring the well-being of the children

In the Netherlands, child support, or child maintenance (kinderalimentatie), as the Dutch call it, is determined using a specific formula that, among other things, takes into consideration the child’s age, the contact arrangement, the parent’s income, and the cost of care.

It may also take into account any exceptional costs, such as the costs of enrollment in an international school. However, this is not guaranteed. 

It’s designed to cover all the child’s basic needs, ensuring they can continue to live a life as uninterrupted as possible.

Child support is paid until the child reaches the age of 21. 

If a parent fails to pay? Well, then the Landelijk Bureau Inning Onderhoudsbijdragen (National Maintenance Collection Agency) will be sent to collect — so no parent is left alone to tackle the financial burden. 

Exploring alternatives: divorce isn’t the only option in the Netherlands

Divorce isn’t always the answer, sometimes it’s best to consider other routes. Image: Freepik

While you and your partner may be considering divorce, you should know it’s not the only option available. In the Netherlands, there are alternatives. 

If you’re unsure about divorce, legal separation might be an option worth exploring. 

A separation offers a chance to have some space, which can sometimes bring clarity. 

It’s also a good alternative if you can’t divorce because of your religion.

However, it’s worth noting that if you opt for a legal separation, you’re still going to have to do some bureaucratic heavy lifting.

 In the Netherlands, a legal separation requires that you settle all the same topics you would encounter when getting a divorce.

Note: While legal separation is certainly an option, it’s almost non-existent in the Netherlands. 

Opting for dissolution of marriage in the Netherlands

After a three-year separation, dissolution of marriage can be a gentler way to end your relationship in the Netherlands. It’s like the quiet fade-out at the end of a song rather than an abrupt stop.

Finding help and support during your divorce in the Netherlands

It’s important that you have support while going through divorce proceedings. Image: Freepik

Regardless of how fair or simple a divorce process is, it’s rarely an easy time in someone’s life. 

For that reason, you should reach out for guidance, support and help from both your family and the experts who can make the transition run as smoothly as possible. 

The value of professional guidance during a divorce in the Netherlands

Don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Family law attorneys experienced in Dutch divorce law can be invaluable allies, ensuring your interests are protected and that you understand the process every step of the way.

READ MORE | Everything you need to know about mediators in the Netherlands

Navigating a divorce in the Netherlands can seem daunting, but keep in mind that you’ve got the tools, the resources, and the strength to get through this. 

Important Dutch terms when getting a divorce in the Netherlands

Navigating a divorce is enough stress in itself. Add to that the issue of a foreign language, and you can be left feeling overwhelmed. 

Don’t fret, it can be done. Here are a few Dutch terms to understand while going through divorce proceedings. 

Dutch 🇳🇱English 🇬🇧
EchtscheidingsrechtDivorce law
Gemeenschap van goederenCommunity of property
OuderschapsplanParenting plan
KinderalimentatieChild support
PartneralimentatiePartner alimony
Huwelijkse voorwaardenPrenuptial agreement

Have gone through a divorce in the Netherlands? Tell us about your experience in the comments below. 

Divorce in the Netherlands: Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to get a divorce in the Netherlands?

How much does a divorce cost in the Netherlands?

What is the divorce law in the Netherlands?

How do I get a divorce in the Netherlands?

How can I stay in the Netherlands after a divorce?

How does child custody work in the Netherlands?

How does alimony work in the Netherlands?

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Before becoming the Senior Editor of DutchReview, Sarah was a fresh-faced international looking to learn more about the Netherlands. Since moving here in 2017, Sarah has added a BA in English and Philosophy (Hons.), an MA in Literature (Hons.), and over three years of writing experience at DutchReview to her skillset. When Sarah isn't acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her trying to sound witty while writing about some of the stickier topics such as mortgages and Dutch law.

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  1. Dear Mrs Brown, I’d like to thank you for the broadly explanatory article about divorce. Currently I live abroad of The Netherlands, it has been difficult to find information about the legal aid you mentioned in your article. Could you please inform me where I can find that information?
    Kind regards

    • Go to zoekeenadvocaat.nl and then type in ‘scheiden’ in the box and then your zip code and then choose the second option (funded aid- addition).

  2. I liked how you mentioned that a mediator can help you and your spouse come to an agreement during a divorce. My wife and I are struggling with our marriage and we are wondering how we are going to split up our kids if we get a divorce. I’ll be sure to tell her that we should talk to a mediator if we cannot decide.

  3. Hello all, I like to file a divorce to my husband but we’re still living together but he has a Mental problem which make me so confused I’m suffering his bad behaviour and I don’t like to have a custody of my daughter might my daughter will be affected of his bad attitude.
    He always smoke marijuana everyday and once he is stress he lose control which end up in a big drama situation he always like telling me or even showing us how he hurting himself then if I would say please don’t do that Infront of our daughter and then he will confronted of me that I only care our daughter not to him. He is really difficult person which killing me softly.
    I hope someone could help me out. I’m living in the Netherlands for 5yrs and marriage in the Philippines.


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