In the Netherlands, people marry or become registered partners with all possessions equally owned by both partners. This means that all property and debts of the spouses become jointly owned. This includes all possessions, inheritance and gifts received before or during the marriage or registered partnership. Debts can be claimed on the joint assets. At the end of the marriage or registered partnership , the joint property is allocated such that each of the spouses acquires half of it. In case there are more debts than assets, they are jointly accountable for these. This can be avoided by a prenuptial agreement drawn up by a civil notary.
The Dutch parliament has proposed a change to the system of general community property. The proposed change means that properties and debts gained before the marriage will no longer become part of the community property. This also includes inheritance and gifts. The only things that will become joint will be the property gained during the marriage (or registered partnership). When the marriage ends, only these possessions will be divided on a 50-50 basis. It remains possible to draw up a prenuptial agreement to make their arrangements.
The Senate still has to approve the proposal, but it is generally expected that the new law will come into effect on 1 January 2017 for couples who get married or registered partners after the date the law enters into force.
Relevance for internationals
Whether you are already married or have a registered partner or you are going to, it is important to contact a notary specialised in international civil law. Those who are planning to get married can choose which law applies to their marriage or registered partnership. If you are already married where a foreign matrimonial law applies to you, it is important to have a statement registered saying that Dutch law does not apply to your marriage. This can prevent that assets of each partner could be used to pay the debts of the other.
Everything Is Becoming Simpler, Right?
By Yolanda Bokhorst
In: Xpat Magazine, Autumn 2016, page 10-11 (only available in print)