Couples of the same gender, or different genders, that want to formalise their relationship have three options:
- Civil marriage
- Registered partnership
- Cohabitation agreement
For each option, there are different conditions, rules, rights and obligations.
Marriage and registered partnership
Marriage (huwelijk) and registered partnership (geregistreerd partnerschap) are similar in many ways. They are both relationships formalised by law. To a large extent the law specifies the partners' rights and obligations, the conditions they must meet to formalise their relationship, and the procedures involved, including ending a relationship. However, there are significant differences when it comes to children.
Even if a couple living together choose not to formalise their relationship, the fact that they live together still has legal consequences. There are implications, for instance, for income tax and social security deductions and benefits.
A cohabitation agreement (samenlevingscontract) is a contract between two people. It covers a variety of matters relevant to living together and sharing a home. For instance, a couple may agree to support each other financially and share the costs of running a household. They may also want to make arrangements about the use of each other's bank accounts, or dividing or sharing their property. They can either arrange these matters themselves or ask a notary to make provision in an official cohabitation agreement. However, pension schemes that include a partner, as well as certain fringe benefits, always need an official agreement drawn up by a notary.
Since April 2001, couples of the same sex or different sexes can be married, or form a registered partnership or enter into a cohabitation agreement, in the Netherlands. Both the registered partnership and the marriage between two persons of the same sex afford nearly the same rights as heterosexual marriage and differ only in regard to children and adoption. It may not be legally recognised outside the Netherlands.
Who can marry in the Netherlands?
Anyone of Dutch nationality can be married here, regardless of whether they live here and regardless of their partner's nationality. Two foreign nationals may marry in the Netherlands if one of them legally resides in the Netherlands. The above also applies to entering into a registered partnership.
Foreign partners or partners living abroad
The following rules apply to non-Dutch nationals or residents:
- A couple may not marry or enter into a registered partnership in the Netherlands if neither is a Dutch national, and both live abroad.
- If neither partner is a Dutch national, they may marry or enter into a registered partnership in the Netherlands provided at least one of them is resident here.
- They may marry or enter into a registered partnership in the Netherlands if at least one partner is Dutch, even if they both live abroad.
- A couple may marry or enter into a registered partnership in the Netherlands if both partners live in the country, even if neither of them is a Dutch national.
Rights of residence to prevent marriages of convenience, non-Dutch nationals who wish to marry or enter into a registered partnership must either have a permanent residence permit or obtain a statement from the Aliens Police regarding their status under the Aliens Act.
The ACCESS Guide "Legal Matters related to Key Life Events" provides information about marriage, registered partnership, cohabitation, same-sex marriage and ending a relationship in the Netherlands. It gives details on the procedures, the rights and obligations, and the legislation.