What types of relationship contracts are there in the Netherlands for couples?
In the Netherlands partners can choose from two different official types of living arrangement that are regulated by law: they can marry or enter into a registered partnership with same or different gender couples. It is also possible to sign a cohabitation agreement and or to live together without signing any formal agreement.
Marriage and registered partnership
Huwelijk (marriage) and geregistreerd partnerschap (registered partnership) are very similar in this country. The partners have almost identical rights under the two systems and both relationships are 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. There are no significant differences regarding children between marriage and registered partnership on the one hand but you do have them under cohabitation agreement on the other hand.
Cohabitation and cohabitation agreements
Even if a couple living together choose not to formalize 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.
They may enter into a samenlevingscontract (cohabitation agreement) a written contract arranging a variety of matters related to living together and sharing a home e.g. 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. The couple may arrange these matters themselves, but it is often advisable to have an official cohabitation agreement drawn up by a notary. This is required in order to be eligible for certain benefits, such as the partner’s pension schemes and employment fringe benefits. You can learn more about the role of a notary on the links provided on the Legal matters introduction.
Since 2001 it has been possible in the Netherlands for two men or two women to enter into a marriage or a registered partnership. Both a registered partnership and a marriage between two persons of the same sex provide nearly the same rights as a heterosexual marriage and differ only with regards to children and adoption. Same-sex married or registered partner couples should be aware that their relationship and its legal consequences will not always be accepted in other countries.
Further information on types of relationship contracts and differences between the arrangements can be found on the Dutch Government’s website: www.government.nl/topics/family-law.
Who can marry in the Netherlands?
Anyone who has Dutch nationality can get married in the Netherlands, 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. 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 Dutch police service for foreigners (vreemdelingenpolitie) regarding their status under the Aliens Act.
Couples of the same gender are also allowed to marry in the Netherlands.
The Dutch government’s website on marrying a foreigner in the Netherlands gives a good overview of the conditions that apply to various situations where two people want to marry under Dutch law.
Please note that when a form called M46 is mentioned on the website, this form has since been replaced by another form called ‘Eigen Verklaring van Partijen’ that you will fill in and sign during the first meeting with the stadhuis (town hall) when you announce your intent to marry.
What is the Dutch law on matrimonial property?
Unless stipulated otherwise with a prenuptial agreement, marriage automatically takes place in ‘general community of property’ meaning that that all property and debts are equally shared between the spouses, including assets obtained prior to the marriage, inheritances and gifts.
A prenuptial agreement may be made before the marriage. This must be drafted by a notary and entered in a matrimonial property register at the municipality where the marriage notice is placed. It is also possible to make a postnuptial agreement during the marriage.
What is the difference between marriage and registered partnership?
Marriage and registered partnership are both relationships formalized by law. The most important differences between the two kinds of arrangements were eliminated on 1 April, 2014, and what remains is primarily the absence of a religious ceremony in the case of a registered partnership, and the fact that a registered partnership and its legal consequences may not always be accepted in other countries. Furthermore, how to dissolve a marriage and a registered partnership differs in that a registered partnership can be ended without the involvement of the courts if you have no children under the age of 18. A marriage can only be dissolved by a court.
In principle, as in marriage, all possessions and debts are generally shared jointly in the registered partnership, but different arrangements can be made by instructing a notary to draw up a pre-partnership agreement, similar to a prenuptial one.
What are the steps to be followed and the costs to get married in the Netherlands?
If you plan to get married, you first need to notify the municipality. This is called ondertrouw (notice of intent to marry). This must be made at the gemeente (municipality) of residence of one of the partners involved. You need to do this at least two weeks before the intended wedding date and the wedding must take place within one year of the ondertrouw. If the one-year period expires, then another submission is required. Make an appointment with the ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand (registrar) in the municipality in which you wish to marry or enter into partnership. The registrar will tell you which documents to bring for the meeting.
Furthermore, you will need to appoint at least two and no more than four witnesses. The witnesses must be 18 years or older.
Once the documents have been presented to the gemeente a date and venue for the ceremony may be selected. During this period the couple will meet with the official who will perform the marriage ceremony. In some areas, arrangements can be made with a marrying official for the ceremony to be held in English. However, the vows are legally required to be in Dutch.
The civil ceremony may take place in a gemeente other than that of residence but the municipality of residence must be informed so that arrangements for transferring documents can be made.
The ondertrouw is provided free of charge. However, there could be other costs involved such as an appointment at the ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand and for various documents where costs are specific to certain situations. Please contact your municipality for more details.
What are the requirements to get married in the Netherlands?
The documents needed may vary depending on nationality, previous marriages and residence status in the Netherlands. It is advisable to find out well in advance what documents you need and whether they meet the requirements.
- A birth certificate
- Proof of identity, e.g. passport
- A marriage certificate in the case of a previous marriage, a divorce decree in the case of a previous divorce or a death certificate in the case of being widowed
- Completed witness forms for two to four witnesses
- A certificate of no impediment to marriage or a certificate of civil status proving you are not married elsewhere. This is available from your respective Consulate General or you may have to apply for the certificate in the last place you lived abroad. In most cases you will need to have the document legalised to make it legally valid in the Netherlands. Note: A certificate of no impediment to marriage is issued after a notice of marriage has been displayed at your Consulate General for 21 days and if no objection has been made about the proposed marriage. It is issued in Dutch.
Documents from abroad that are not written in Dutch, French, German or English must be translated into Dutch by a sworn translator in the Netherlands. Furthermore, documents from certain countries must be legalised or provided with an ‘apostille’ stamp. More information about this is available on the Dutch government’s website: www.government.nl/topics/legalising-documents.
My partner and I are contemplating, registering our partnership. Can you please tell me how to go about with this and if there are any costs involved?
The registered partnership provides almost the same rights and responsibilities as marriage and they both have similar steps.
If you plan to register your partnership, you first need to inform the gemeente (municipality) of the city of residence of one of the partners involved. This is called ondertrouw (notice of intent to marry). You need to do this at least two weeks before the intended date of the partnership registration which must take place within one year of submitting the notice. If the one-year period expires, then you need to resubmit another notice of intent to marry.
The documents needed may vary depending on nationality, previous marriages and residence status in the Netherlands. It is advisable to find out well in advance what documents you need to meet the requirements by contacting your local municipality. Required documents for both partners are similar to the documents requested for the marriage.
My partner and I would like to have a religious marriage. What are the steps involved?
In the Netherlands, marriages may only be blessed by religious institutions after the civil marriage has taken place. It is up to the institutions to bless or solemnise the marriage. They are not obliged to do so. It is advisable to check with the religious institution of your choice.
Unlike a marriage, a registered partnership may not be blessed in a religious institution.