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.