Marriage, registered partnership and cohabitation agreements
In the Netherlands partners can choose from two different forms of living arrangement that are regulated by law: they can marry, enter into a registered partnership. It is also possible to sign a cohabitation agreement, and of course to live together without signing any formal agreement.
Marriages are solemnised by the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships. Certain matters relating to marriage are regulated by law. Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, and brothers and sisters are forbidden to marry in the Netherlands, although a dispensation may be granted if the partners are adopted siblings. In order to marry in the Netherlands, at least one of the partners must be Dutch or resident in the Netherlands.
Public notice of an intended marriage
In the Netherlands, the partners must register their intention to marry with the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships at least two weeks in advance. They can do so at the municipal population affairs office. This advance notification procedure (ondertrouw) is compulsory by law.
Marriage in the Netherlands in general community of property
In the Netherlands, unless stipulated otherwise, marriage automatically takes place in general community of property. Marriage in general community of property means that all the property and debts of each partner are shared.
It is possible to exclude certain items, such as a bequest or inheritance, from the community of property. This can only be done by the testator. In addition, the forthcoming partners may decide to have a marriage contract drawn up by a notary. This contract the prospective partners make agreements on how they diverge from the guidelines of general community of property.
Marriage must be registered in the Netherlands
Marriages that have been solemnised in another country cannot be registered in the Netherlands until the marriage certificate has been authenticated. The authentication procedure differs according to the country in which the marriage was concluded. Partners can request more information from the embassy of the country where they were married. It is compulsory in the Netherlands for married persons to register their marriage at the Municipal Personal Records Database (GBA). They can do so at the municipal population affairs office.
In the Netherlands, partners who do not wish to marry may opt for registered partnership instead. Marriage and registered partnership are very similar in this country: the partners have almost identical rights under the two systems.
Difference between marriage and registered partnership
The most important difference between marriage and registered partnership relates to the children that are born during the registered partnership. If a man and a woman are married, the husband automatically becomes the lawful father of a child who is born to his wife. In the case of a registered partnership, the man does not automatically become the lawful father of a child born to his partner; to acquire this status, he must officially acknowledge each child separately. See also: Birth of a child.
Registration of a foreign registered partnership
A registered partnership that is entered into abroad will be recognised in the Netherlands, provided it is governed by the same rules as those that apply to a registered partnership entered into in the Netherlands. A registered partnership, like a marriage, must be registered at the municipal population affairs office.
Another option in the Netherlands is a cohabitation agreement. This is a written agreement settling certain matters relating to living together. It is sensible to have a notary draw up an official contract. In some cases, you may need a notarised cohabitation agreement in order to qualify for certain benefits such as partner pension schemes and fringe benefits.
Consequences of a cohabitation agreement for parenthood
When a man and a woman who have concluded a cohabitation agreement have a child, the woman is automatically the lawful mother. The man has to officially acknowledge paternity before he is regarded as the lawful father.
Living together without any official agreement
If partners live together without any cohabitation agreement, nothing is regulated by law. Even so, living together does have consequences for the rules applied by certain institutions, such as the Tax and Customs Administration (partner tax).