When do I automatically get responsibility for a child?

If you are married or in a registered partnership, you automatically get parental responsibility for your children. Where responsibility is shared between a parent and a non-parent, the presence of the child’s other parent is a factor. The options are: parental responsibility (exercised by one or two parents), joint responsibility (parent and non-parent), sole guardianship (one guardian) or joint guardianship (two guardians).

Parental responsibility in a marriage or registered partnership

If you are married or in a registered partnership, you automatically get responsibility for any children who are born or adopted during that marriage or partnership. The man automatically becomes their legal father. He does not need to acknowledge the children, even if he is not their biological father.

If you are parents who marry or enter into a registered partnership after your child is born, you automatically get parental responsibility. This applies provided that the father has acknowledged the child.

Joint parental responsibility where there is no marriage or registered partnership

If you are parents who are not married or in a registered partnership with each other, you won’t get joint parental responsibility automatically. In that case the mother has sole responsibility. If you want to exercise parental responsibility jointly, you have to apply to the district court (rechtbank). The father or co-mother (duomoeder) must have acknowledged the child.

Parental responsibility of an unmarried mother

If you are a mother who is not married but is legally an adult, you automatically get parental responsibility. This applies unless you have a mental disorder or you have been placed under a guardianship order for adults (curatele).

Parental responsibility where the mother is a minor

If you are a mother who is still a minor, the court will appoint a guardian (voogd) for your child. When you reach the age of 18 you can ask the court to transfer parental responsibility to you. If your child is born when you are 16 or 17, the court may declare you an adult – on certain conditions – and give you parental responsibility.

Continue reading for more information on how a mother who is a minor can obtain responsibility for her child.

Joint responsibility of two women for a child

If you are a mother who is married to or in a registered partnership with another woman, you will both get automatic parental responsibility if the child has no lawful father. This applies for example in the case of an anonymous sperm donor or a known donor who has not acknowledged the child.

Joint responsibility of two men for a child

If you are a man who is married to or in a registered partnership with another man, you will need a court decision before you can get joint responsibility for a child. If you are the child’s biological father, you can acknowledge the child. Then the court will award you parental responsibility. If two men adopt a child they have automatic joint responsibility.

If the parents do not have responsibility: guardianship

If someone who is not a parent has responsibility for a child, this is called guardianship (voogdij). This is the case for example if both parents are dead. Guardianship of a child may also be given to a certified agency, such as a youth protection agency (stichting jeugdbescherming).