Who gets responsibility for my child if I die?

The party who gets responsibility for your child after your death will depend on your personal situation. Different arrangements apply in the case of joint parental responsibility, parental responsibility exercised by one parent, or joint responsibility exercised by a parent and a non-parent.

Joint parental responsibility (two parents)

What happens if two parents have joint responsibility and one of them dies? The other parent automatically gets sole parental responsibility. If both parents die, the court decides who is to be the child’s guardian (voogd). If the parents appointed a guardian in their will or had a guardian’s name entered in the parental responsibility register, the district court registrar will ask that person if they are willing to be the child’s guardian. Parents may also designate two individuals as joint guardians in their will or the parental responsibility register.

Designate a guardian free of charge

Since 2014 it has been possible for parents to name a guardian even without a using will. You can do this free of charge by having the person’s name entered in the parental responsibility register. To do so, you should fill in the form for registering responsibility in the event of your death on the website Rechtspraak.nl.

Parental responsibility (one parent)

If the parent with sole responsibility for the child dies, the court decides whether to give responsibility to the other parent (if they are still alive) or to someone else. The other parent is the preferred choice. He/she can submit a request to be given responsibility. The court may only deny this request and give responsibility to somebody else if that would be better for the child.

The other parent as the preferred choice

If you have named a guardian in your will, your child’s other parent can still ask the court for parental responsibility after your death. The same applies if you have had a guardian’s name entered in the parental responsibility register.

If the other parent requests responsibility within one year of your death, the court will give them precedence over your chosen guardian. If the surviving parent submits their request a year or more after your death, they will no longer be the preferred choice. In that case the other parent will be given responsibility only if the situation has changed since the guardian was originally appointed. Or if the court appointed the guardian on the basis of incorrect or incomplete information.

Joint responsibility (parent and non-parent)

If your partner (a non-parent) dies, joint responsibility ends automatically. You then exercise sole parental responsibility. If you die, your partner becomes the child’s guardian. If your child has another parent, that other parent may ask the court to be given responsibility. If the court agrees, your partner’s guardianship will end.