Marriage, registered partnership and cohabitation agreements

In the Netherlands partners can choose from a number of different forms of living arrangement that are regulated by law: they can marry or enter into a registered partnership (geregistreerd partnerschap; also called ‘civil partnership’). Alternatively, it is possible to have a cohabitation agreement (samenlevingscontract) drawn up by a civil-law notary. Partners can also choose to live together without any formal agreement. 


Marriages are conducted by a Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships (ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand). Certain matters related to marriage are regulated by law. Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, and brothers and sisters are forbidden to marry each other in the Netherlands, although a dispensation may be granted for adoptive siblings. In order to marry in the Netherlands, at least one of the partners must be a Dutch national or resident in the Netherlands.

Public notice of an intended marriage

In the Netherlands, partners must register their intention to marry with the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships at least 2 weeks in advance. They can do this at a municipal office. Most municipalities also allow you to do this online. This advance notification (melding van voorgenomen huwelijk) is required by law.

Marriage in limited or general community of property

As of 1 January 2018, when partners marry in the Netherlands, the system of limited community of property applies automatically, unless the partners have made other arrangements in a marriage contract drawn up by a civil-law notary.

Marriage in limited community of property means that the partners do not share all property and debts. 

Marriage in general community of property means that all property and debts are shared by the partners. This system applies to all marriages concluded in the Netherlands before 1 January 2018, unless the spouses had agreed otherwise in a marriage contract.

Marriage contract

The future spouses may decide to have a marriage contract drawn up by a civil-law notary. In this contract they can make agreements on how they wish to diverge from the general rules that apply to the limited or general community of property.

Marriage must be registered in the Netherlands

Marriages that have been solemnised in another country must be registered in the Netherlands. First the marriage certificate must be 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. The marriage must then be registered in the Personal Records Database (Basisregistratie Personen, BRP). This can be arranged at a municipal office.

Registered partnership

In the Netherlands, partners who do not wish to marry may opt for a registered partnership instead. Marriage and registered partnership have similar consequences in this country.

Registration of a foreign registered partnership

A registered partnership that is entered into outside the Netherlands will be recognised in the Netherlands, provided that it is legally valid under the law of the state in which the partnership was entered into, or became legally valid at a later date. A registered partnership, like a marriage, must be registered at the municipal office.

Cohabitation agreement

Another option in the Netherlands is a cohabitation agreement (samenlevingscontract). This is a written agreement settling certain matters related to living together. It is sensible to have a civil-law notary draw up such an agreement. In some cases, you may need a notarised cohabitation agreement in order to qualify for certain benefits such as partner pension schemes.

Consequences of a cohabitation agreement for parenthood

When a man and a woman who have concluded a cohabitation agreement have a child together, the man has to officially acknowledge parenthood of the child before he is regarded as the child’s legal parent. This is also the case for a female partner of the birth mother. The birth mother is automatically regarded as the child’s legal parent.

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. For example, the Tax Administration (Belastingdienst), may treat you as partners for tax purposes (information in Dutch).