Marriage, civil partnership and cohabitation agreements

In the Netherlands partners can choose from 2 different forms of living arrangement that are regulated by law: they can marry or enter into a geregistreed partnerschap (civil partnership). It is also possible to sign a samenlevingscontract (cohabitation agreement), or to live together without signing any formal agreement. 


Marriages are conducted by the ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand (Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Civil 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 Civil Partnerships at least 2 weeks in advance. They can do so at the municipal offices. This advance notification procedure (ondertrouw) is compulsory by law.

Marriage in the Netherlands in limited general community of property

As of 1 January 2018 in the Netherlands, when partners marry, the system of limited community of property automatically applies, unless they make other formal arrangements. ‘Limited community of property’ means that the partners do not share all property and debts. Marriage in general community of property means that all the property and debts of each partner are shared.

Marriage contract

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 (Basisregistratie personen, BRP). They can do so at the municipal population affairs office.

Civil partnership

In the Netherlands, partners who do not wish to marry may opt for civil partnership instead. Marriage and civil partnership are similar in this country.

Registration of a foreign civil partnership

A civil partnership that is entered into outside the Netherlands will be recognised in the Netherlands, provided it is governed by the same rules as those that apply to a civil partnership entered into in the Netherlands. A civil partnership, like a marriage, must be registered at the municipal offices.

Cohabitation agreement

Another option in the Netherlands is a samenlevingscontract  (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 together, the woman (birth mother) is automatically the lawful mother. The man has to officially acknowledge parenthood of the child(ren) before he is regarded as the lawful father. This is also the case for a female partner of the birth mother.

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 Belastingdienst (Tax and Customs Administration) who may require payment of partner tax (in Dutch).