What is the difference between biological and legal parenthood?

The father and mother whose DNA a child carries are usually called the child’s biological parents. Legal parents have a family relationship to the child by law, but do not need to be related by blood, for example in the case of an adopted child.

Legal mother

A child’s legal mother is:

  • the woman who gave birth to the child. This also applies if the child was conceived using a donor egg;
  • the woman who adopted the child;
  • the duomoeder (female partner of the birth mother)  who has automatically become the child’s parent, or has acknowledged the child, or has been declared the child’s parent by a court.

Legal father

A child’s legal father is:

  • the mother’s husband or registered partner at the time of the child’s birth, unless his paternity of the child is denied;
  • the man who acknowledges or adopts the child;
  • the man who has been declared the child’s father by a court.

The above applies equally to marriage and registered partnerships. Like a marriage, a registered partnership is solemnised by a registrar of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships (burgerlijke stand). So it is not the same as a having a cohabitation agreement (samenlevingscontract) or simply being registered as living at the same address.

Legal parenthood regulated by the law of parentage

The rules on who is a child’s legal parent are laid down in the law of parentage. A child’s legal parent does not automatically have responsibility for that child. And the person with responsibility for a child is not always the legal parent. If you have responsibility for a child, you have the right and the duty to raise and care for that child.

Parenthood in the Civil Code

The Burgerlijk Wetboek (Dutch Civil Code) is concerned with legal parenthood. The word 'parent' in the Civil Code means a child’s legal parent.