Getting to grips with Dutch law as it applies to expat families

Getting to grips with Dutch law as it applies to expat families

Getting to grips with Dutch law as it applies to expat families

Expat families relocating to the Netherlands will need to know about the country’s family laws.

Moving overseas and starting a new life as a family is exciting as well as hard work, but those attempting to fit in to their adopted country will need to check out Dutch family laws. For example, even although cohabitation is widely accepted in the West including in the Netherlands, the law takes a different view as regards residence permits and family issues.

Unfortunately for new arrivals, Dutch law as regards family issues has tightened up over the past several decades, even for married couples with children of the marriage. One reason for the ongoing crackdown is the rise of fake marriages as an easy way to get a residency permit, with the practice now causing general mistrust and a good number of investigations of perfectly legal unions. As is usual nowadays, bad practice by some leads to investigation of many, not a pleasant prospect for newly-arrived expat professionals and their wives and children.

Another sad tale is that of an expat couple who’d been married overseas before moving to the Netherlands, but hadn’t registered the marriage certificate at The Hague’s Dutch International Marriage Register. Problems began when their first child was born and the registrar was unable to put her husband’s name on the birth certificate as he was away on business and unable to confirm he was the father.

Laws regarding parental responsibility and even custody are even more complicated, especially for expats not yet fluent in the Dutch language and legal system. Getting it wrong could lead to a refusal to let the baby and its mother travel overseas without first gaining the father’s permission. Applying logic to these problems doesn’t help, as the laws themselves are convoluted and very confusing to those who don’t fully understand the basics behind the rules.

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