Pauline Montanus ~ How to File for Divorce in the Netherlands – Part 1

As an expat living in the Netherlands it is, in most cases, possible to get a legal divorce in the Netherlands that will also be recognized in your own country. International and family law expert, Pauline Montanus, explains how to file for divorce in the Netherlands and what to expect during negotiations and divorce proceedings. You can find the second part of this series here.

Contact a Specialized Family Lawyer
If you are legally married and want to divorce, your marriage must be formally dissolved by the District Court. The filing can be done by one spouse or on behalf of both spouses. To be able to file for divorce in the Netherlands you will need a lawyer. It is not possible to contact and file your divorce with the District Court yourself. You may find good family lawyers specialized in international family on the Amsterdam Mamas website.

Court Proceedings
It first needs to be determined whether the Dutch judge has jurisdiction to rule on the divorce. This will be the case when at least one spouse still has habitual residence in the Netherlands. Dutch law does not require the spouses to live physically apart for a certain period before they file for divorce.

On the day the lawyer sends the divorce papers on behalf of one spouse to the District Court, the case is ‘pending’. The lawyer will, as instructed by law, contact a bailiff to serve the divorce papers to the other spouse so this spouse is officially informed and can contact a lawyer.

In general, divorce proceedings will consist of a written petition, a written defense (term to file is six to ten weeks) and a court hearing (couple of months, depending on how busy the District Court is). After that, the judge will rule (six to eight weeks) and the verdict will be sent to your lawyer. After the District Court has ruled, there is a three-month period to appeal.

Legal Grounds for Divorce
In the Netherlands, divorce (echtscheiding) is always on the legal grounds of ‘irretrievable breakdown of the marriage’. There is generally no requirement to define or prove this. It will not be to your (financial) advantage or disadvantage if you are the person filing for divorce.

It is, however, possible for the other spouse to contest the divorce claim in the proceedings before the District Court or the Court of Appeal. Although, in general, the Dutch judge will grant the divorce request since it is typically not accepted to force marriage without possible dissolution.

Read more: