19 April 2023
Can you agree to waive spousal maintenance before marriage?
In my practice as a divorce lawyer, I frequently deal with international divorces. Part of a divorce may include the subject of spousal maintenance: upon divorce, one of the spouses may be entitled to maintenance payments.
In this blog, I discuss whether an agreement entered into before or during the marriage stipulating that spousal support may not be requested in the event of divorce, is legally valid. So, may you waive spousal support?
In the Netherlands, it is possible to go to a notary before or during a marriage and draw up prenuptial agreements. Agreements in a prenuptial agreement can be made about the financial consequences of a divorce. In the Netherlands, however, it is not possible to agree in a prenuptial agreement that partner maintenance cannot be asked for in case of divorce. This was recently confirmed by the Supreme Court (ECLI:NL:HR:2022:1724). The Supreme Court ruled that – despite the existing freedom of contract – it is not possible to agree on a nil clause before marriage. Such a nil clause violates Article 1:400 paragraph 2 of the Dutch Civil Code. This article stipulates that a contract may not waive maintenance due under the law.
The foregoing also has a social implication. The stage of life in which prenuptial agreements are made is often a different one from that in which the divorce takes place. At the start of the marriage, it is often impossible to foresee what choices will be made and also what health will look like. This is only possible at the time of divorce.
In short, in the Netherlands it is not possible to waive spousal maintenance by agreement.
If you have drawn up an agreement abroad, however, in some cases it may be possible to exclude spousal support in case of divorce. To do so, however, several requirements must be met.
An agreement with a nil partner maintenance clause is only legally valid in the Netherlands if a foreign law is designated as applicable law in the agreement. Moreover, you cannot designate every law as applicable. In accordance with Article 8 of the 2007 Hague Alimony Protocol, there must be a connection with the law designated as applicable law. In addition, the designated applicable law – unlike Dutch law – must have the possibility to agree on a nil clause before the marriage. Furthermore, Article 8 mentioned above requires that both parties have full knowledge and awareness of the consequences of their choice at the time of concluding the agreement. In addition, application of the designated law must not lead to manifestly unfair or unreasonable consequences for one of the parties.
In short, in some cases, an agreement entered into abroad may well result in no spousal support upon divorce in the Netherlands. However, this requires several requirements to be met. Thus, because of these requirements, when divorce is imminent, you cannot designate an arbitrary law because it has a nil clause.
May you waive spousal support? In principle, it is not possible to agree by an agreement that no spousal support can be requested in case of divorce. In international situation and if various requirements are required, an agreement with a nil clause for partner alimony may still be legally valid in the Netherlands.
Do you have a legal question or need more information? If so, please contact us directly.
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