1 October 2012

Misconceptions in international family law

By Ryanne van Manen

Increasingly frequently, people find love across the border.

They fall in love with someone living abroad or of a different nationality. While the relationship flourishes, it’s hunky dory, but what if the marriage fails? Divorce is a difficult process in many ways – a low point in any life – and international divorces involve extra complications. In my weblogs I inform you of these extra hurdles.


From experience I know that the same questions arise again and again. Most people are unfamiliar with Dutch International Private Law and consequently lots of misconceptions exist about the possibilities for divorce and the way a divorce is settled. Below I give a few examples of frequent misconceptions.

1. The divorce will be settled in the country of my marriage.
In the Netherlands, the place in which the marriage was contracted is not relevant to the competence of the court nor to the applicable law.

2. Returning to my home country with the children isn’t child abduction
Not if you have the permission of the other parent (who has custody) to leave. If he or she doesn’t give his/her consent, you have the possibility – and the duty – to ask the court for substitute consent. Without that consent, relocating your children is child abduction – a criminal offense.

3. Any lawyer is able to handle international divorces
No, family law is a discipline of its own. Hiring a specialised family lawyer is an absolute must. Involving a lawyer with an international family practice would be beneficial.

4. If the divorce takes place in the Netherlands, this will be according to Dutch law
No, for each subject it will be determined which law is applicable, based on all kinds of national and international rules – this could even be a foreign legal system.

5. I don’t need to respond to documents from foreign courts because they can’t affect me
No, please do respond. Ignoring those documents can lead to a foreign Court Order being made in which, for example, you are ordered to pay sky-high alimony. In most cases  a Court Order like this can be executed in the Netherlands.

6. The reason for the divorce matters
According to Dutch law it isn’t relevant. In some countries, for example the UK, the reason for the divorce could be important for the fixing of alimony or the division of assets, but in the Netherlands it is not.


Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Ryanne van Manen

Ryanne van Manen


Ryanne van Manen works as a lawyer in the family and inheritance law practice group.

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