10 July 2011
The Dutch Central Office for Statistics has registered a steep rise in registered partnerships lately, especially in relationships where both partners are 40 and older.
Far from being accidental, this rise reflects the assumption that dissolving a registered partnership is easier than getting divorced. True, in principle; however, think twice, if and where there are children involved.
Legally speaking, there are not that many differences between a marriage and a registered partnership. However, one of them can make all the difference, since a child born within a registered partnership has only one parent by law: the mother. This holds true for both same sex and heterosexual couples. In the case of same sex couples, legal parenthood by both parents can be assumed only through adoption, even if the couple itself is married.
Heterosexual couples living in a registered partnership and having a baby can both become parents only after the father recognises the child as being his own; whereas a baby born into a marriage is automatically recognised as being the child of the husband. Guardianship / custody of a child born into a registered partnership can be exercised by the father only after a formal recognition of the child has taken place. Without such a formal recognition, in the case of a break-up of the relationship, the father will have no further say in any relevant matter of his child’s future life, such as education, medical interventions, place of residence, etc.
Before being able to terminate their relationship, couples living as registered partners, having a child / children must agree on a parenting plan – just as well as cohabiting parents or married parents have to. Their partnership will be dissolved by a judge, after the parents jointly file a parenting plan, spelling out their intentions on visitation, care and custody of the children. Aided by one or more lawyers or notaries, a childless registered partnership can be dissolved without the intervention of a judge by signing a joint declaration. By law, a registered partnership allows for partner alimony, whilst cohabitation does not.
From all of the above one can conclude that, unless a couple decides not to have children together, there is little reason to opt for a registered partnership.
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