Divorce in the Netherlands

Divorce can be petitioned in the Netherlands on the grounds that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The courts immediately accept that the marriage has broken down when one or both parties states such. There is no blame apportioned to either of the parties in Dutch law and, in principle, who is to blame for the divorce does not affect the divorce settlement. Divorce can either be petitioned jointly by both spouses or unilaterally by one spouse.


The Dutch courts have jurisdiction to hear divorce proceedings, irrespective of the nationality of parties or where they were married, in the following circumstances:

  • Both parties are (officially) living in the Netherlands;
  • The Netherlands was the last place of co-habitation and one of the spouses is still living in The Netherlands;
  • The defending party lives in The Netherlands or, in case of a joint petition, one of the spouses lives in The Netherlands;
  • If the party filing the divorce has lived in The Netherlands for at least one year prior to the petition.

Foreign nationals can therefore generally get divorced in the Netherlands, irrespective of how long they have been living in The Netherlands. However, when only the plaintiff is residing in the Netherlands, there is a short time bar of up to one year before proceedings can be brought before the Dutch courts.

The Dutch courts do not have jurisdiction in the following circumstances:

  • Parties were married in The Netherlands, but neither party now resides in The Netherlands unless both parties are Dutch Nationals;
  • One of the spouses is of Dutch Nationality, but neither party now lives in The Netherlands.

The Dutch courts always have jurisdiction if both spouses are of Dutch nationality.

That the Dutch courts are competent to hear a divorce, does not automatically mean that they are competent to hear all matters pertaining to the divorce. For example, any custody measures regarding children can only be granted in the country where the children have their permanent residence. If the children are living outside the jurisdiction, then separate proceedings must be initiated in their country of residence.

In cases where one of the spouses has moved abroad more than one national court may have jurisdiction. It is then important to determine where it is most advantageous to bring proceedings. The country where the first petition is filed will have priority to hear the divorce proceedings.

Applicable law

Neither does competence to hear the divorce proceedings mean that Dutch law is automatically applicable. Under European and international treaty law, which law is applicable to the marriage and the marital property will depend on the nationality of parties and the place of the first marital home. Not all countries outside of the EU will automatically recognise a Dutch divorce decree, so it is important to consult with a local adviser in your place of origin in case the decree needs to be recognised in separate proceedings there.

How can Bowmer & Nuiten help you?

Foreign nationals should be aware of the complications that are involved in divorce cases with an international dimension and get advice at the earliest possible stage. Many cases involve unique combinations of jurisdiction and applicable law. Our Rotterdam office has specialists in (international) divorce law with an international background and we are therefore uniquely positioned to advise you. 

Please feel free to contact Maria Bowmer or Sabine Imdahl with any questions or queries.

You can also consult our partner website Dutch Divorce Lawyer for more detailed information on all aspects of divorce law in The Netherlands.

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