Spousal and child maintenance in The Netherlands

In the following you will find general answers to some frequently asked questions regarding maintenance/ alimony obligations in the Netherlands.

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance/ alimony is a financial contribution towards the upbringing and education of children. Maintenance is owed once a legal bond has been established between parent and child. This means not only biological parents, but also adoptive parents and even stepparents are obliged to support their children financially until the child has turned 18. If the child is still in full-time education at 18, then the obligation is extended until the child has turned 21.

How is child maintenance determined?

Child maintenance usually determined by using a standard calculation, which was introduced in 2013 to simplify maintenance calculations. This calculation is based on net income of both parents during their relationship, ehich determines the amount needed by the child to keep up the former standard of living. Then the ability of the parent to pay this amount is tested using their current monthly net income and a certain amount of predetermined  living costs. The amount of time the child spends with each parent is also factored in to the calculation . If, however, there are special circumstances, other factors, such as debts, can be taken into account, making it not as easy as it sounds to determine an amount.

In general, either parents agree on an amount amicably or the family courts determine the amount of maintenance owed. The courts will in principle always follow the strict standard calculation. The guidelines state that a parent must pay a minimum of € 25,-- per child per month, unless there are special circumstances, which must be proven by the party obliged to pay maintenance.

What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal or partner maintenance/ alimony is the financial contribution owed to the other spouse after divorce in cases where the other spouse cannot support themselves, or there is a large gap in earnings between parties.

The law is applicable in all marriages and civil partnerships, but not if parties only co-habit.

How is spousal maintenance/ alimony calculated?

Spousal maintenance is based on two factors the need of a spouse for support and the financial ability of the other spouse to pay a contribution.

It is not compulsory to ask for or receive spousal maintenance. It is not uncommon for parties to renounce their rights to maintenance upon divorce as many young couples have equivalent incomes or do not want support from their ex-partner.

If, however, one partner has taken a step back from their career, for example to have children, then spousal support may be necessary. The need for spousal support is based on the standard of living and income during marriage or partnership. If there was a high income then there will be a high standard of living and therefore a higher amount of support will be necessary to continue this standard of living after divorce. Any earnings of the party asking for maintenance are subtracted from the amount needed to equal this standard of living.

The need for support is then off-set against the ability of the other party to pay this amount. In this case many factors can be taken into account. For example; How many marital debts are being taken over? What special costs need to be taken into account? Will the spouse asking for support get marital property and funds from the divorce? Is the spouse asking for support able to supplement their income by finding a(nother) job or working more hours?

It needs no further explanation that these questions can lead to protracted discussions and many court cases.

When does the obligation to pay spousal maintenance end?

If parties have been married less than five years and no children have been born of the marriage, then maintenance is equal to the length of the marriage. So, if parties have been married for three years and two months, three years and two months of maintenance is owed.

In all other cases the maintenance obligation is currently 12 years. Even if the marriage was only a few months, if a child is born to the spouses before or after marriage 12 years of maintenance is owed.

Are there any exceptions to the period maintenance is owed?

Yes there are.

First of all spouses can agree on a shorter or longer maintenance period.

Secondly, if the spouse receiving maintenance, remarries, enters into a civil partnership or starts to co-habit with a new partner, then the maintenance obligation ceases immediately. However, it is up to the maintenance payer to prove co-habitation, which in many cases is difficult if the other party denies co-habitation. Then often only a costly private detective can provide sufficient proof in a court of law to officially termination maintenance.

Thirdly, under exceptional circumstances a spouce may apply for an extension of the maintenance period. This however is really exceptional and there are only a few cases that have been accepted by the courts. For example, a spouse with a serious handicap that is not able to achieve a basic standard of living without continued support. This request must be put to the courts within three months after the normal notice period has ended.

What if my financial circumstances have changed?

Unless agreed otherwise, it is always possible to petition the courts for a revision of maintenance based on change of circumstance. Say that the maintenance payer has lost their job and is no longer able to make payments or the party receiving maintenance now has a better job and is better able to support themselves. 

Indexation

Maintenance is indexed in January of every year based on inflation. Unless specifically otherwise agreed, the index is always applicable.

Is maintenance tax deductible?

In The Netherlands child maintenance is no longer tax deductible. Spousal maintenance is fully tax deductible in The Netherlands and is taxed as income for the receiving party.

My spouse has moved to or from The Netherlands and wants maintenance

If your spouse moves to the Netherlands after divorce, the Dutch rules on maintenance will apply. Therefore it is important to seek representation at an early stage to ascertain your rights.

When your spouse moves away from The Netherlands, this may be a reason to petition for a revision of maintenance, as other tax breaks may apply and your spouse’s financial situation may have changed.

How can Bowmer & Nuiten help you?

Bowmer & Nuiten has a team of internationally orientated lawyers that specialise in family law. Whether you are in the process of a divorce or need a recalculation of maintenance obligations, we can advise you and guide you through the process. We appear regularly in court on behalf of local and international clients, but we also offer an alternative method of dispute resolution in the form of mediation.

For more information or queries on this issue, please feel free to contact Maria Bowmer.

For more detailed information on divorce and alimony in The Netherlands, please also consult our partner website Dutch Divorce Lawyer.

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