Divorce & Children
Effective from March 1st 2009 drawing up a parenting plan is mandatory when filing for divorce where children are involved. This is the direct result of the introduction of a new law that promotes increased awareness amongst divorcing parents where it comes to thinking about the actual consequences of divorce for their children. This so called “Dutch Continued Parenthood and Well-Planned Divorce Act” (Wet Bevordering voortgezet ouderschap en zorgvuldige scheiding) stipulates that parents filing for divorce are obligated to draw up such a parenting plan. The purpose of said mandatory parenting plan is to ensure that parents reach well founded and concrete agreements regarding the children at an early stage, thus minimizing conflicts about the care and upbringing of the children.
This parenting plan needs to be filed at the same time as the actual divorce petition. For this reason it is necessary to include the children in said process. Should no parenting plan be filed, processing of the divorce petition may in fact be rejected or even deferred. Some courts may also refer parties to mediation. Even in cases where the parents are not married, they are still expected to prepare a parenting plan when they have joint parental responsibility (“gezag”).
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a document in which parents filing for divorce or ending their relationship agree on the care and upbringing of the children in the new situation. In accordance with the “Continued Parenthood and Well-Planned Divorce Act” (Wet Bevordering voortgezet ouderschap en zorgvuldige scheiding) this plan needs to include at least arrangements regarding the division of child care and upbringing as well as arrangements regarding the visiting rights to the child.
Access to children
Both parents have equal rights to visit and the law in fact obliges the parent where the children reside to promote contact between the children and the other parent after the divorce becoming final. The child also has its own right to visit its parents. Parents may agree on, or request the court to establish any access arrangements they prefer, as long as they are to be considered in the best interest of a child.
Visiting rights between a parent and a child can only be denied when the parent in question should be deemed unfit to have visiting rights.
Parents are legally obliged to disclose relevant information and consult each other regarding the upbringing and education of their children. In case the courts have temporarily denied visiting rights, the legal obligation to inform the other parent on the well being of the children still remains to be effective.
The law stipulates that parents have the obligation to contribute financially to the costs of care and upbringing of their children; a divorce or separation does not change and/or mitigate this legal obligation in any way.
Seeing as though that parents upon their divorce or separation becoming final no longer take care of their children from a joint household they are legally held to agree on arrangements regarding the costs of the children given thenew situation. Said arrangement in general stipulates that a financial contribution must be made to the parent predominately taking care of the children.
The actual amount of child maintenance a parent needs to pay is determined on the basis of the need of the child and financial capabilities of the parents.
Child maintenance is mandatory until the child turns 18 years of age. Upon the child having reached the age of 18 a further contribution may in fact still be owed if the child is still studying or cannot financially provide for itself. This maintenance obligation basically only ends when a child reaches the age of 21.
An important aspect is that child maintenance is indexed by a percentage to be set by the Minister of Justice as at 1 January of each year. This percentage can be found on www.lbio.nl at which site you can also easily calculate the yearly payment arrears. The recipient need not pay taxes on the child support received.
Following a divorce, both parents retain parental responsibility (“gezag“) for the children. Both parents have an equal say in matters regarding the upbringing and education of the children. Only in very exceptional cases, the court may grant parental authority to one parent only.
How can Kroonen Verdult & Menheere Lawyers assist you?
As we have ample experience regarding all matters involved when filing for a divorce we can help you draft a parenting plan, advise you with regards to your legal rights and obligations as a parent, and keep the focus on the best interests of the child throughout the procedure.