Relocating with children after a divorce

14 May, 2019 | Family Law, News

By Peggy Franssen

If you live in the Netherlands as an expat family and one of the parents decides to move back to their home country with the children, there are some obstacles you may encounter. Here are a few things you should bear in mind, and – in the case of a conflict between parents – some methods to help you reach a resolution.

Understanding the impact

First, it is good to understand what kind of impact relocating to another country will have on each member of your family. Are there enough challenges for you all, such as a satisfying job or studies, a social network and good schools?

If this is not the case, expat life may be disappointing for you. The wish to return to one’s home country can lead to big conflicts within families.

Parental authority

You also need to know about parental authority. According to Dutch law, both parents have joint parental authority after a divorce. This means that both parents have the same rights and can only make joint decisions about their children’s future. This includes moving abroad: if both parents have parental authority, the other parent needs to explicitly approve the intended move.

If you are not married, you need to check if you have parental authority. In the Netherlands, you can apply for this in court (or through the so-called “digitale gezagsregister”).

If only the parent who wants to move has parental authority, the approval of the other parent is not legally required, but is still highly recommended to avoid any future conflicts. The other parent who doesn’t have parental authority can go to court and claim parental authority in order to stop the intended move abroad.

Parental plan

If you and your partner cannot reach an agreement about the intended move, it would be wise to seek help from a divorce mediator. They can help you draw up a so-called “parental plan” in which jointly-made decisions about the children are laid down.

The plan should describe the circumstances in which the parents are allowed to move with the children – and how far away – as well as how and when the other parent should be notified. You should also specify how frequent contact between the left-behind parent and the children will be maintained, and how the extra travelling costs will paid for. Having such a plan can be very helpful to avoid future conflicts.

Involving the court

If there is no agreement about the intended move despite hiring a mediator or there is no signed parental plan, you can involve the court. The court will decide if you can move with your children and will take the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.

The outcome of such a procedure is very unpredictable and can never offer a perfect solution: there will always be a parent or child who does not benefit from the court’s decision. Moreover, the underlying conflict will not be resolved. Therefore, a court procedure must be seen as a last resort.

Are you an expat and considering relocation with your children, please contact us for assistance with mediation or — if needed — to assist you in a court procedure.