‘Child’ maintenance for young adults in The Netherlands

Child maintenance is usually owed until the age of 21 in The Netherlands. However, a child legally reaches majority at 18. Who is therefore responsible for requesting maintenance for young adults once they reach the age of 18?

Maintenance for young adults

Article 1:395a of the Dutch Civil Code provides that:

Parents are obliged to provide for the living and education costs of their adult children who have not reached the age of twenty-one.

The reasoning behind this rule is that most young adults are still in full-time education when they turn 18. They are therefore as yet unable to provide for themselves. The law provides a young adult with the means to continue their education. Even if the young adult drops out of school, they can still request maintenance if they do not have enough income to support themselves before they turn 21.

Stepparents are also obliged to provide for adult children that are a part of their family. A stepparent has to be legally married to or a registered partner of one of the parents before any legal obligation arises.

More information on child maintenance for under 18’s is available here.

Maintenance has already been determined by the courts

If maintenance has already been determined by the courts before the child turns 18, then the maintenance order remains valid until the child turns 21. No action is necessary unless the parent owing maintenance stops paying. In that case the young adult can enforce the judgement. A government organisation, the LBIO, will do this for you free of charge.

Maintenance has not been officially determined

In cases where maintenance has not been fixed by a court order during their minority, the young adult will have to start proceedings against their parent(s). Without a court order, they cannot demand payment. It goes without saying that taking your parents to court is a painful decision. Many young adults would rather forgo maintenance than doing so.

Power of attorney during divorce proceedings

During divorce proceedings a young adult may authorise one of their parents to act for them via a power of attorney. Then they can stay out of any conflict and let the real adults ‘fight it out’. The power of attorney is used to request maintenance for the young adult in the divorce proceedings. This saves having to start two separate court procedures. The court determines maintenance for all children at the same time, which prevents conflicting court orders. However, this option is generally limited to divorce proceedings between the parents.

Can you use a power of attorney for maintenance proceedings?

Up until recently, a power of attorney was not accepted in separate maintenance proceedings. An example: The parents had an informal agreement regarding maintenance. They were never married, so there was no divorce. The agreement was never ratified by a court. If a parent stops paying after the child reaches 18, then the young adult will have to start proceedings in person. A court order will be easy to obtain as the parent is obliged by law to pay maintenance. However, the emotional cost to the parent-child relationship may be high.

In September 2021, the appeal court in Amsterdam became the first high court to accept a power of attorney in separate maintenance proceedings. In this case, the mother requested maintenance for her two adult children. She provided a power of attorney from them both with the petition. A lower court declared the request inadmissible in as far as it concerned the two young adults. They would have to start proceedings for themselves. The appeal court reasoned that if a power of attorney can be used in divorce proceedings, there is no good reason why this cannot be the case in other proceedings. The mother can therefore request maintenance for het young adult children. The Dutch supreme court may yet be asked to test this decision. Until then, it will remain uncertain if proceeding with a power of attorney is valid or not.

What if the young adult drops out of education?

Parents are still obliged to maintain the young adult. The law is not dependent on the young adult following full-time or part-time education. Furthermore, the young adult is not obliged to find sufficient income to provide for themselves until they turn 21 if they do drop out of education.

If there are circumstances that make it impossible to agree with the choices the young adult is making, then there may be grounds for limiting maintenance. These circumstances are relatively rare.

What role does any income the young adult earns play in determining maintenance?

Many students have a part-time job to help fund their studies. It depends on the circumstances if these earnings are taken into account or not. In many cases a Saturday job is not taken into account. A few hours at MacDonalds for beer money is not a substantial income boost. However, if the young adult is earning a substantial steady wage, then the court may decide there is no residual need for maintenance. If a young adult stops working (even voluntarily), then the maintenance obligation may re-emerge.

What happens after a young adult turns 21?

The legal obligation to provide maintenance ends at 21. Many parents agree to continue funding the young adult until they have finished their education. For example, they may have made specific arrangements during the divorce. Parents commonly agree that the child will receive maintenance while still in education and is netting reasonable grades. The agreement is then documented in a parenting plan or divorce agreement. The young adult may appeal to this agreement to continue receiving maintenance.

If a person over 21 is unable to provide for themselves, then there may still be grounds for requesting maintenance. This may be the case if the adult child has a mental or physical handicap.

If you have any questions regarding maintenance for young adults, please contact us:

‘Child’ maintenance for young adults in The Netherlands
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