Dutch law requires that parents draw up a parenting plan (“ouderschapsplan“) for the future care of their children before they can file for divorce. The parenting plan must contain future care arrangements, communication and financials regarding the children. However, the arrangements themselves are left completely up to the parents. The Dutch government website regarding parenting plans is less than half a page long!
The internet is abound with standard parenting plans. These are frequently not fit for purpose if you end up living in a different country to your children. You will not be able to pick up the kids from school or daycare, but you will need their passports to visit your home.
Some tips for your parenting plan
Agree and register minimum visitation based on your situation
Many parents will adopt a wait and see approach to future arrangements if they are on speaking terms with each other. However, if relations cool, having minimum arrangements in place can be essential.
If you live relatively close by in Europe, then think about fixing weekends during the school year that you have access to the children, whether visiting them in The Netherlands or them travelling to see you.
Agree a minimum holiday roster, so you know when you will see the children during the holidays. This is particularly important if you live further away in or outside Europe and will have difficulty seeing the children during the school year. Also think about distribution of religious and festive holidays. Parents will often alternate the holidays year on year to ensure fair distribution.
Who pays the cost of travel? If only the parent living abroad faces this burden, this may affect their ability to pay child maintenance. It is important to factor these extraordinary costs into any maintenance calculation.
Sharing the travel burden
It is not unreasonable that parents share the duty of picking up and bringing young children back after visits, even if that is in another country. This also shows the children that both parents support their care arrangements.
The children’s passports and permission to travel
Arrange that the children’s passports are available whenever travelling and provide each other with written permission to travel. We see a lot of conflicts over control of the children’s passports. Sometimes permission is refused out of spite, but there also may be legitimate reasons to withhold permission.
Is a home country safe to travel to?
If the country you are living in is not completely safe or has an unstable political situation, you may want to make alternative arrangements for if visitation there is not possible. That way you can still enjoy time with your children, without having to fight over the location.
Do you want your children to travel to see other family members abroad? If so, we recommend incorporating this in the parenting plan. How often shall visits take place and for how long? How do you plan to distribute these costs?
Arrange for regular Facetime or Skype contact with the children in your parenting plan. It sounds simple, but again this can be essential if the other parent is not encouraging contact.
Arrange semi-regular contact with the other parent to report on the children and discuss any upcoming issues. It can be stressful for the main carer to effectively make all the decisions. If you are not on speaking terms, then arrange contact via e-mail. Monthly reports on the children are common.
Get professional advice from a divorce lawyer
No matter how attractive a divorce package may seem, do not be lured into using a standard parenting plan. In international cases you need a plan tailored to your specific needs.
At Dutch Divorce Lawyer, we specialise in tailor made parenting plans in Dutch, English and German for foreign spouses, so you fully understand what you are agreeing to. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.