Parenting disputes after divorce

Bringing up a child is never easy, but specific problems can arise when a child is growing up in two households after a divorce. If the rules in both homes are different, then tensions and disputes can grow. In most cases communication is the key. But what if both parents have fundamentally different outlooks on parenthood? How do you solve parenting disputes when you are barely on speaking terms?

Changing circumstances

In The Netherlands, a parenting plan is an obligatory part of divorce proceedings. This is often the only written agreement where parties state their intentions for the future care of their children. In many cases a standard agreement is signed, which has the average parent in mind. However, situations can change in ways that were never forseen at the time the parenting plan was agreed.

Some examples of parenting disputes:

  • One parent wants to move far away from their original residence with the children, which has consequences for care arrangements;
  • Parents do not agree with each others choice of schooling;
  • One parent has far stricter religious beliefs and wants those to be adhered to by the children at all times;
  • Parents disagree about medical treatment for their child.

If you have joint custody of the children, then legally both parents need to give permission for moving, school registration, sports, medical decisions etc. Some things you can agree to differ on, but if you feel that the wellbeing of your children is in danger, then you may have to take action.

Legal action

If you continually disagree on parenting matters, then a full review of the parenting plan by the courts (sometimes with the backing of child protection services) may be needed. When only one matter is divisive, then either parent can request the family court for consent in lieu (‘vervangende toestemming’) of the other parent for that decision.

If a matter is really urgent, a court injunction may be needed to decide the matter immediately. In some cases a hearing can be held within 48 hours. In very urgent medical cases, consent can even be given (or denied) within hours of the petition.

Below are two examples of cases where permission is sought by the courts by one of the parents.

Moving house with the children

Moving within the local area is never usually a problem. Problems tend to occur when a parent wants to move further away than the original care arrangement allows for. In some cases a parent may even want to return to their home country with the children.

The parent that wants to move is officially obliged to seek permission to move with the children from the other parent. If the other parent refuses, then the parent can request the courts permission to move. Equally, a parent can try to have the move forbidden. If permission is granted by the court, then the parenting plan and care arrangements may also have to be altered permanently.

These cases are judged on a case by case basis from the perspective of both the children and the parents. Cases can also have very different outcomes. In some cases relatively short moves are refused, while in other cases permission is given to move out of The Netherlands altogether.


In recent case law vaccination has been an issue between some parents. Non-vaccination may be for religious reasons or in light of recent scares of autism resulting from standard child vaccines.

In a recent case before the appeal court in Amsterdam, a mother appealed a decision by the family court consenting to the father vaccinating their child. The father had requested that the child take part in the state vaccination programme, but the mother strongly disagreed. Interestingly, during their relationship, the child had previously been vaccinated.

In the appeal, the mother claimed that vaccination was not in the best interest of the child. She claimed that vaccinations contain toxins, which she did not want her child exposed to. To support this she cited publications by an anti-vaccination foundation. The child was healthy and the mother argued that a homeopathic remedy would be sufficient to protect it. She also claimed that vaccination was not an urgent medical matter that warranted a court order.

The court of appeal ruled that the scientifically backed health benefits of vaccination, which are proven to protect children from serious and infectious illnesses, outweigh the mothers fears regarding vaccination. Alternative remedies do not offer adequate protection. The father’s request was upheld and he was given permission to vaccinate the child immediately.

The appeal court in The Hague came to the same conclusion in a case where the father did not have full legal custody of the child. Again the proven benefits of vaccination outweighed claims by the mother that a healthy lifestyle would create sufficient immunity to combat illness. In the original case, the court had ruled in favour of the mother, as the custody arrangement meant that she had the final say in medical matters. This decision was overturned by the court of appeal.

Any questions?

At Dutch Divorce Lawyer, we regularly handle and litigate parenting disputes. If you have any questions or queries regarding parenting disputes, please contact us.

Parenting disputes after divorce
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