Child maintenance/ alimony
Child maintenance is a financial contribution towards the upbringing and education of children. Maintenance is owed in the Netherlands once a legal bond has been established between parent and child. This means that not only biological parents, but also adoptive parents and even step-parents are obliged to support their children financially.
How is child maintenance calculated?
Child maintenance is usually determined by using a standard calculation. This calculation is based on a percentage of the joint spendable income of both parents during their relationship. The thinking behind this is that this fixes the standard of living a child is used to and determines the amount that will be needed in the future. This is known as the financial need of the child.
The ability of each parent to contribute to the need of a child is tested using their current monthly net income and a certain amount of predetermined living costs. If a parent does not have the means to pay the full amount, then the payment is capped at their capacity to pay.
The amount of time the child spends with each parent is also factored in to the calculation. The more time a child spends with a parent, the more costs that parent pays directly for the child. This results in a lower maintenance payment.
In general, either parents agree on an amount amicably or the family courts determine the amount of maintenance owed. The courts will, in principle, follow the strict standard calculation. The guidelines state that a parent must pay a minimum of € 25,– per child per month. If, however, there are special circumstances, other factors, such as debts, can be taken into account, making it not as easy as it sounds to calculate maintenance.
What if the child or parent is living abroad?
If the parent or child is living in a country where the standard of living is very different from The Netherlands. In such cases it may be argued that the Dutch standard calculation is not applicable or should be adjusted for the actual circumstances. Take, for example, a parent living in New York, where living costs are much higher than the standard in The Netherlands. Or on the other extreme, a child living in a country with a very low standard of living; paying maintenance at the Dutch standard may be financing much more than the child’s needs.
Another factor is the cost of travel in order to visit the child. This is not taken into account in the standard calculation, but may be substantial.
The other parent has moved to The Netherlands and won’t pay maintenance
If you already have a court order in your own country, you can apply to the authorities in your country to collect your maintenance in The Netherlands. There are international arrangements and treaties in place for this. If your country is a signatory, then the authorities in your country will contact the Dutch authorities and they will take the necessary action free of charge.
If you want to apply for a maintenance order in The Netherlands, then you will need to officially petition for maintenance and prove that your child is in need of maintenance. This must be done by a lawyer.
When does child maintenance cease?
You are obliged to pay maintenance at least until the child has turned 18. If the child is still in full-time education at 18 or is not earning enough to support itself, then the obligation is extended until the child has turned 21. In some cases the obligation can be extended while the child is still in meaningful education.
Often parents make provisions in the parenting plan for sharing study costs of children still in education at age 21.
What if financial circumstances change?
In principle, it is always possible to petition the courts for a revision of maintenance based on a change of circumstance. Say that the maintenance payer has lost their job and is no longer able to make maintenance payments or the party receiving maintenance now has substantially more earnings and can contribute more towards the upkeep of the children. Particularly older maintenance agreements may need adjustment with the passage of time.
Currently, if the ex-spouse the children are living with, remarries, the step-parent is also liable to maintain the children. This may also constitute grounds to request a revision.
Maintenance is indexed in January of each year with a percentage based on inflation. Unless you specifically agree otherwise, indexation is always applicable.
Is child maintenance taxable or tax deductible?
Child maintenance is tax neutral. Child maintenance is no longer tax deductible for the paying parent. Received child maintenance is not taxable income for the receiving parent.
If you have any questions about child maintenance, please contact us.