New spousal alimony rules in The Netherlands

On the 21st of May, the upper chamber of the Dutch parliament approved sweeping changes to Dutch spousal alimony law. So, what’s new?

Maximum 5 year term

The maximum term for spousal alimony will be reduced from 12 years to 5 years. The maintenance term is set at half the length of the marriage, with a maximum of five years in total. But, there are a few exceptions.

What are the exceptions?

  • If you have children that are younger than 12 years of age, then spousal alimony/ maintenance continues until the youngest child has reached the age of 12;
  • When parties have been married for over 15 years and the spouse eligible for maintenance is within 10 years of official state pensionable age, then spousal alimony/ maintenance is extended, ending when that spouse reaches pensionable age.
  • If parties have been married for over 15 years and the spouse eligible for maintenance was born before the 1st of January 1970, then they will receive 10 years instead of 5 years maintenance. Eventually this exception will be phased out in favour of the second exception.

Why the exceptions?

The idea is that younger women in particular have the means to support themselves within a reasonable time period after the divorce, unless they are the main carer for young children. Older women, that have generally spent more time at home in a traditional family role and have built up less pension, are deemed in need of more support for a longer period.

Hardship clause

Along the same lines, the courts can determine a longer maintenance period in exceptional cases, where it is deemed unreasonable that support is withdrawn. Some examples that were given during the lawmaking process:

  • Illness during or before the marriage, which prevents the spouse returning to work;
  • Care for a seriously ill or handicapped child or being the main carer for another family member.

In such cases, it will be up to the court to determine if there are grounds for an extension.

When do the new maintenance rules go into effect?

The new rules are expected to come into effect as of the 1st of January 2020.

Does this effect previous arrangements or court rulings?

Unfortunately, the rules will not apply to old cases. The maintenance period remains a maximum of 12 years for all divorces brought before the 1st of January 2020.

I co-habit, does this mean I also qualify for maintenance?

No, the Dutch government expressly decided against extending partner maintenance to cohabiting couples.

Does this affect child maintenance?

The new rules only apply to spouses and not to child alimony/ maintenance. Read more about child maintenance here.

If you have any further questions or queries on this matter, please feel free to contact us.

New spousal alimony rules in The Netherlands
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