More and more couples now live together without marrying or entering into a civil partnership. This does not mean that separation is without its own legal problems. Ending cohabitation can involve many of the same issues as an actual divorce.

Cohabitation agreements

Many couples enter into an official cohabitation agreement when buying a home together or when they have children. In some cases the co-habitation agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement in its provisions. Parties are free to make their own financial arrangements, such as contributions to household costs, pension sharing etc. A cohabitation agreement can also go so far as to provide a financial settlement in advance in case the relationship ends.

Termination of cohabitation

If there is a cohabitation agreement, then parties have to officially terminate the agreement, usually by sending the other notice by registered letter. Once the agreement is terminated, parties must divide any joint property and act according to the provisions of the cohabitation agreement.

Unless specifically agreed in the cohabitation agreement, neither spouse is entitled to maintenance after the relationship has ended. So far the Dutch courts have held strictly to this rule.

Some couples never entered into an official agreement. Even so, it can be necessary to terminate the relationship in writing, say to determine the end balance of a joint bank account or the value of joint property. Any joint property must be divided. Without a specific agreement the standard legal rules apply, so a 50/50 split is the norm.

One party may claim to have contributed more financially during the cohabitation and demand repayment on separation. In that case it is important to determine whether the contribution was a specific investment or was money that you would normally spend on each other in a relationship and is therefore consumed. In the last case, compensation is rarely awarded.


If you have children together, you may need to assess if both parents officially have custody. If not, then you may need to arrange this together. Even if a parent does not have custody, they will still be liable for child maintenance.

In principle, exactly the same rules apply regarding custody and visitation as with married couples (see children).

It is advisable that you draw up a parenting plan together for the future care and financial support of your children.

If you have any questions regarding cohabitation, please contact us.