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Civil Partnerships in the Netherlands

Categories: Culture,Legal

Having a loving companion for life is a blessing. When the right person enters your life, they make you feel special every day. And then you want to spend the rest of your life with them.

Most of the people who are in love legalize their bond by getting married. They choose to marry either in a traditional way or in court. However, many people wish to stay unmarried for life despite being with a caring partner. If a marriage ends in divorce, one may have to pay a huge alimony to their partner. Plus, divorce proceedings can often be annoying and tedious. On the other hand, breaking a non-nuptial agreement is easier. Whatever the choice, everyone is entitled to their way of living.

The law in the Netherlands offers multiple options for couples who wish to marry or stay unmarried. You can marry officially, live as a registered partner, or have a cohabitation agreement. Of course, your rights and privileges vary depending on your status. The Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages, or Registered (Civil) Partnerships conducts marriage and civil partnership registrations. We have explained all three arrangements of partnerships in detail for your understanding.

closeup of a newlywed couples hands


If you wish to marry in the Netherlands, at least one person must be a Dutch national or a resident. You need to register with your local municipality at least two weeks before your wedding ceremony date. In Amsterdam, you must declare at least six weeks in advance. You can register online with your DigiD and a valid ID card.

If you or your partner cannot attend the marriage declaration, you must apply for “marriage by proxy” if you meet the eligibility requirements. A signed letter of consent from the absentee, along with their valid identification, is required at the ceremony.

If you’ve been married in another country before traveling to the Netherlands, you must register your marriage here. To do so, you must submit your legalized marriage certificate for authentication. The municipality then registers the marriage in the Personal Records Database (BRP).

If you wish to end your marriage, you can seek a divorce or a legal separation at the Dutch court. If you have been married previously and want to remarry, you must have either of these documents registered in the BRP:

  • Divorce Certificate
  • Death Certificate of your partner
  • Termination Certificate of your registered partnership

two hands holding a cut out heart

Registered Partnership

If you and your partner don’t wish to marry but want to officially register as a couple, you can opt for a registered partnership. A registered or civil partnership allows the couple to receive the same social benefits of marriage without exchanging marital vows. In most cases, marriage is a tradition imposed by religious beliefs and the involvement of families. Civil partnership is a legal agreement between the couple and doesn’t involve any religious aspect.

Like marriage, you must apply to your local municipality to register your civil partnership. You must do this for at least two weeks or six weeks in Amsterdam before the date of registering your partnership. You must present at least two and a maximum of four witnesses for your civil partnership registration. A signed letter of consent and proper identification must be presented in case of an absence. If you have sought a civil partnership outside the Netherlands, you must register again once you travel here.

For couples who wish to become civil partners, at least one of them is required to hold a Dutch nationality. If you or your partner are not Dutch, you must hold a residence permit from the Netherlands and submit a personal declaration to enter into a civil partnership. Depending on your situation, the IND will confirm your residence status before granting permission for a registered partnership. If you or your partner holds a dual nationality, you must meet the requirements set by Dutch law before registering your partnership. Sometimes, the Registrar may also ask for a certificate of unmarried status if you have previously lived outside the Netherlands. If you hold a valid residence permit, you can bring your registered partner to the Netherlands under the same immigration laws as married couples.

You can convert your civil partnership into a marriage contract. However, converting a marriage into a civil partnership is impossible.

There are two ways to end a civil partnership in the Netherlands:

  • Through a court decision: If you wish to end your civil partnership and have children under 18, you must apply to the court. You need a lawyer for this procedure. A court ruling is also required if only one partner wishes to end the partnership. You must submit this termination agreement to the municipality where your partnership was registered within six months.
  • Through a termination agreement: If both partners agree to the termination and you have no children under 18, you can dissolve your partnership without going to court. You can make a termination agreement with the help of a lawyer or a civil-law notary. You must submit this agreement to the municipality within three months.

You and your partner’s assets and debts are divided equally upon dissolving a civil partnership. You don’t need to share the assets that were only yours with your partner.

In case of death in a civil partnership, the partner is entitled to the deceased’s private assets along with half of their joint assets.

In some countries, civil partnerships are considered equivalent to marriage, while others do not allow this arrangement. Some countries allow civil unions but do not provide the same legal rights as married couples.

two women holding hands

Same-sex civil partnerships in the Netherlands

The Netherlands recognizes marriages and civil partnerships between same-sex couples, just as heterosexual couples. The rights granted to same-sex civil partners are similar to straight couples, except for parental rights.

In a civil partnership between two women, the biological mother becomes the child’s legal parent. If the father or sperm donor is unknown, the partner acquires legal responsibility for the child. If the child is born from a known donor, the co-mother can ask for parental rights by acknowledging the child before the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages, or Registered Partnerships. If the donor acknowledges the child before the co-mother, she will not receive parental rights.

If two men are civil partners and one is the biological father, his partner must submit an affidavit or an adoption application to the family court. If they both decide to adopt, they acquire joint custody of the child.

two hands holding a cut out heart

Cohabitation Agreement

You can enter into a cohabitation agreement or “Samenlevingscontract” with your partner if you don’t intend to marry or register your partnership. This does not require officially declaring your partnership at the municipality. You can make this arrangement by approaching a civil law notary to prepare a written agreement with certain conditions for living together. With this arrangement, you can state how you and your partner would divide your property and other assets.

The Netherlands also allows couples to live together without a civil partnership or agreement. However, this can have consequences for their benefits, allowances, or tax returns.

Community of Property

A couple is automatically entitled to the legal community of property upon declaration of marriage or civil partnership. This system states that you and your partner will continue to share the assets, property, and debts you shared before or during your marriage or partnership registration. The community of property does not include gifts and inheritances. Separately, the assets and debts you or your partner own are also excluded from this system. Couples who got married or made a partnership before 2018 will also share gifts and inheritances unless there is a will that states the opposite.

If you don’t want to share your assets and debts, you can approach a notary to make a prenuptial agreement or a civil partnership agreement. This will note the things that you and your partner wish to share. You can find all your agreements in the marital property register.

We hope you better understand how partnerships work in the Netherlands and how they can affect your rights. You know what to do now if you want to register your marriage or civil partnership.