This article was originally published in The XPat Journal Autumn 2017 Issue

By Yolanda Bokhorst

Many people who have found the love of their life want to formalize this bond.
In the Netherlands, there are various options available for those who want do this; one of these is the registered partnership. The question arises, however, whether registered partnerships are a wise choice in international situations.

Registered Partnership
The registered partnership was introduced in the Netherlands on January 1, 1998. At the time, it had primarily been created for same-sex partners, in order to allow them to give their relationship a legal basis that was comparable to a marriage. At that time, the option of marriage was not available to them and it wasn’t until April 1, 2001, that people of the same sex could marry.

Difference with Marriage
When the registered partnership was first introduced it differed in a number of legal areas from a marriage – but, following a few legislative amendments, they are now virtually the same, from a legal point of view. The only difference is that, in order to terminate a marriage, you still need to go to the court. A registered partnership can be ended without the intervention of a judge, provided no children were born into this relationship and there are no conflicts between the partners.

Legal Consequences
Once two partners enter into a registered partnership in the Netherlands, the rule of general community property applies. All property and debts of each of the partners become joint property and debts.
This system is about to change, for marriages as well. As of January 1, 2018, all property and debts that the partners/spouses had before their union will remain private property and debts. Also inheritances and gifts will remain private. The rest will automatically become joint property and debts.
In the case of death, the estate of the deceased partner includes his private assets as well as half of the joint assets. Partners automatically become each other’s heir, together with the children of the deceased partner.
In the case of divorce, the joint property and debts must be divided, while one of the partners may have to pay alimony to the other.

Conditions for Partnership
If you set conditions for the partnership you can, for instance, determine that you want to keep your respective assets separate, or that you want to share only a portion of them. You can also differentiate between what happens in the case of death vs in the case of divorce. And you can determine which national law is to apply to your partnership.
Any conditions for the partnership will have to be included in a prenuptial agreement that is to be drawn up by a civil law notary and signed, before the registered partnership is entered into. The deed is then registered with the court, so that the conditions can be invoked against third parties.

Is a Marriage Perhaps Preferable?
If you decide, after a while, that you want to get married instead, you can simply have a registrar convert your registered partnership into a marriage. You will be issued an official document: a deed of conversion. This is only possible, however, if one of the partners has Dutch nationality or lives in the Netherlands. Once the deed of conversion has been drawn up, the registered partnership ends and the marriage begins. It is a seamless conversion.

Registered partnerships and marriage are now virtually the same from a legal point of view

Practice has shown that registered partnership can lead to complications in international situations. The most significant ones are:

1. The registered partnership is not recognized
In some countries, registered partnerships are not recognized and have no legal effect. In those countries, the partners are ‘nothing to each other’ – which can have unfavorable consequences for their pensions, fiscal situation, parental authority, alimony and inheritances.

2. The conversion from a registered partnership into a marriage is not recognized
The ‘deed of conversion’ is not seen as a marriage deed, meaning that the marriage that the spouses have now entered into is not recognized either.

3. Which national law applies?
Even if the registered partnership is recognized there can be differences of opinion between the various countries as to which national law applies to it, especially when the partners have not drawn up the conditions for the partnership in which they have chosen an applicable law.

In some countries, the registered partnership is not recognized. In those countries, the partners are ‘nothing to each other

How to Solve This
Sometimes, the only thing the partners can do is dissolve their registered partnership and then get married. However; according to the law, a registered partnership can only be dissolved in case of irreconcilable differences, which is in contradiction with the fact that they are doing this in order to get married…
More serious, however, is the fact, this this is no longer a ‘seamless transition’ into a marriage. A number of weeks generally go by between the end of the registered partnership and the start of the marriage. Should one of the partners pass away in the meantime, the other will inherit nothing. From a legal point of view, the surviving partner is (no longer) the partner and (not yet) the spouse. And should the legal heirs wish to correct this situation and leave everything to the surviving partner, the question remains as to how the tax authorities will view this. It is not at all certain that the low tax rates and high exemptions that apply to partners/spouses will be applied under these circumstances.
Even if the partners include a clause in their will stating that the surviving partner is to be an heir in the intervening period, the fiscal consequences are not clear.

In short, I would advise the following to expats who are considering entering into a registered partnership:
– First find out whether the registered partnership is recognized in your countries of origin or future countries of residence
– Prior to entering into the registered partnership, draw up a prenuptial agreement that includes the conditions for the partnership with a civil law notary who specializes in international matrimonial property law
– Be sure to include which national law is to apply to your registered partnership
– Should you wish to convert your registered partnership into a marriage – knowing that the conversion will not be recognized, meaning that the registered partnership will have to be dissolved – be sure to draw up a will in which you appoint your partner as your heir
– And in general: avoid complications and get married!


Yolanda Bokhorst is a deputy civil law notary with Ohmann Notariaat in Wassenaar.
She can be contacted at tel.: 070 – 312 31 31 or by e-mail:


Recently Posted on

If you’re an expat living and looking for work in the Netherlands then there are some vital differences you should know about in regards to your job applications. In the Netherlands, as with most places in Europe, the norm is a CV rather than the resume which is commonly used in the United States amongst … Continue reading "The Difference Between a Resume and a CV"
Rising mortgage interest rates can have a significant impact on homebuyers and homeowners. The average interest rate for a fixed-rate mortgage in the Netherlands is currently around 4%. As interest rates increase, the cost of borrowing money to purchase or refinance a home also increases. This can make it more difficult for potential homebuyers to … Continue reading "Mortgage Interest Rates in the Netherlands in 2024"
It is that time of year again; the new and annually-updated version of The Holland Handbook is here and ready to be enjoyed! Not only that, but this is the 24th edition! More than twenty years ago, a modest group of three people sat around a table to discuss the possibility of creating a handbook … Continue reading "The Holland Handbook 2024"
Taxes are always complicated. If you have moved to the Netherlands from another country, they can be especially confusing! Many expats carry out business, and therefore earn an income, internationally. This makes what they get taxed on, and by whom, a complex matter. To figure out your own personal tax liability, your residency status and … Continue reading "Dutch Taxes"
The 30%-ruling is a tax advantage, created for employees who are posted or recruited from abroad, to work in the Netherlands. The purpose of this advantage is to cover all the various costs they incur, as a result of moving their lives oversees to. This can be a real blessing to expats! In order to … Continue reading "Dutch 30%-ruling Tax Facility"
Following the legendary previous 8 editions of The UnDutchables, the 9th edition of this all time best seller (more than 300,000 copies sold since 1999) is now available in the Netherlands. The UnDutchables takes an in-depth humorous look at Dutch life, quirks and character. With subjects varying from coffee drinking habits to child rearing, from … Continue reading "The UnDutchables 9.0"

Gift giving in the Netherlands-all ...

If you feel like skipping your birthday, you may be in for a challenge when ...

Tips and tricks for Daily Life in t ...

With the Netherlands being a very rainy country, you will automatically have the title of ...

10 things you will find in every Du ...

The Dutch are very fond of houseplants, the more the merrier! You will find the ...

Your guide to Indoor Plants in The ...

Gardening has become a popular hobby in the Netherlands. It's not surprising, considering how ...

What are the Benefits of Having Sim ...

When you have just moved to the Netherlands, you will have to take care of ...

Economical, Not Stingy

Most of the work I do consists of giving 1 or 2-day workshops and ... And to ‘ease’ the delegates into to the subject of culture, I start talking about ...

Getting Connected in the Netherland ...

There are several criteria that are important to consider when choosing a mobile phone service ...

The Media in the Netherlands

As an expat, you have a wide range of media outlets on offer to you ...

Dutch Gardens and Curtains

There are some specific and quintessential Dutch traditions, surrounding gardens and curtains in the Netherlands ...

Pets in the Netherlands

The Dutch truly love their furry friends, and have a unique way of treating them ...