Any relationship breakup is tough. When you and your ex are from different parts of the world, and you have kids together, the separation is even tougher. During such a difficult time, your children’s needs can get a little neglected. This article will suggest a few ways in which you could make it easier on them. It will also take you through some of the legal complications of relocating with children, after your relationship has ended. 

Side Note

Dutch Law

When an expatriate moves from one country to another, their employer will probably be forthcoming with information on housing and schools. However, they may well lack knowledge about the legal consequences of terminating a marriage, or a relationship, in the Netherlands. This is both surprising and problematic, since almost one in two expat relationships do not work out.

1. Legal Matters for Unmarried Parents

Many expatriates live in the Netherlands, with their partner and children, without being married. If they break up:

  • the father will not automatically be awarded parental responsibility or custody of his children
  • This means that the child’s mother can move to another country without his consent
  • This can come as a shock to many expatriate fathers

2. Legal Matters for Married Parents

If parents are married:

  • Both will legally have joint parental responsibility over their children
  • Still, only the courts of the country in which the children have their habitual residence have jurisdiction over the fate of the children
  • This means that the country’s own, international private law will apply to the children in the case of a parental conflict
  • The outcome is often that the children must remain in their country of habitual residence
  • This is very important for parents, who call the Netherlands home, to realize!
  • Repatriation of children to the Netherlands is not an implicit right, if you are resident here

Effect on Expat Kids

Expat children often have to suffer the fallout of the above points. Here are a few examples:

  • Children frequently find themselves stuck in the middle of a conflict between their parents
  • In some cases, children are used by their parents in a court case, to manipulate the terms of their divorce
  • When parents decide to live in two different cities and/or countries, it obviously means that the children will have less day-to-day contact with one parent
  • This makes it fair for children to spend more time with the estranged parent during the holidays, to compensate. This can lead to further conflict between the ex-partners and further unrest for their children

Kids Caught in the Middle

Are your kids safe?”

This is what I texted my client on August 21, 2015, at midnight, after I realized that her girls of 17 and 12 had been on the Thalys that had been subject to the terrorist attack near Arras that very evening. The girls had been on their way to visit their father in Paris, based on a visiting schedule which had finally been arranged between their parents”

Edith van Ruitenbeek, lawyer/mediator and partner at van Hilten de Vries van Ruitenbeek Advocaten & Mediators

Putting your children first in the divorce

Working for an international organization in the Netherlands, as an expatriate, comes with many privileges. These can be enjoyed by both parents and children. The perks often include special allowances for housing, travel and schooling.

However, when a child’s parents break up, the damage done to them tends to outweigh these benefits. Hence, it is important for parents not to rely on these perks to maintain the well-being of their kids. Here are a few tips for navigating this difficult situation:

1. Your Children have Rights

Try to recognize that your children have rights of their own. They have the right to: 

  • Where appropriate, maintain a personal relationship and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis
  • Where appropriate, to live with both parents
  • To rest, to be healthy and to enjoy leisure time

2. Keep your Family Close

Of course, under certain circumstances, parents have absolutely no option but to live in different countries to one another. This is often the case when they both have international careers. However, not everyone has to:

  • If it is possible for you to live closer to your ex, try to make it happen
  • Even if it seems overly complicated, at least research your options
  • One alternative for an expatriate parent, whose ex lives in the Netherlands, is to take on assignments in Holland
  • Assignments usually last a few years. Therefore, this could mean that your children can have both their parents around, during the early stages of their development

3. Too Much Travelling

If you cannot live in the same city as your ex-partner, remember that:

  • Children cannot be expected to travel like adults
  • Of course kids have to spend time with both of their parents. Nonetheless, do not forget that journeying between homes on a regular basis can be draining and stressful for them

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