International divorce

Divorces and family law proceedings often quickly involve international aspects. This is particularly relevant if you were married abroad, for example, in the Maldives or Las Vegas, or if your child was born abroad while you were there for work. It also becomes significant when partners or parents have different nationalities, or when non-Dutch citizens reside in the Netherlands.

  • you and/or your partner live abroad;
  • the spouses are foreign nationals;
  • the minor children live with a parent abroad;
  • you got married abroad;
  • You have assets abroad with your partner.

What can we help you with?

International Divorce: Our Practical Experiences (Use Cases)

At Simmelink Lawyers, we recognize that an international divorce can be complex and overwhelming. It is more than just ending a marriage; it often includes cross-border legal challenges, cultural nuances and emotional tensions.

To give you a clearer picture of how we can assist you in such situations, below are some real stories from practice, highlighting the complexity and diversity of international divorce cases.

International divorce in the Netherlands: experience of Lukas & Elise

International divorce and custody with unreachable partner: from the Netherlands with Italian mother and Canadian father

From American dream to international divorce

A divorce in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and South Africa

Applying for an international divorce

In the case of an international divorce, specific rules and treaties apply to the foreign marriage, divorce proceedings, alimony, and custody arrangements. Also consider real estate or the holiday home, the pension and the interaction with the children when parents live in different countries.

Click here to learn more about filing for an international divorce with our firm.

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When is it considered international divorce or foreign divorce?

An international divorce is applicable when there are international elements involved in the marriage:

  • you and/or your (former) partner live abroad;
  • You are living or working as an expatriate in the Netherlands;
  • you and/or your partner have foreign nationality;
  • the minor children live with a parent abroad;
  • you got married abroad;
  • You are married to a partner who does not have Dutch nationality;
  • you have assets abroad with your partner
  • pension has been accrued abroad during the marriage

We are unable to represent you in legal proceedings in the Netherlands if the Dutch court lacks jurisdiction.

For example, in the following situation, we cannot assist you as a lawyer for proceedings in the Netherlands:

  • Child support was determined by the court in Switzerland at the mother’s request for the minor children. The father lives in the Netherlands and disagrees and wants to appeal. In this situation, the Dutch court does not have jurisdiction; the procedure to appeal must take place in a Swiss court. You may need a Swiss lawyer for this.
  • A mother, living in the Netherlands, wants a visitation arrangement with the children who live with their father in the United Kingdom. The father does not want to cooperate. In that case, the Dutch court has no jurisdiction to make a decision. The courts in England will have to be involved for this purpose. As Dutch lawyers, we cannot litigate on your behalf in the United Kingdom.

However, we can assist you with independent advice where you can take advantage of our extensive international expertise of international personal and family law and private law.

Determining the jurisdiction of the Dutch court.

When international aspects are involved, such as residence or domicile abroad or a partner with foreign nationality, we first examine which court of which country has jurisdiction or which courts of which countries have jurisdiction.
If the Dutch court has jurisdiction, the divorce, including a request for spousal maintenance or child support, can be handled by a Dutch court, for example. Learn more about which court has jurisdiction in an international divorce.

As Dutch citizens, you have the option to pursue divorce proceedings abroad.

If you or your partner live abroad and both of you hold Dutch nationality, you can apply a request for divorce with a Dutch court. It is possible even if you both reside abroad.

We have extensive experience in handling divorces remotely, providing you with advice and managing your divorce. We use email and video discussions such as Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams.

The quality and personal contact are guaranteed, and your privacy is maintained because we work with high-security measures.

Divorce from untraceable foreign partner

If you want to divorce your foreign partner in the Netherlands to dissolve the marriage with a foreign partner whose residence or residential address is unknown, you must file a unilateral petition for divorce with the court.

Marital property: community of property or prenuptial agreement

The Netherlands is a party to various treaties concerning international aspects applicable to marital property. If spouses or registered partners have not entered into a prenuptial agreement, and international aspects apply, it is important to know during which period they got married:

  • the marriage occurred after Sept. 1, 1992, and before Jan. 29, 2019;
  • the marriage was contracted on or after Jan. 29, 2019.

Want to know more? Then read the page on applicable matrimonial property law in international aspects, where we discuss in more detail the international aspects of:

  • community of property;
  • limited community of property;
  • prenuptial agreement.

Frequently asked questions about international divorce

Is the Dutch divorce valid abroad?

After the judge pronounces the divorce, the divorce will have to be registered with the civil registry of the municipality of The Hague. From the moment of registration, you are officially divorced. Subsequently, you will still need to process your divorce abroad. In countries that are parties to the Brussels IIbis Convention, the divorce will be recognized (and valid). In other countries it will be different again and sometimes another court proceeding will be necessary.

Is a foreign marriage valid in the Netherlands?

If your marriage was solemnized abroad, it is advisable and also obligatory to register the marriage in the marriage register of the municipality of The Hague. Dutch law clearly states which foreign marriages are recognized. The municipality is the authority responsible for registering foreign marriages.

The advantage of registering your marriage with the municipality of The Hague is that in case of divorce, you do not need to request a copy of the marriage certificate from the country where you got married. With foreign marriages, this can sometimes be a complicated and lengthy procedure.

Can the divorce take place in a language other than Dutch?

To divorce in the Netherlands, you do not have to be proficient in Dutch. However, all official documents for the courts in the Netherlands must be written in Dutch or Frisian. The language of communication during oral proceedings at the court is also in Dutch or Frisian. At the hearing, a judge is sometimes willing to conduct the hearing in English. To be sure, it is better to have an interpreter (by telephone) present during the hearing.
Our office can conduct all contacts or meetings in English. We make sure everything is clear to you. For other languages, it is recommended that an interpreter be present (by phone) during the interviews. The letters or documents can then be translated into the other language before it is sent to the other party or the court, for example.

How long does the procedure of an international divorce take?

The divorce proceedings take a minimum of three weeks. In complex cases that require a judge’s decision and involve an oral hearing, the procedure can take more than 1 year.
In an international divorce, the case takes longer than in a “normal divorce” if you cannot agree together on the issues to be settled and the court must make decisions about them. In this way, the defending party living abroad does not have six weeks to respond in writing to the divorce request but three months.

Do you need to come or live in the Netherlands for a divorce?

If you live abroad, you do not have to come to the Netherlands to file for divorce or defend the divorce or the requested relief if you and your partner have Dutch nationality. If you have Dutch nationality and your future ex-partner does not, you cannot file for divorce until after you have been registered in the Netherlands for at least six months. For non-Dutch citizens, a minimum period of one year applies.

We have extensive experience with modern forms of video conferencing such as Skype, Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. Whether you live in the Netherlands or abroad; our quality and personal contact remain guaranteed. You are, of course, also welcome at our law firm in Maarssen – Utrecht.

Our advice on international divorce, alimony, and custody

  • Guidance in the divorce process:
    The divorce itself, child support and/or spousal maintenance, the residence, the pension, division of assets, custody and visitation arrangements with the children;
  • Independent advice or second opinion.
    We can explore the options for you to determine the best choices in your situation. We can also advise on the implications of certain decisions during a divorce proceeding or mediation.
  • Comparitive law.
    In certain cases, mulitple judges from different countries may have jurisdiction to handle your case. We can advise you on which country is best to conduct the divorce proceedings and what the impact on the alimony would be;
  • Does the Dutch court have jurisdiction?
    Which law applies to the case to be brought before the court?
  • Legal opinion.
    We advise foreign lawyers on Dutch family law, such as the applicability of prenuptial agreements or the validity of a registered partnership.

We specialize as lawyers in international family law.

Do you have questions about a (international) divorce, division of marital assets, spousal maintenance or child support, or other family law issues? Or do you want to divorce your untraceable (foreign) partner? We have over 15 years of experience in Dutch and international family law and can often answer your questions immediately.

If you live farther away or abroad, we can also assist you remotely through an online divorce with video calling. Wherever you live in the Netherlands or abroad, our quality and personal contact are guaranteed. You are, of course, also welcome at our law firm in Maarssen – Utrecht.

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Want to stay up to date on the latest trends and developments, or delve deeper into cases we have assisted our clients with? We share current news and case studies in the form of blogs and real-life stories.

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Photo of author

Auteur: Carla Simmelink

Carla Simmelink is advocaat en eigenaar van Advocatenkantoor Simmelink. Haar specialisaties zijn: familierecht, naamrecht en erfrecht in Nederlandse en internationale kwesties. Carla is een betrokken, geïnteresseerde gesprekspartner en gaat voor het beste resultaat. Pragmatisch en doelmatig behartigt zij uw belangen.

Visit the biography page of

Carla Simmelink

for the resume.