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Parental authority

What is parental authority?

According to Dutch law, children below the age of 18 are minors and are not yet allowed to make important decisions themselves. Those decisions must be made by the parents with parental authority (ouderlijk gezag). For example, the parents with parental authority determine where the child lives and whether the child is allowed to move abroad.

Apart from the translation ‘parental authority’, ouderlijk gezag under Dutch law may sometimes be referred to as ‘custody’ or 'parental responsibility'.

Who has the parental authority?

According to Dutch law, parents automatically have joint parental authority when their child is born during their marriage or registered partnership. Is the child born before the marriage or registered partnership? Then the parents have joint parental authority (gezamenlijk gezag) if the child has been recognized by the other parent and the parents marry or become registered partner afterwards. Even after a divorce, the parents continue to exercise their joint parental authority, unless the judge decides otherwise.

When a child is born and the parents are not married or registered partner, only the mother automatically has the parental authority. This is called sole parental authority (eenhoofdig gezag). If the other parent also wants the parental authority, he or she needs to recognize the child and apply for joint parental authority at the district court. The application can be done digitally or in writing. The mother needs to give permission for the application. If she does not give her permission, the other parent can start a legal procedure for joint parental authority at the district court. A lawyer (attorney-at-law) is needed for this procedure.

Is the child born abroad or has the child lived abroad? This can have consequences for the parental authority. Every country has their own rules. Please contact us for more information or advice regarding your situation.

If you have any questions concerning Dutch law on parental authority, please contact us.