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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 in a registered partnership, only the biological mother automatically has sole parental authority (eenhoofdig gezag). With children born or recognised before 1 January 2023, if the other parent also wants parental authority, he or she must apply to the court after recognising the child. This can be done together with the mother digitally through the parental authority register (gezagsregister), or in writing to the court. If the mother does not consent, the other parent can apply to the court for joint parental authority. For this procedure, an attoney at law (advocaat) is required.

For children born or recognised on or after 1 January 2023, the recognising parent automatically gets parental authority too, unless the parents agree otherwise. Also for these children, if the biological mother does not consent to recognition and shared parental authority, the other parent can apply for the court's substitute consent. This also requires an attoney at law (advocaat).

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.