Same-Sex Marriage and Registered Partnerships

Dutch law allows same-sex couples the same marriage, legal, and inheritance rights as traditional marriage. Other official partnerships include Registered Partnerships and Cohabitation Contracts...

There are three recognised unions in the Netherlands, all available to both same-sex and heterosexual people:

  1. Civil marriage
  2. Registered partnership
  3. Cohabitation agreement

Legal Criteria

People entering into civil marriage and registered partnerships have legal criteria to meet, while the terms of a cohabitation agreement are not obligatory unless a legal document is created by the parties.

In order to enter into civil marriage or a registered partnership the following criteria must be met:

  • Only two people are allowed in the union and both must be single when entering it
  • Both must be 18 years or older or have the permission of a guardian
  • At least one partner must be Dutch, or foreign with Dutch residency status.
    Note: a non-Dutch partner without a permanent residency permit must complete Form M46 which will be provided by the Town Hall and submitted to the Immigration Department. This is to ensure that the marriage or partnership is not a sham and the process can take up to three months.

The law of the home country is irrelevant for foreigners qualifying to marry in Holland. Only Dutch law applies. However, there is no guarantee that same-sex marriage will be recognised in the home - or any other - country.

The Ministry of Justice offers more information (in English) on the subject of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands and links to information on issues like same-sex spousal adoption of children.

Civil Marriage

Civil marriage for same-sex couples became legal in April 2001. The process of same-sex marriage and the rights afforded to the married couple in the Netherlands are completely equivalent to the process and rights for heterosexual marriage with the one exception: the rights of adoption of children (see below).

The marriage takes place at the civil registrar of the municipality of residence of one of the couple. The exchanging of vows may be followed by a religious blessing.

Getting married

The civil marriage takes place at a Registry Office and is performed by a registrar of marriages (ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand). A religious ceremony may follow the civil event, but this is optional. It has no legal status and may only be held after the civil ceremony has taken place.

In order to get married in the Netherlands, one of the parties must be:

  • A Dutch citizen or legal resident of the Netherlands with a long-stay permit or asylum status
  • The couple may be gay or heterosexual

Since 15 March 2006 people wishing to settle in the Netherlands for marriage or partnership are required to take a civic integration examination in their country of residence. This exam tests knowledge of the Dutch language and Dutch society. It is held orally, in Dutch, at the Embassy or Consulate General of the country of residence.

If the couple both live abroad and wish to marry in the Netherlands they must give notice of their intention to marry at the City of The Hague Registrar's Office.

Registered Partnerships (Geregistreerd Partnerschap)

The Registered Partnership (established 1998) was created for same-sex and opposite sex partners and provides the same rights and responsibilities as married partners except in relation to children (see below). Unlike a marriage, a registered partnership may not be blessed in a religious service.

A registered partnership is recorded at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages of the municipality of residence.

The necessary documents are:

  • Identification
  • Residency permit if applicable
  • A certificate of civil status available from a consulate
  • A death certificate in the case of being widowed
  • A marriage certificate in the case of a previous marriage
  • A divorce decree in the case of a previous divorce

Changing an agreement

Registered partnerships can be transformed into a marriage and vice-versa.

Same-sex Marriage, Registered Partnerships and Children

Same-sex Dutch couples may adopt children abroad. Lesbian couples have the same rights to access to IVF and sperm donation offered to heterosexual couples.

A gay step-parent can adopt his partner's child through the same court procedure used by a straight step-father or step-mother. Co-mothering is more straightforward: a woman is considered the legal co-parent of her wife or registered partner's biological child. If the couple is living together (samenwoning) without being married or in a registered partnership she may acknowledge the child as her own in an administrative process known as erkenenning.

Cohabitation Contract

A cohabitation contract sets out the rights and obligations that a couple chooses for themselves. Unlike marriage or registered partnerships it only has legal consequences for the contracting parties. It can be established by the couple themselves or by a notary. In order to be eligible for certain benefits (for example pension rights schemes) an official agreement by a notary is necessary.