(Ex-)partners may be liable to contribute to the costs of living of the other person (alimony) and their children (child support).
Need and capacity
Alimony is based on the receiver’s need for a financial contribution on the one hand, and the paying person’s ability to make this contribution on the other. This ability is also referred to as (financial) capacity.
Determining and modifying alimony
The amount of alimony can be determined in an agreement between (ex-)partners or, if this is not feasible, by means of a court procedure. Modification procedures vary, based on how the alimony was initially determined (by agreement or by court). If the amount was settled in agreement, modification is possible when the alimony is in gross negligence of the statutory standards. If the alimony was determined by court, the amount can be modified when the ruling was based on incorrect or incomplete information so that the legal standards for alimony were never met. Regardless of how the alimony was initially determined, modification is also possible when there’s a change in circumstances that means that the alimony no longer meets the legal standards. This can be the case, for example, if either party has experienced a significant shift in income. For partner alimony, future changes can be excluded by a so-called non-amendment clause.
A child’s legal parents are held to provide for its costs of living. In addition, step-parents are held to contribute towards the costs of any child of minor age within the family while they are married to its parent. If a child has only one legal parent, the biological parent (begetter) is also held to contribute to the child’s cost of living. The child’s need is generally determined with the help of the so-called Trema Standards (‘tremanormen’). The Trema Standards provide a table which can be used to determine the amount that was likely spent on the children before the separation, based on the net family income at that time. The amount from the table may be increased in cases where special costs apply. Next, a flat-rate calculation determines each parent’s capacity to contribute to the children’s living costs. The costs are then divided pro-ratio between the parents based on their relative capacities, while also taking into account the number of days each parent cares for the children (the so-called care compensation or ‘zorgkorting’). The outcome of these calculations is the amount that each parent is held to contribute to the children’s living costs. If a parent has multiple children (in one or multiple families) for which support is due, that parent’s capacity is to be distributed equally across those different children. However, the ratio per child can still vary since different children may have different parents with differing financial capacities.
Child support for young adults
Once a child turns eighteen and is no longer a minor, child support should be paid to the young adult instead of to the parent who is the main carer. If the child support was established by the court and has been effective up to the child’s coming of age, it will automatically be converted into a contribution to the young adult him- or herself. If the child support is determined by agreement, it is advisable to make the minor a party to this agreement, so that the child can claim its own right once he or she comes of age. This extended period of mandatory maintenance for young adults, also referred to as contribution to the costs of living and education, ends once the child turns twenty-one.
After a marriage (or registered partnership), ex-partners are obliged to contribute to each other’s costs of living if there is a need. Generally, this need is considered present if one of the partners is unable to achieve the same standard of living for themselves as during the marriage. The standard of living is determined by looking at the combined income and expenses during marriage, as well as the expected expenses after marriage. If the standard of living cannot be determined on the basis of concrete data, the Court Standard (‘Hof-norm’) is usually applied, which means that the needs of spouses are settled at 60% of the net family income (pre-divorce) minus the children’s cost of living. The next step is to take into account the capacity of the person liable to pay the alimony. This calculation is based on the Trema Standards (‘tremanormen’). Alimony is due for a maximum period of twelve years. This period may be shortened in certain cases. The right to alimony ends permanently when the person receiving alimony remarries, enters into a registered partnership or starts living with another person as if they were married.
A bill is currently pending which proposes to no longer determine the need based on the standards of living during marriage, but rather on the loss of potential income due to the marriage. This bill also proposes to shorten the alimony period. Whether and how this bill will be passed is not clear yet.