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The Netherlands

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 December 2021

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Summary

INTRODUCTION

The focus on the child's right to participate in the legal domain is relatively recent in Dutch family law. Even so, the actual right for children aged 12 years and over to be heard by a court was first introduced in 1982 in the Dutch Civil Code. The aim was to improve the legal protection of minors. In 1990 the right of children to informally approach a family court was added to the package of children's right to participate; it is not a right to initiate proceedings, but an informal access to court (see section 2.2). Participation rights are therefore not new, but the focus has shifted, partially as a result of the growing importance of children's rights in general. In legal proceedings related to divorce and separation, children now have the right to be informed and to give their opinion about the parenting plans of their parents. In the last decade there has been a tendency to better implement the child's right to participate in legal proceedings. This has led to policy improvements for the judiciary and to further use and professionalisation of guardians ad litem, who can be appointed to represent and support children in family law proceedings when there is a conflict of interests between parent(s) and child.

In 2018 the Dutch population of 17 million inhabitants consisted of 3.4 million children aged 0–18 years. Of particular interest for children's participation rights are divorce and separation proceedings (see below). In 2018, 93,500 children were born to married parents, and 55,800 to unmarried parents. It is not exactly known how many of these unmarried parents cohabit. Each year, a substantial number of children face their parents ‘ divorce or separation. The most recent data indicate that, in 2016, 50,000 couples with minor children split up. Of these, 27,000 were married couples with children and another 23,000 of these parents were informal cohabitants. In total, these separations involved 86,000 minor children.

In this chapter, Dutch statutory provisions and current policy relevant to child participation in family law proceedings are discussed. The various modes of child participation in family law proceedings are also explained, with a focus on legal practice. Furthermore, relevant research is presented and consideration is given to how the Dutch system of child participation could be improved.

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Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2021

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