Have you ever wondered who should take care of your underage children in case you aren’t there for them anymore? Though this situation may be unthinkable, it is essential that you do everything to ensure adequate care for your children. Start by making a will in which you appoint a guardian.

Parental authority

In the Netherlands, having parental authority means that you have the duty and right to care for your underage children. This includes taking responsibility for their safety and promoting the development of their personality.

A mother who gives birth to a child has parental authority over the child. If the father or the co-mother is married to or has a registered partnership with the birth mother, he or she is also given parental authority by law. Joint parental authority can be applied for at the court over children who are born out of wedlock. The other parent must also have acknowledged that he or she is the legal parent of the child involved. 

Upon decease

Parental authority ends when the parent dies. If the child has two parents with parental authority, the surviving parent will have sole parental responsibility. If there is no other parent with parental authority, the juvenile court is authorized to appoint a guardian. For this, the court will contact the Child Care and Protection Board. They usually contact the Youth Care Office as well. 

With the help of these two organisations, the court will explore the possibility of placing the children under the care of relatives. The court may be unable to contact relatives to assess whether they can properly function as the children’s guardians, if they live abroad. In that case, children will be placed under the custody of the Youth Care Office, who will place them under the care of a foster family.

The awful truth is that children are sometimes placed in different foster families as a result of the simple fact that there is no room for multiple children in one foster family. They are, thus, separated from one another. This could lead to additional stress and impairment of the children’s development.

Appointing a guardian

Though I think everyone should respect the crucial role foster parents play in society, parents themselves usually know who would be a much better carer of their children. According to Dutch law, parents with parental authority may appoint a legal guardian in a will. In spite of generally being a document in which somebody explains as to how property should be divided, a will can also be used to indicate who should acquire custody over minor children.

Moreover, you can place the inherited assets under financial administration. During this administration, a person disposes of inherited assets in the children's best interest. 

In other words, the administrator is the children’s financial carer, whereas the guardian is somebody who is responsible for the upbringing. The administrator does not have to be the same person as the guardian. 

Though custody over a child ends once adulthood is reached, financial administration may continue after the child reaches an adult age. It is, thus, a tool to keep children in check until they reach an older and wiser age than 18.

Stay ahead and prevent problems

In conclusion, if you came to the Netherlands to work and live here with minor children, it is essential that you make a will in which you have appointed a guardian. Especially if your closest relatives live abroad, who may act as your children’s carers if something would happen to you and your partner.

As an internationally oriented notary firm, we can guide you in this process. 




AUTHOR: Joep Ertem LL.M.
Deputy civil law notary at Westport Notarissen

He can be contacted at:
Tel: +31(0) 6 82 05 77 80
E-mail: j.ertem@westportnotarissen.nl