Parental authority petition procedure

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If you have authority over a child under the age of 18, this means that you must raise and care for the child. Parents often automatically acquire parental authority (ouderlijk gezag), but sometimes it needs to be requested from the courts. Court proceedings relating to parental authority are governed by civil law. Consulting a lawyer may or may not be mandatory, depending on the situation.

Parental authority petition procedure

A parent and a non-parent may apply to the district court for joint parental authority. You may also apply to the judge to obtain sole parental authority. In both cases, you must appoint a lawyer.

 The proceedings consist of the following steps:

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  • If you want to care for your child together with your partner (who is not the child’s parent) and share the responsibility, you can apply for joint parental authority. However, you must meet several requirements. 

    If the child has one parent, the following conditions apply: 

    • You are the parent and have sole parental authority. 
    • Your partner already cares for the child. Your partner and your child have a close personal relationship. The child must be able to grow up in a safe environment. 

    If the child has two parents, the following additional conditions apply: 

    • You are the child’s parent and have had sole parental authority for at least 3 years before applying for joint parental authority. 
    • You have cared for the child together with your partner for at least 1 year. 
    These stricter conditions protect the child and the other parent.
  • Submitting a petition 

    To start the procedure, you must apply to the district court for parental authority. This is called a petition (verzoekschrift). You are the petitioner (verzoeker) in these proceedings. You must appoint a lawyer for this procedure. 

    Parental authority petition 

    In the petition, you must explain why you want parental authority over the child. Your lawyer will prepare the petition, determine which additional documents need to be submitted, and then submit the petition to the district court. 

    Informing relevant parties 

    The court will determine who the relevant parties to the proceedings are. The court will inform the relevant parties of the petition for joint or sole parental authority.

  • When a petition for joint or sole parental authority is submitted, the other parent and/or other relevant parties will be given the opportunity to respond to the petition. The district court will send a copy of the petition for joint or sole parental authority to the other relevant parties. If you have received a copy from the district court, you have three options: 

    • you disagree with the petition (you oppose the petition); 
    • you agree with the petition and will state this either through a reference statement or orally at the hearing; 
    • you do not respond. 

    You disagree with the petition 

    Do you disagree with the petition for joint or sole custody? If so, you can respond in writing or orally (defence). 

    Written defence 

    In the statement of defence (verweerschrift), you should clearly state which parts of the petition you disagree with and why. Your lawyer will draw up the statement of defence and submit it to the district court. You have until the hearing to lodge the defence. 

    Oral defence 

    You can also opt for a purely oral defence during the hearing. You do not need a lawyer for this. 

    Waiving of defence with a reference statement 

    Are you not going to oppose the petition? Then you can inform the court of your decision through a reference statement (referteverklaring). If you do so, you will leave the decision to the court. You should state that you have received a copy of the petition, will not lodge a defence, and do not consider a court hearing to be necessary. You must appoint a lawyer to make a reference statement. 

    No response 

    What happens if you do not respond at all? The district court will summon you to the hearing. You will receive the summons at your home address. If you do not attend the hearing, the judge will handle the petition without your input. After a few weeks, you will be sent the judge’s decision on the petition for joint or sole parental authority.

  • Approximately 6 weeks before the hearing, the judge will call on all relevant parties to attend the hearing. You will be informed of where and when the hearing will be held. During the hearing, you will have the opportunity to put across your point of view orally. 

    Private hearing 

    Parental authority petition hearings are not public. The district court will determine who may attend. The district court sometimes requests a representative of the Raad voor de Kinderbescherming (Child Care and Protection Board) to attend the hearing as an advisor. 

    Interview with minor child 

    The district court requests children aged 12 to 18 by letter to attend an interview (in Dutch). This interview lasts about 10 minutes. Parents are not allowed to attend. During the interview, the judge will ask for the child’s opinion. Children do not have to attend this interview and may send a letter instead.

  • About 4 weeks after the hearing, the judge will issue the ruling in writing. You will receive the decision through your lawyer. Do you, as a defendant, not have a lawyer because you only responded orally? If so, you will receive the order at your home address. 

    Do you disagree? Then you can appeal

    If you disagree with the court’s decision, you can lodge an appeal within 3 months. Find out more about appeals in family cases (in Dutch).

Procedure costs for parental authority petitions

You must pay costs for the court to hear your case: these are known as griffierechten (court fees). You must also pay for the services of your lawyer.

Processing time for the parental authority petition procedure

The duration of the procedure varies from at least 3 months to more than 1 year, depending on the complexity of the case.



How can I obtain parental authority over my child if I am a minor?

Are you the biological mother and 16 or 17 years of age? You can ask the court for a meerderjarigheidsverklaring (declaration of age of majority) (in Dutch) as an underage mother. A minor father cannot apply for parental authority.

How long does the application for joint parental authority take when using the form?

After 2 weeks, you will receive an extract from the gezagsregister at the address where the child is registered. From that moment on, you have joint parental authority of your child.

How much does the application cost when using the form?

If you submit the application online, it is free of charge. If you apply by post, you will have to pay for certain municipal documents.

Legal advice

Would you like personal advice on your situation? Do you need assistance with drafting documents or during the hearing? You have the option at all times to engage the services of a lawyer or other legal advisor.

Contact the Rechtspraak Service Centre

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