CHILD SUPPORT IN THE NETHERLANDS
By Helen Barnes, Patricia Day and Natalie Cronin
All non-resident parents in the Netherlands must support their children. Where possible, parents are encouraged to arrive at voluntary arrangements for child support. If an agreement cannot be arranged, a child support liability can be decided upon by the District Court, using the TREMA tables. These tables contain complex formulae for the assessment of maintenance, and take into account the following factors:
- assessable income, which is calculated by deducting amounts for living expenses (based on social assistance rates) from gross income;
- allowance is made for the non-resident parent's costs of setting up a new home and the costs of contact with the children;
- where the non-resident parent has a second family, assessable income is reduced by around 50 per cent, in recognition of the belief that people should be free to form new relationships;
- whether the resident parent has entered into a new relationship, the decision about liability for maintenance between a step-parent and a non-resident parent is based on an assessment of the relationship between the child and the non-resident parent. Deliberations canvass issues such as whose surname the child bears and how frequently contact occurs.
Voluntary payments which are too low may be overturned and replaced with a liability calculated by the National Bureau for the Recovery of Child Maintenance (LBIO), based on the TREMA tables. This may occur where a lone parent claims means-tested benefits. District Court decisions are not altered.
Automatic payments of child support are usually made by the non-resident parent's bank and are usually arranged at the time of the divorce proceedings. There is a Central Registry for all citizens which expedites the tracing of absent fathers given that as soon as someone appears in the municipal register they also appear on the central system.
The current child support system has only been fully operational in the Netherlands since January 1997 but it is regarded as effective in making resident parents seek maintenance, and the non-resident pay. Compliance under the new arrangements has been described by one source as "good" although no performance data is currently available. The previously mentioned LBIO was created as part of the 1993 child support reforms in the Netherlands, and replaced the 19 local offices of the child welfare office. The LBIO can collect maintenance where payment has been missed at least once in a six-month period, or where parents request it. Non-resident parents are charged 10 per cent of their liability for this collection service - the levy is intended to encourage private arrangements.
There is no minimum child maintenance level. Nor is there a system of advance payments available. Where a resident parent is not in receipt they may apply for means-tested benefits.