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Spousal maintenance

Determination and change of spousal maintenance or alimony: some answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How can I reduce my maintenance/how can I pay less maintenance or alimony?

A court decision or a maintenance agreement may be adjusted by the court, if a court decision does not meet the legal standards anymore because of a change in circumstances. What is required, is a change in the circumstances as they were determined by the court at the time of the decision, or a change in the circumstances the parties took into account when they made the agreement. There has to be a change in circumstances that implies that the court decision does no longer meet the legal standards. It doesn’t mean that any change will be sufficient to adjust maintenance or alimony amounts. If child support determined by the court or agreed by the parties is open to change, a new amount of child support will have to be determined, based on all the facts and circumstances of that moment. A court decision on maintenance may also be adjusted if it did not meet the legal standards to begin with because the court’s decision was based on incorrect or incomplete information. A maintenance or support agreement made between the parents may also be adjusted if the agreement was made with a gross failure to recognise the legal standards.

How long will I have to pay maintenance? Five or twelve years?

When the parties have been married for less than five years, and no children were born from the marriage, the maximum period of maintenance will be equal to the time the marriage lasted. If children were born from the marriage, or if a childless marriage lasted more than five years, the maximum term of the maintenance obligations is – in principle – twelve years.

What is a calculation of a person’s ability to pay?

A calculation of a person’s ability to pay is a calculation that is based on the Trema standards/maintenance guidelines. The maximum amount the person who has a duty to pay maintenance will be able to pay is calculated.

What are Trema standards?

Trema standards are also called maintenance standards and they can be found in the Trema report. This report includes the recommendations and reports by the maintenance standards working group (Werkgroep Alimentatienormen) of the Netherlands Association for the Judiciary (Nederlandse Vereniging van Rechtspraak). The report provides recommendations for a uniform, practical implementation of the legal standards, of need, and financial capacity. The report can be found on www.rechtspraak.nl.

When do I get maintenance or support?

One of the conditions to be able to determine the amount of maintenance, is the need for maintenance. People are in need of maintenance if they cannot fully support themselves. That is to say, if a person lacks the necessary means and cannot reasonably obtain them.

When does maintenance or alimony stop?

Maintenance stops when the person entitled to financial support or the person who has a duty to provide financial support, dies.
Maintenance stops when the person entitled to financial support no longer needs it because he or she can fully support him or herself.
Maintenance stops when the person entitled to it will begin living together with another person as if they were married or as if they had a registered partnership. This is provided for by Book 1, Article 160 of the Netherlands Civil Code (BW).
Maintenance stops when the court has decided that the person having the duty to pay has not got the financial capacity to pay maintenance, or does not have it any longer.
Maintenance stops when – calculated from the divorce date – the person entitled to maintenance or alimony has received it for five or twelve years, respectively.
How can I receive maintenance or alimony for a longer period of time?

When the maintenance period of five or twelve years has expired, the person entitled to maintenance can file an application at the court – within three months’ time – for an extension of the maintenance period. If the termination of the payments as a result of the expiry of the period has such drastic consequences that an unchanged upholding of that term cannot reasonably be required from the person entitled to the maintenance or alimony, the court may – at the request of the person entitled to it – extend the period of maintenance. The requirements that will have to be met are stringent.

My ex is living together with someone else, can I stop paying maintenance?

Book 1, Article 160 of the Netherlands Civil Code provides that the duty to pay maintenance ends when the person entitled to maintenance gets married, enters into a registered partnership, or starts living together with another person as if they were married, or as if they had their partnership registered. Having a joint household and caring for each other, are the criteria for people living together as if married. The person having the duty to pay maintenance needs to prove the fact that they are living together. The burden of proof is on the person who is obliged to pay maintenance.

What is a no-change clause?

When parties have agreed on maintenance or alimony, or they agreed that no maintenance is owed to each other, a no-change clause may arise. This clause means that the abovementioned agreement cannot be changed, even if there would be a change of circumstances in the future. However, the agreement can be changed in case of such a drastic change of circumstances that the party requesting the change cannot – by any criteria of reasonableness and fairness – remain bound to the no-change clause.