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International Family Law

What is International Family Law?

International family law consists of, among other things:

  • International names
  • International marriages
  • International divorce
  • International matrimonial property law
  • Registered partnerships abroad
  • International custody
  • International adoptions
  • International parentage
  • International child abductions

IJI senior legal counsel Lisette Frohn

In international family law, a whole series of private international law questions may arise, such as: Which court is internationally competent to hear the dispute? Which law is applicable, and if it is foreign law, what is the content of this law? Under what conditions can a foreign judgment be recognised and enforced?


The Rules on International Family Law

The rules on international family law are largely contained in the Dutch sources of Book 10 of the Civil Code and the Dutch Civil Procedural Code. Increasingly, legislative instruments in the field of international family law are coming from the EU. These instruments take precedence over national sources.

Principles of Private International Law

International family law is a separate branch of private international law. It is based on the typical PIL principles, such as the fact that the court with international jurisdiction and the applicable law must have a close connection with the specific case. In international family law, the same method is used to determine the competent court and the applicable law. There are general and special international grounds for jurisdiction and the conflict rule is the starting point for determining the applicable law. However, international family law also makes relatively frequent use of special principles that take into account the family law nature of the legal issues. For instance, international family law recognises the so-called ‘protection principle’ and the ‘favouring principle’. These principles aim to protect and/or favour weaker parties, such as children.

What our Clients Say About Us

Lawyer Tim de Greve, partner at Stibbe.

I regularly engage the IJI in cases where PIL aspects play a role. The institute has existed for over 100 years and can therefore boast a long history and experience. There are prominent people associated with it. Not least Mr Strikwerda. They support you from the outset, immediately understand the question you are faced with and suggest possible solutions. They have the right connections at home and abroad to answer questions within a reasonable timeframe. Apart from that, it is very pleasant to work with the people of the IJI.

Lawyer Channa Samkalden, Prakken d'Oliveira

We have received advice from the IJI on several cases. One example is a case brought by a number of Nigerian farmers against Shell concerning oil pollution in Nigeria. That case is about the application of Nigerian law by the Dutch court. The IJI looked into the framework of tort law in Nigeria for us. We used that advice in the proceedings and also submitted it to the court and it showed, for instance, that our plaintiffs were also entitled to claim against Shell under Nigerian law. The IJI is extremely useful in all such cases because you receive very sound advice on the basis of which you know whether you should have a number of things investigated further. It’s very useful advice at an early stage of your procedure.

Attorney Ria van Seventer, Meesters aan de Maas Advocaten

Our law firm is based in Rotterdam, a city of more than 170 nationalities, so we regularly have to ask the IJI for advice. For example, I had to deal with the recognition of a child by an Italian man, to which Italian law had to be applied. I don’t speak Italian so I could not do that myself. Nor did I have access to the sources which the IJI has.

Legal advice on international family law

Would you like to obtain legal advice when it comes to international family law? We have built up a strong practice in this area over the years. Mail to info@iji.nl or fill in the online application form. You will receive a non-binding cost estimate within two working days. If agreed, we will deliver a customized report within two weeks at the latest. You can ask simple questions via the chatbox.

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