The Association of Family and Inheritance Lawyers Divorce Brokers (vFAS) is seeing an increase in cohabitants experiencing problems when they break up. Especially since many couples can not properly arrange their affairs legally.
Today, a million couples are together without a “butter bill”. In 400,000 cases, they have children. In 1995, only 12 percent of cohabitants were unmarried. By 2021, it will have doubled to 24 percent.
Alexander Leuftink, vFAS chairman, sees a tendency for people to get married less quickly. “They live together more informally. So not married, but they behave like this: they buy a house, a car, set up a bank account together and have children.” It goes well during the relationship, but when the parties separate, the association increasingly sees problems. “Because nothing has been arranged.”
One-third to one-half of all marital relationships end in divorce. The figures show that if you are not married, you are more likely to separate. And that’s when the problems can be serious.
He often said: money is yours too, it’s not just my money.
Bram Hogendoorn received his doctorate this month on the theme of ‘divorce and inequality’. “In fact, we see women experiencing the consequences of divorce across the board. High and low educated. Lower educated women more often end up below the poverty line,” Hogendoorn says. “Of those, 58 percent fall below the poverty line in the year of divorce.” It is mainly women with children.
“Highly educated women are less likely to fall below the poverty line, but their income falls the most. They often had a man who earns a lot and gave up (part of) their career,” Hogendoorn explains.
In good faith
It happened for Anne-Greet List. She was with her partner for 28 years and had three daughters with him. Her partner had to travel a lot abroad to work, so she stayed home to take care of their children and the household. “We were getting married when the kids were here. Three bridesmaids. But it never happened.”
Everything went in good faith. “He often said, ‘the money is yours too, it’s not just my money’.” It was only when her husband left her that List realized that everything was in his name. She is not entitled to anything: not to spousal support and not to a portion of his earned pension. “I’m actually homeless now. I’ve lived in a mobile home with my daughters for two weeks. It’s small, my one daughter sleeps on the couch, but we have to make it.”
The Marriage Property Act was intended to provide security for the weaker party.
The example with List does not stand alone. Leuftink: “I see many cases of people who have been together for 20 years and then do not realize that they have no right to anything. In marriage, it is very clear what the rules are, how it is divided, what rights and what the commitments are. And that’s not the case with the congregations. “
He cites a few examples. “If you buy a house together, then who pays the costs? Who should stay in the house? If you take care of the children and start working less, does the partner then have the right to a pension? And to the earned capital?” All of these are practical issues that people usually do not think about, but that they are confronted with when they break up.
According to Leuftink, the current legislation is no longer up to date because more and more people are living together without getting married. “The Marriage Property Act was there to provide security for the weaker party, especially people with children. Now that fewer people are getting married, there is a very large group of informal cohabitants who are not protected.”
One solution, according to him, is the introduction of maintenance rights for cohabitants or the right to the earned capital. “If you have been together for a long time, have children, then you should be more towards equal opportunities for all. In some countries, there is already legislation for cohabitants, such as in Scotland.”
List is now looking for a house in the Haarlemmermeer for her and her daughters. But it’s not that easy. “I was able to find a job quickly. I’m working in education again. I should have done that much earlier.”
She has wise advice for her daughters: “Take care of your own finances and put on paper what belongs to whom so you do not get the short straw.” List can stay at the campsite until October. Then the campsite closes. “It’s still an uncertain stressful time.”