Paternity and maternity

Married parents have shared parental responsibility for the children they have together.

As from 1 January 2006, cohabitants automatically have shared parental responsibility for children born after this date.

If the parents are not married or do not live together, the mother basically has sole parental responsibility. The parents can agree that they are to have shared parental responsibility or that the father is to have sole parental responsibility. This agreement must be sent to the National Registry (tax office) in order to be valid. There are no formal requirements as to the agreement apart from the fact that it must be in writing and that both parents must agree. The child's mother may have good reasons for wanting to have sole parental responsibility. However, it is not enough that the mother wants to have sole parental responsibility. Court decisions show that there must be weighty reasons for a father not being given a share of the parental responsibility.

Parents who have had children without living together but who move in together later on are not given shared parental responsibility as a result of the notice of a change of address. They must send either a separate agreement on shared parental responsibility or a declaration that they are cohabiting to the National Registry. It is also important to note that the establishment of paternity through an acknowledgement of or change in paternity, or an acknowledgement of paternity determined abroad, does not mean that parental responsibility is determined at the same time.

Following the breakup of a relationship, the parents are completely free to agree on parental responsibility.

Read more about maternity.

Read more about paternity.