Netherlands / Supreme Court / 22/04065

Attorney-General against the decision in case 200.262.303/01 of the Court of Appeal ’s-Hertogenbosch on 20 January 2022, in the interest of the interpretation of the law
Deciding body type
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding body
Supreme Court
Decision date
ECLI (European case law identifier)
  • Netherlands / Supreme Court / 22/04065

    Key facts of the case:

    A father and a mother have three children. The parents have terminated their relationship. They do not have joint custody: the mother is the only custodian and the children live with her. The father wanted a contact arrangement, but the District Court refused. The Court of Appeal did grant a contact arrangement. Moreover, it stated at its own initiative that it would impose a penalty on the mother if she did not adhere to the contact arrangement, because the mother had refused to let the children meet the father for years. The Court of Appeal refers to the right of a parent and a child to have contact, laid down in, among other things, Article 24 of the Charter. The question is whether this right justifies that the Court of Appeal imposes a penalty at its own initiative on the mother if she does not adhere to the arrangement.

    Key legal question raised by the Court:

    Can a court impose a penalty at its own initiative on a parent if he or she refuses to adhere to a contact arrangement between a child and the other parent?

    Outcome of the case:

    There is some confusion about Dutch legislation which lays down that courts may impose coercive measures in cases of joint custody, which seems to imply that penalties (which are coercive measures, too) may also be imposed by the courts at their own initiative. However, the Supreme Court holds that, on the basis of the Benelux Convention on the Penalty Clause and the Explanatory Memorandum to the relevant Dutch law, and, in addition, Dutch case law, courts cannot impose penalties at their own initiative on parents who do not adhere to contact arrangements. This applies to cases of both joint and single custody. The right to family life does not change this. The result of the case as such was not changed, as the proceedings before the Supreme Court were only instigated by the Attorney-General in order to achieve a uniform interpretation of the law by the courts in future.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter

    In view of the mother’s attitude, for years on end, to refuse the contact between the children and the father without any good reasons, the Court of Appeal feels that imposing a penalty if the contact arrangement is not adhered to is a suitable measure. This is the case even though this was not raised in the oral hearing. The mother did not fulfill the duties laid down in Article 1:247 of the Civil Code. Imposing a penalty at its own initiative in order to promote adherence to the contact arrangement seems to be in line, according to the Court with the right of a parent and a child to see each other. This right is laid down in Article 8 ECHR, article 9 paragraph 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 24 of the Charter on the fundamental rights of the European Union.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language)

    12.5.6. Gelet op de jarenlange weigerachtige houding van de moeder om zonder gegronde reden het contact tussen de kinderen en de vader niet toe te staan en de twee eerder gegeven niet mis te verstane tussenbeschikkingen, acht het hof het verbinden van een dwangsom aan de omgangsregeling in dit geval een passende maatregel, ondanks dat dit niet tijdens de mondelinge behandeling bij het hof is besproken. De moeder heeft geen invulling gegeven aan de verplichting die op grond van artikel 1:247 lid 3 BW op haar rust. Het (ambtshalve) opleggen van een dwangsom om daarmee de nakoming van de omgang te bevorderen acht het hof in lijn met het recht dat een ouder en een kind hebben om omgang met elkaar te hebben. Dit recht wordt gewaarborgd door artikel 8 EVRM, artikel 9 lid 3 IVRK en artikel 24 Handvest van de Grondrechten van de EU.