Dutch Divorce Challenge Update

Dutch Divorce Challenge Update 11 October 2017

By Tim Verheij, Research Assistant Innovating Procedures

In the past year, HiiL has been involved with the Dutch “Divorce Challenge”. This is a challenge run by the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice that aims to collect ideas that lead to an improvement in divorce proceedings, and for the situations of children involved. Stemming from a motion from the Labour Party, on 6 September 2016, the Dutch former Minister of Security and Justice launched the Divorce Challenge.

The goal is to limit the amount of acrimonious divorces (bad divorces where parents fight a lot), and to decrease bad effects that such divorces have, especially on children. The challenge invited people from a wide spectrum, including professionals, social innovators and experience experts, to come up with good ideas, and entries were submitted between September and November last year.

Facts show that divorce proceedings need reform. On an annual basis, 35.000 kids deal with consequences of divorce. 10 to 15% of the divorces are defined by problematic, acrimonious actions. Research has shown that children dealing with such a divorce face issues at school, get involved in criminal activities, deal with emotional problems, and in the future even have problems in their own relationships.

From 21 November 2016 an expert panel made a selection of over 500 submissions. On 14 December 2016 the selected submissions did a pitch in front of a panel. 5 were selected, of which HiiL's "Rechtszorg in plaats van rechtsstrijd bij scheiding" was one of them. HiiL wants to change the divorce procedure by emphasising legal care instead of legal fights. The focus is on: 1. Sustainable, justifiable agreements between well-informed family members and, where necessary, offer them help and support. 2. Legal experts (and judges most importantly) will be accessible without legal fights. 3. Sometimes situations or people are difficult, then the professionals should focus on what works (best practices). 4. Online support (a platform) for the divorce procedure.

So what is happening now? HiiL with important actors including the judiciary, the legal aid board and others, and alongside the other 4 winning submissions, will explore the next steps and actions to take. An independent expert platform will guide the ‘exploration’ phase of the challenge. The focus will be on: 1. informing, awareness and supporting parents in the divorce process, 2. the divorce process, and legal care, 3. 'feeding' the public debate on divorcing in general. Fruitful findings and conclusions from this collaborative process are hoped for in the not so distant future, upon which decisive reform can hopefully happen.

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