Legal Arrangements in Marriage and Cohabitation in the Netherlands: Trends and Determinants

Anne-Rigt Poortman, Utrecht University

Most studies on cohabitation and marriage have ignored legal variations within these relationship types. This study distinguishes between: (1) marriage in joint property, (2) marriage with prenuptial agreements, (3) cohabitation with a contract/registered partnership, and (4) non-legal cohabitation. These legal arrangements have important implications for gender inequality and children’s life chances, and are indicative of individualization and institutionalization of relationships. Using Dutch survey-data from 1995 and 2002-4, cohabitation contracts and prenuptial agreements are found to have become more common in this period. Marriage in joint property continues to be most popular. An examination of the determinants shows that insecurity about the relationship and the need to arrange the rights and obligations toward third parties (i.e., prior children and creditors) are most important. Remarkably, the need to protect women against the risks of specialization and children are less important determinants. Furthermore, the determinants are gendered: his characteristics matter more than hers.

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Presented in Session 102: Cohabitation and Marriage