Municipalities spend tens of millions of Euros on custody battles each year
Municipalities spend between 66 to 88 million euros annually on guiding parents who end up in a conflicting divorce. This emerged from research by the KRO-NCRV programs Pointer and Follow the Money.
If parents are unable to agree on the custody of their child or children, a judge places these families under the supervision of a family guardian. For this guidance, the youth protection service receives 9,500 to 11,000 euros per child per year.
Every year this concerns 7000 to 8000 supervision orders. Since the decentralization of youth care in 2015, municipalities are now responsible for this money.
Tons per family
The family supervision order can be extended if parents remain in conflict, despite the supervision. And this also increases the bill for the relevant municipality. Pointer and Follow the Money followed five parents for more than a year and a half of them barely saw their children due to a contentious divorce. In one of those families, guidance was needed for five years, as a result of which the municipality spent more than 250,000 euros on youth protection.
"It takes time to properly unravel this often nasty struggle between parents," says Astrid Rotering, board member of the association for youth care in the Netherlands, about the rising costs. According to her, the contributions from the municipalities are not even cost-effective. "If I calculate that rate, it comes down to about a hundred hours of work per year with this kind of complicated divorce. Things like these take a lot more time."
Contribution of parents
The Ede (Gelderland) alderman Leon Meijer, who negotiates on behalf of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport about youth care costs, believes that parents should pay part of the bill. "If parents continue to fight with each other for the children, then they can also contribute to the costs that this entails. This damages children and costs the community money."
The parents who have been followed by Pointer and Follow the Money say they have received little help from youth protection. "We hardly have any contact with our family guardian. There is no response to emails. Then I would like to know what they do exactly for that money," says one of the parents.