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Netherlands: Protocol Adopted to Protect Children in Partner-Killing Cases

(Dec. 27, 2013) On December 1, 2013, a new protocol on custody of children in the event of a partner killing took effect in the Netherlands. It was developed under the aegis of the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, which held four expert meetings to consider the consequences for children of such family dramas. The purpose of the protocol “is to determine a method by which, after a partner killing, provisional custody is provided within 24 hours so that children receive the desired professional support as soon as possible, in coordination with the other care that is provide[d] for the surviving family members.” (Measures by Minister Teeven with Respect to Partner Killing, Government of the Netherlands website (Nov. 18, 2013).)

According to the Ministry, “the interests of the child, in a case of partner killing, must weigh heavier than the interest of the parent wanting access,” and it is not always in the child’s best interests to have a confrontation with the parent under the circumstances of a partner killing. (Id.) The protocol is to be used by child welfare agencies, youth service providers, the police, Victim Support Netherlands, and the Child Care and Protection Board (De Raad voor de Kinderbescherming). (Handelingsprotocol voor gezag na partnerdoding gereed [Action Protocol for Authority After Killing Partner Ready], Netherlands Youth Institute website (Nov. 21, 2013).)

After provisional custody has been instituted, the Board will make a further investigation as to whether a permanent facility should be used as a custody/child protection measure, for a maximum of six weeks, unless a court has determined that the period should be 12 weeks, based upon a request by the Board.(Handelingsprotocol gezag, contact/omgang en hulp na partnerdoding waarbij minderjarige kinderen zijn betrokken [Action Protocol for Authority, Contact/Interaction, and Assistance After a Partner Killing Where Minor Children Are Involved] [hereinafter Action Protocol], § 8, Government of the Netherlands website (Nov. 15, 2013).) If the imprisoned parent petitions the court at any time forcontact/interaction with his or her child, which is to be carried out through the Board, and if the court requests an opinion, the Board will give the court its views on the matter. (Id. § 9.)

State Secretary forSecurity and Justice Fred Teeven wants the Dutch parliament to adapt current law (the relevant provisions of the Civil Code, Book I on Family Law and the Law of Persons) so that the court will always assess whether contact with the parent is in the best interest of the child, after the Board has filed a petition to allow such contact. Teeven also seeks to disallow a parent’s quick resubmission of a request for visitation with the child if the court has denied access, by having the law changed to impose a two-year period during which such a petition is declared inadmissible if the parent seeks contact. (Measures by Minister Teeven with Respect to Partner Killing, supra; State Secretary Fred Teeven, Kamerbrief over bescherming van kinderen na partnerdoding [Letter on Protection of Children After a Partner Killing] [submitted to the Dutch House of Representatives], Government of the Netherlands website (Nov. 15, 2013).)

The protocol will be reevaluated after one year. (Action Protocol, supra.)