German Family Law: Alimony and divorce law in Germany

A.) Spousal Support during the marriage (“Familienunterhalt”)
According to s 1360, 1360 a, b of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) spouses in Germany are legally obliged to support each other while the marriage persists.

This means, that both of the spouses are obliged, each in relation to their own means and their own ability to work outside or inside the home, to contribute to the needs of the family. This obligation generally exists until the spouses separate in preparation for a divorce (the “year of separation” described below).

Each spouse is obligated to support the family by paying housekeeping allowance, pocket money and under special circumstances the education costs and the special needs of the other spouse:

1.) Housekeeping allowance (“Haushaltsgeld”)
Part of the family maintenance is the housekeeping allowance. Each spouse has to support the other (and the children) to meet basic needs (accommodation, food, clothes, medical support, health and pension insurance) regardless of how long they are married. If one of the spouses is unemployed, he is obliged to do the housekeeping.

There is no set formula for the amount of the allowance owed and therefore each case has to be assessed individually, based on the specific circumstances.

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2.) Pocket money (“Taschengeld”)
The employed spouse is also obliged to pay the not working spouse an adequate amount of so called “pocket money”.

Unlike the housekeeping allowance, which is earmarked for the purposes described above, the pocket money is free to use by the unemployed spouse.

According to the courts, the employed spouse should pay pocket money of about 5-7% of his net income to the unemployed spouse. However, the unemployed spouse is not entitled to get pocket money if the entire income of the employed spouse is needed to pay the housekeeping allowance.

3.) Education costs (Ausbildungskosten”)
According to the German courts the employed spouse is also obliged to pay the educational costs of the unemployed spouse if the unemployed spouse started his education before the marriage started.

4.) Special needs (“Besondere Kosten”)
Special needs of one spouse, like costs for medical treatment etc., are generally not covered by the payment of the housekeeping allowance and the pocket money. Thus, if any additional expenses arise, the employed spouse might be obliged to cover these expenses.

If the employed spouse is not willing to pay either the right amount of housekeeping money or other expenses described above, the other spouse can take legal action to recover the money owed.

B.) Spousal support during the year of separation (“Trennungsunterhalt”)
In Germany a married couple can generally only file for divorce if the couple were separated for at least one year before (“Year of separation”, “Trennungsjahr”) the couple files for divorce.

During this “cooling off period” spouses are legally obliged to pay each other spousal support, again in relation to their own means and their own ability to work and to earn money.

If one spouse doesn´t want the divorce, he is not able to stop it from happening. After three years of separation the marriage is generally considered to be „irretrievably broken.“

The spouses are not automatically obligated to pay spousal support in the year of separation. Thus, the receiving spouse has to claim the spousal support from the other spouse.

Generally the spouse with the lower income is entitled to receive spousal support during the year of separation.

Sample Calculation:
Spouse A is having a net income of EUR 2.300 and spouse B is having a net income of EUR 2.100. Spouse B is entitled to get 3/7 of the difference of EUR 200 (2.300 – 2.100) = EUR 85, 71.

If spouse A is not willing to pay the spousal support, spouse B can take legal action to recover the money owed.

C.) Spousal support after the divorce (“Nachehelicher Ehegattenunterhalt”)
After the divorce spouses may be obliged to pay post-marital spousal support to the other spouse.

Since this obligation is different from the obligation to pay spousal support during the year of separation, a new claim has to be made by the spouse in need.
However, after the divorce generally the principle of personal responsibility applies.

In the last years the courts in Germany became very strict to apply the principle of personal responsibility. Thus, each spouse is generally responsible for his own maintenance and cannot rely on the spousal payments for very long.

However, in many situations there is still a chance to get post-marital spousal support.

D.) Compensation for the increase in communal property (“Zugewinnausgleich”)
If no notarised marriage contract has been set up by the spouses, each party is entitled after the divorce to be compensated for half of the capital value of the assets acquired by the spouses during the marriage.

This procedure is called “Zugewinnausgleichsverfahren” The “Zugewinn” (gain) is the positive difference (gain) between the value of the property of each spouse before the marriage and its value and at the end of the marriage.

If Spouse A has more “Zugewinn” than Spouse B, Spouse B is entitled to receive the amount of money that equals half of the “Zugewinn”.

Information about the recognition of foreign divorce judgments and the enforcement of foreign alimony judgments you will find here.

Important Note: This article has been prepared by mth Tieben & Partner for general information purposes only. Mth Tieben & Partner does not accept any liability to any person or organisation for the use or reliance of the information contained in this article. On any specific matter, kindly contact us by dialing 0221 – 80187670 or sending us an email to info@mth-partner.de

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9 Comments

  1. Mack

    This is more of a question than a comment:

    I have an uncle in Germany who continued to pay alimony to his ex-wife, even when she re-married. From what I understand, she was married to her 2nd husband for about 10 years before she died. My uncle (from what I’m told) paid alimony to his ex-wife for the entire length of her 2nd marriage and is STILL paying alimony to the husband of his dead ex-wife today! He seems to be saying that he’s required by the courts to keep paying alimony to the widow of his dead ex-wife. Is this possible?

  2. Gerly asajar

    My husband is a German. We both unemployed. My husband is planning to file a divorce in germany. Can i ask spousal support and other allowance even he is no job but he has some business in Singapore and money deposited there. What support i can ask from him? Thank you so much.

  3. Ush

    Hi

    My husband is a German and I am a Indian. We got married in India and currently living in US from past two and a half month because of his work here . My husband has decided to give me divorce and I am not ready for that. I was working in a managerial level in India and post marriage I quit my job as my husband did not like me working late night. It’s going to be 1yr of our marriage on this 16th Dec. this is new to me and I don’t have a job but I am whatever work I am getting like babysitting, picking and dropping the kids to school. It’s not a fixed job because I go as and when it is required by different people. I hardly get paid for this. Today husband decided he will not buy any groceries for me and help me financially, I sleep on the safa and he sheeps on the bed as he said he cannot share the bed with me anymore. I sold whatever I had in my country and left my stable job for him. I am feeking very helpless as I cannot go back to my country thinking about my parents. Please suggest me what to do. He also asked me to leave his flat and stay somewhere else. But he said he will not support my expenses.. he works for an known automobile company and earns good income.. I am feeling so helpless. Please help!!

    • Chow

      Hi USh,

      Sorry to hear your story. It is similar my situation. I’m Vietnamese, he is German. We married in Vietnam. We spent 6 months in SEA for travelling. Then we go to Germany. After 2 months in Germany, he left me at my aunt’s house and did not let me come back to his parents‘ house (he lives with his parents). My aunt needs to ask her friend to pick my luggages. He did not register me and let goverment know that he is married. Sure, he did not support me financial while I live with my aunt. I came back to VN because of my family Visa expired. Now, I’m living in Vietnam and looking for a divorce.

      Hope everything will be better for you. Wish all the best for you. He will live with his Karma.

  4. shafik

    Thats this Trennung unterlhalt applies to both man and the woman or only the wife is entitiled to get that?

    • herr betz

      hello sir I want ask you about my situation I am a gay and I belong from india I was come here in august 2015 and aply asyl ,I meet a man and we decide getting married .we give our all legal documents in standsamt 8th of september 2016 they give us 6 months time because of inquiries and all documents send after 5 months woman call us and say to us our documents come back and we can get married legal in Germany we are married in 10th of march 2017 after 20days my partner is died 30th of march so tell me please what can I do right now , they will diport me in my country or I will get in Germany legal stay please tell me and help me thanks

  5. E J Thomson

    Are you expert in Family including wife’s dishonest lawyer and connections with female judge in Siegburg ? Divorce is done, now its the Assets; wife has been trying to kill me or take the house from me or force me out.

  6. Si Christy

    Hi sir, hope you can help me some information, I have a German Citizen we been married for 19 years with two kids. We been separated now for 21 months he is paying us for alimony. Maybe by the middle of this year were divorce. I just started working half day this month to get the normal health insurance because I was private insurance before under him. He was beamter. My Lawyer told me after divorce I still have my right that my ex have to pay me financially for 6 or 7 years because I stop to get my career because I choice to be a plain house wife to take care the kids. My question is that true? And how? I hope you can help me. Thank you for your time and thank you for patient to those people who have same situations like me. God bless.

  7. PJ

    Hi,

    My husband and I , we both are working here in Germany, I would like to get mutual divorce and not interested in getting money from him. We purchased a house 4 yrs before and i even don’t want to divide my share. We have 2 daughters and I can support them with my salary. What are the procedures i should do, could you please guide me ?

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