Divorce in Germany

English-speaking German divorce lawyers

Many separations and divorces nowadays have an international component – for example because the parties involved have different citizenships, live abroad, were married abroad and now live in Germany, own assets located abroad, or for other reasons. This increases the demand for German divorce lawyers who can also advise clients in English.

Our services for separation and divorce

Our English-speaking lawyers advise and represent German and foreign citizens in all legal matters relating to separation and divorce. We advise in the following situations in particular:

  1. Marriage Contracts to protect assets and avoid disputes
  2. Strategic advice before a separation
  3. Advice to separated spouses before a divorce (which law is applicable, which court has jurisdiction? What are the advantages and disadvantages of different jurisdictions and legal systems? For divorces in Germany: separation year, separation maintenance, separation agreement)
  4. Submission of the divorce petition and assistance during divorce proceedings in Germany
  5. Divorces abroad which are governed by aspects of German law: Cooperation with family lawyers in foreign jurisdictions, e.g. in drafting pleadings and developing procedural strategies
  6. Drafting and review of divorce agreements with international implications, such as cases involving multi-citizens, changing international habitual residences or domiciles etc.
  7. Review of specific situations and representation in European matrimonial property, maintenance and pension rights adjustment as well as custody and access rights, including procedures relating to international child abduction.

As an internationally oriented German law firm with expertise in business and tax law, we have special know-how in divorces of entrepreneurs with business assets, as well as divorces which involve real estate or other assets shared by spouses.

Where is the divorce filed and which divorce law applies?

In the case of a cross-border divorce, it is often not clear to the parties concerned where the divorce should be filed, or which divorce law is applicable.

The Brussels IIa Regulation governs the international jurisdiction of family courts. It is based on criteria including the citizenship and habitual residence of the spouses. However, there are also special jurisdictional definitions in the EU Maintenance Regulation, the Hague Convention on Parental Responsibility and Protection of Children and the EU Property Regulation.

However, even if the divorce is filed before a German court, this does not necessarily mean that German divorce law applies. In Europe, the applicable law will be determined by the Rome III Regulation. German divorce law may be applicable, for example, if a choice of law is still possible or has already been exercised. If no choice of law is available, criteria such as habitual residence or even (German) citizenship are decisive.

Our lawyers will determine the international jurisdiction, the divorce law which applies to your case and will file a divorce petition with a German court – if necessary.

Conditions of a divorce in Germany

A divorce in Germany can only be granted by a court order. The formal prerequisite is a properly-formulated divorce petition, which must be filed by a lawyer. In the case of divorce by mutual consent, it is sufficient for the spouses to be represented by a lawyer for one of the spouses.

Under German divorce law, the failure of the marriage is a prerequisite for divorce. The marriage will be deemed to have failed if the spouses have been living separately for at least one year (the "separation year") and both agree to the divorce. However, if your spouse does not agree to a divorce, you can also divorce him or her if you prove to the satisfaction of the family court that the marriage has irrevocably failed. The statement of one spouse is sufficient to prove this. In general, a marriage will also be considered to have irrevocably broken down after a separation of at least three years. In exceptional cases ("hardship cases"), however, a divorce may be granted before the end of the separation year.

What are the consequences of divorce under German law?

The issuance of a legally binding divorce decree ends the marriage. Important consequences of divorce are:

  1. Equalisation of accrued gains: German family law grants a so-called "equalisation of accrued gains" to the spouse whose assets increased in value less than the assets of the other spouse during the marriage. The amount is calculated based on a balance sheet. For this purpose, the initial and final assets of both spouses are calculated and compared. If the resulting “surplus” is higher for one spouse than for the other, the other spouse can demand half of the difference as compensation.
  2. Pension rights adjustment: A pension rights adjustment is generally performed upon termination of the marriage. The pension entitlements of the partners during the marriage period are determined, compared, and divided in such a way that both are in the same financial position. This procedure may be complicated when a spouse has foreign pension entitlements or private pension products, since these latter can also have a pecuniary value, and thus are counted as part of the surplus.
  3. Maintenance: After a divorce, one spouse is often obliged to pay maintenance to the other. This will be the case when one spouse is needy and the other spouse can pay maintenance.
  4. Spousal inheritance law: Upon termination of the marriage, the spouse's statutory right of inheritance and right to a compulsory portion extinguishes. Wills in favour of the spouse may be invalid.

How much does a divorce in Germany cost and how long does the divorce procedure take?

In divorce proceedings in Germany, both court fees and lawyer's fees are incurred. These are based on the so-called "value of the case". This amount will be determined by the economic circumstances of the spouses, especially their income, but also by their assets.

The duration of the divorce proceedings will also depend on various factors. A divorce by mutual consent, in which the spouses agree on both the conditions and the consequences of the divorce, takes considerably less time than a bitter dispute over many individual issues.

We will be happy to discuss what is important to you in the divorce proceedings and what your priorities are. We will then develop an appropriate strategy together with you.

The divorce agreement under German divorce law

You can considerably reduce both the costs and the duration of a divorce in Germany by agreeing with your ex-spouse on important points in a divorce agreement.

Take advantage of the expertise of our divorce lawyers in drafting and reviewing such contracts. We will make sure that your interests are protected as effectively as possible.

Recognition of a foreign divorce in Germany – and vice versa

In some situations, it is necessary to obtain the recognition of a foreign divorce in Germany, or of a German divorce abroad. Without such recognition, the couple may continue to be considered married, which can have far-reaching unintended consequences.

Whether a formal recognition procedure is necessary depends, among other things, on whether the divorce was granted in another EU country or in the non-EU country of origin of the spouses. We will advise you in legal and practical questions concerning the recognition of divorce decisions in other countries.

Dr Marko Oldenburger - your Divorce Lawyer in Germany

The contact person for divorces with a foreign connection at ROSE & PARTNER is Dr Marko Oldenburger. He is an experienced certified specialist for family law and is deeply familiar with German and international divorce law. Dr Oldenburger is based in our main office in Hamburg, but also assists clients in our other offices in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich, as well as nationally and internationally.

Dr Oldenburger is fluent in English and has received several awards by international juries as Lawyer of the Year for Family Law in Germany (including from the Lawyer Monthly Legal Awards and ACQ5 Global Awards).

Our fees

For a consultation or representation in divorce matters in English, we charge a fee of EUR 400/hour (plus 16% value added tax). Insofar as the nature of the representation permits, we can also charge on the basis of the statutory remuneration scheme ("Rechtsanwaltsvergütungsgesetz") or a flat fee (for individual questions).

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