German Divorce Law

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    Grounds for Divorce

    • The courts do not pry too much into the details of divorce in Germany.ring image by Jens Klingebiel from Fotolia.com

      According to German Civil Code Section 1565 Paragraph I Section I, the only grounds for divorce is gernally the breakdown of the marriage, defined as either "if the spouses have been separated for a year and both spouses petition for divorce or the other spouse consents to the divorce" or "if the spouses have been separated for three years." In both cases, the courts feel that they have sufficient grounds to define a breakdown of marriage, and they do not pry any further in order to respect the couple's privacy.

    Procedure

    • Couples seeking a divorce must go through a judicial procedure as noted by Section 1564 of the German Civil Code. Furthermore, the proceedings can begin only if either one or both of the spouses has petitioned for the procedure. Hearings take place at the Family Law Court, and the presence of a lawyer is required. Both members of the couple may share a lawyer if there is consent for the divorce.

    The Role of Fault

    • While divorce proceedings and orders are generally based around the idea of no fault, certain conditions exist where fault may come into play. The courts may grant divorce before the specified amount of time if one of the spouses would experience "unreasonable hardship" due to the other spouse. Unreasonable hardship is defined as physical or verbal abuse, threats or problems with alcohol, among other issues.

    Fault in Matters of Infidelity

    • In cases regarding infidelity, divorce is not always necessarily granted, because not all courts count the act as an "unreasonable hardship." The court will grant a divorce only if the cheating spouse makes it absolutely clear that she does not wish to continue the marriage by actions such as working as a prostitute, leaving for a same-sex partner or inviting the new partner to live with the family.

    After the Divorce

    • Utretcht University notes that German divorce law "does not follow the doctrine of a clean break" and "the law recognises the continuing responsibility of the spouses for each other even after divorce, especially in relation to maintenance." However, the rules regarding supporting a spouse are different once divorce has been announced than during the separation-only phase.

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