Divorcing in Germany with a young child

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I've been in Germany for many years now, and I have a german wife, and a 1 year old daughter. I'm British and since last year also German (due to Brexit...) My marriage to my wife has been very rocky almost immediately after she fell pregnant. We argue way too much and intensively. The dynamic has also changed with her family, especially now that we have a little girl, the MIL loves interfering more than she needs too, which doesn't help things. In the last few months, I've unfortunately been thinking divorce is looking more inevitable. I'm interested in knowing a few things first from people who have gone through similar experiences in Germany. My wife and I have a prenup, that basically covers my asset (a flat I own in Germany), and her pension (as I don't have one). I freelance, my wife is an employee. She has kept her maiden name. We don’t have joint bank accounts.

 

 

  • In the case of a divorce, how is the time of each separated parent normally allocated to a baby/young child? 
  • How could I ease the transition for my daughter to having two parents with different lives?
  • For those divorced and with children, how do you organise holidays and trips to your homeland with your ex/Jugendamt?
  • My wife and I share a flat we bought together, so if I were to move out before selling the flat, is it advised to keep up my share of the mortgage payments if my wife were to live in our flat when I'm no longer there?
  • When it comes to splitting up the finances, is the length of the marriage taken into consideration? My wife and I are married for less than 3 years.
  • Does the nationality of the child play a role? My daughter is dual nationality (DE-UK).
  • I assume under nearly all circumstances young children have their main residency with their mother, but can this be somehow split? I'd like to at least move out into a 3-Zimmer flat so my daughter has her own room, and my place is just as much her home as with her mother (so an approx. 50-50 split, if possible). Going through divorce proceedings, I’d like to at least offer my readiness, if necessary, to be the sole carer although I concede this probably won't be a real possibility.
  • I understand that this may be irrelevant in the eyes of a court, but my wife would have a lot of support from her parents 150km away and her sister about 40km away, not to mention her network of friends here. I'm not fishing for sympathy, just want to state that I’m on my own in Germany with many of my friends elsewhere. So I unfortunately won’t have any local support from family at least. Would this also be taken into consideration from a Jugendamt/court?
  • Would it be advised to launch divorce proceedings from the UK, if possible?
  • We own a flat together. I assume that this would be split 50-50 once sold. What about other claims for finance; could my wife claim half my earnings since the time that we were married? I’m of course prepared to finance my daughter, but I don’t like the idea of financing more than required for my wife after a divorce. 

 

Would be interested in hearing your thoughts and to know if there is anything else to consider.

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In Germany, the mother still owns the children for the most part so you shouldn't expect to get 50/50 custody unless she's willing to.  If it's a baby, you might get a short visit every or every other weekend and possibly no overnights.  If it's a toddler, you might get her for a sleepover every other weekend, hopefully working towards a full weekend every other weekend.  The mother usually gets the holidays she wants and the father gets whatever the mother allows him.  Overseas vacation, only if the mother allows.

 

It would ease the transition for your daughter if the parents get along and live close to each other but there is no guarantee on that.  Your wife may decide to move closer to her parents for example.  You can not force your wife to get along with you.  It takes two to work on that.

 

As for the split of assets, the default in Germany is that you keep your assets that you brought into the marriage and split whatever you gained during the marriage.  Say if you had 5000 in your account when you married and your wife had 5000 too and when you divorce and you have 15000 and she still has 5, your 10000 would have been gained during the marriage and would be split.  I have no idea if your prenup would otherwise change that.

 

As for the apartment, your debt to the bank continues to be your debt to the bank and you are obligated to the bank to continue paying.  However, you can ask for it to be taken into account that your wife is living there and you have to pay rent elsewhere.  You would then have to come to an agreement with your wife about what happens to the apartment.  Would one of you like to take it and buy the other one out or would you sell it and split the profits?  She can not ask for half your income from the day you got married if you've already spent that money on playing house in the past 3 years.

 

I am not aware that the period you were married or the nationality of your child changes anything.

 

I don't think you can launch divorce proceedings from the UK if neither of you is living in the UK but you would have to ask a lawyer about that and if that is in any aspect beneficial to you.  Remember that in regard to visitation, you do not win if you piss off the mother of your child.

 

You can expect to pay child support according to the Düsseldorfer Tabelle based on your income and child's age, see here: http://www.unterhalt.net/duesseldorfer-tabelle.html  You may have to pay your spouse alimony if you make more than she does.  You can find a calculator here: http://www.lawyerdb.de/Unterhalt.aspx  You will have to pay her at least during the separation year.  When you actually divorce, they will decide if you must still pay her and for how long.  Raising a small child alone would work in her favour when it comes to the question whether she can work full time.  Mothers of small children, under 3, are generally not expected to have to work in Germany.  Once the child turns 3 and can go to kita, they can be expected to work at least part time.  

 

 

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@LeonG: Thanks for the extensive info, very useful. It seems as a father you get very limited time with a young child, which is very daunting. I think the relationship would have to be so badly damaged that seeing your child less would have to be a last option. Unfortunately this is the route we're going down.

From what you explain, this would also mean it would be more difficult for my daughter to see her relations abroad, like my parents. This is not good.

 

From what it seems then you have to prove your account status as the point of marriage, and at the point of divorce in order to recognise what the gains/losses are. The prenup mentions my flat is actually my pension, therefore I don't get to touch her pension in the case of the divorce, which is fair enough. The lawyer wrote the value of my flat too in the prenup, but it was only his estimate, and definitely less than its true value (even at the time, a mortgage broker valued the flat at much higher). Not sure what the consequences of this value in the prenup could be. 

 

I've invested more in the flat (i.e 10% deposit paid entirely by me, but furniture is pretty much 50-50, so it is the mortgage repayments) that we live in. Plus I pay the kita and health insurance for our child. In addition when my wife didn't work I transferred money every month (about 1-1.5K)- Would this all be considered in a divorce? I work freelance, so I'm not sure how they calculate the child support and/or spouse alimony in this case, as each month fluctuates. Some months I may not even work but this is seldom the case.

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If you were without a prenup, they would still consider your apartment to be solely yours if you had it before you married but they would take the increase in value since then as a profit during the marriage and therefore splittable.  If the starting value was low, then it would look like you had more profit.  I don't know if the prenup changes that.  I don't know either if an increase in her pension would also be profit for her and therefore splittable.

 

When you are married, you don't get bonus points for supporting your wife and child and neither would your wife get credit for supporting you if it were the other way around.  All the money goes into one pot and it used for mutual expenses.  This money is already gone.  However, if one of you managed to squirrel away some money into a bank account, that would be a marital asset and would be split,  After you get divorced, then you can start going into how much you are supposed to pay and what she is supposed to pay etc.  If your income fluctuates, I suppose they will go by what you made last year when they decide on your payments.  If your income is lower next year, you can talk to jugendamt about adjusting the amount.

 

You should talk to a lawyer to figure out your rights and your options.  However, before you get a lawyer involved with your wife and start to play hardball, keep in mind that it would be better for your relationship with your daughter in the future if you can do things amicably with your wife now.  It will go better for you if you can let go and let your wife have a little more if that makes her happy and keep her good will for later.

 

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When I got divorced we signed an agreement that our lawyer drew up that I didn't want anything from her and she from me beyond normal child support going to whomever my daughter was living with. I could have gotten support from her as I was making very little at the time and she earns quite well but I didn't want it. Custody agreed on as 50/50. My daughter was 6 then. She is almost 16 now, she lived with her mom, them me and now her mom again. I guess every situation is different but if both parties can come to an agreement it doesn't have to be so bad.

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@GER308 : may I ask how did you get 50/50 custody, and what would you advise? This is my greatest concern, that my time is very limited with my girl, that means not only time spent in Frankfurt but also holidays together, trips to the UK, and so on. I heard that when going through the separation, the wife often has the upper hand since it's the father that moves out during this transition. Therefore fathers are advised to stay around until necessary (i.e. the flat is sold) if they want to increase the chances of seeing more of their child. On the one hand, this would mean if I were to stay till the flat gets sold, I get to see my daughter more and would save a bit of money not paying a mortgage and a rent simultaneously. On the other hand, it would mean living with my wife as a separated couple. And this would be very difficult (i.e. a nightmare).

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4 hours ago, notfromhere said:

@GER308 : may I ask how did you get 50/50 custody, and what would you advise? This is my greatest concern, that my time is very limited with my girl, that means not only time spent in Frankfurt but also holidays together, trips to the UK, and so on. I heard that when going through the separation, the wife often has the upper hand since it's the father that moves out during this transition. Therefore fathers are advised to stay around until necessary (i.e. the flat is sold) if they want to increase the chances of seeing more of their child. On the one hand, this would mean if I were to stay till the flat gets sold, I get to see my daughter more and would save a bit of money not paying a mortgage and a rent simultaneously. On the other hand, it would mean living with my wife as a separated couple. And this would be very difficult (i.e. a nightmare).

My ex and I both agreed to the 50/50 so there was little to contest. My daughter remained with her and was most weekends with me. Later when she was about 10 she lived with me and with 13 moved back to her mom's.

 

I know it is not always possible, certainly it was for us not always easy but for my daughters benefit we sucked it up and worked together.
But i know it's not always possible, people are hurt and it requires both sides to somewhat get along. Sorry I can't add much more but I hope it works out.

No matter what be be there for your kids it's worth it. Be patient and wait if you have to.

 

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Thanks for the advice. I don't anticipate a fair deal, neither emotionally nor materially. This will get quite nasty, I'm sure. 

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13 minutes ago, GER308 said:

I know it is not always possible, certainly it was for us not always easy but for my daughters benefit we sucked it up and worked together.

 

Key words here.

 

 

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Key words indeed. I personally am willing to work coherently on a smooth transition from married life with baby to shared custody. I just know my wife, and she's not the most reasonable of people.

 

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Since your child is so young, the Jugendamt (child welfare authority) and family court will probably designate her mother as her primary carer (Hauptbezugsperson), unless there is any particular reason why she should not be, which means that the mother usually has more time with the child and more rights. This situation will however change as the child gets older. It might be a good idea to get some advice from the Jugendamt as to what your rights and obligations will be in the event of divorce. As hard it as may be, you'll save yourself a world of trouble (and expense and lawyers) if you can keep constructive communication channels with the child's mother open.

Good luck!

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Today I consulted with a family lawyer. She was quite helpful. Some points:

  • by default, unfortunately I would only have access to my little girl every other weekend, and one weekday in two weeks. This seems to be one area which the system is clearly biased towards women, I'd even go as far as saying discriminatory. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for gender equality, advocate for equal pay etc. but this seems very unfair towards men, and certainly the most painful aspect of splitting up. On the plus side, I was told that there is nothing stopping me from requesting more time with my child, even up to 50%. Whether my wife would agree to it is a different matter.
  • Since we would still have joint custody, then we would still need permission from the other ex-spouse for holidays etc. I can live with that if we can at least be agreeable and flexible for the other person.
  • The value of the property which I own in the prenup is about 40% of its true value at the time it was drawn up. I was told the value was there just so the pre-nup lawyer could calculate her own fees. I thought that the increase in value may play a role, but apparently she can't touch it. Likewise, I can't touch her pensions. Fair enough.
  • Being a foreigner, and having no family in Germany means nothing to the court. Nothing else but to accept this fact.
  • Nationaility doesn't play a role, so long as at least one person is German.
  • Probably something similar mentioned on numerous posts before: the flat we own together, can be either taken over (bought out) by one of the spouses, or sold off. For sentimental reasons alone, I can't see myself buying out her share.
  • I would have to move out and be seperated for a year. The lawyer said this is the most difficult obstacle everyone seems to face.
  • Due to been a "high earner" child support would be roughly 400 euros a month. What I would pay to my wife would be far less than what it could be if she wasn't working. However, she could still exercise her right to not work, in which case the alimony for her would increase by ca 1K a month, which is a lot. This is still a grey area, because I explained that if I'm prepared to work and to look after my child max 50% of the time, why would she still give up her job and claim she needs to look after the child (as I'd free up alot of time for her), plus there's always Kita. This is a big question mark.
  • Due to the prenup, I was told to pour more into my flat, and less into paying back loans, Sondertilgungen etc. for a better financial gain, at least till the divorce is finalised.
  • Things like kita and private insurance, which I pay alone for my girl, would go in my favour to reduce the alimony. Also in my favour is that I also paid more for our flat (it wasn't quite 50-50 paid for). This could/would lower her alimony from me.


From all of this, the biggest decision to make now is whether to bite the bullit and move out and end a slow death, or to believe we can salvage anything left of our relationship. 

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Hi @notfromhere,

 

I feel for you and your family as an expat married to a German, “not from here” adapting, I know first hand how difficult life can get. 

 

I also know first hand how arguments start with my husband most of the time due to cultural differences that manifest and then blow up into bigger issues. 

 

I think it’s necissary as well as important that you have done your research and are informed. I get that you feel like you are living a slow death, but possibly biting the bullet around the festive season is not the best time? 

 

Im a Woman and if my husband left me over the Christmas / NY holidays with a small baby I would never forgive him and possibly play hardball to “FU” back - as that is what it will feel like to her - A big slap in the face not to mention her ego. 

 

I don’t know either of you but suggest for your sake and hers as well as your daughters to wait Untill after New Years. Maby not like 1 January but a few weeks into January or a good time like payday at the end of January. 

 

That way you could find a small place hopefully close to where your wife lives / you currently live, I have seen that you can rent apartments short term contracts as well. This is possibly a good idea, like if you know for a fact that you are leaving her then get an apartment and on the day you pick up the keys break the news to your wife so that if you have to leave to let her cool off you have somewhere to go. 

 

When / before you break the news I highly suggest getting some professional advice / help / support. I found a Dr. On a TT thread, Dr. Uri Shalev - https://www.psychology-hamburg.com/ - another idea which I would personally do if I wanted to get a divorce would be to instead of ending the marriage In one conversation I would say to my spouse that I have been seeing a therapist and would like them to join me for a couples session. During the couples session, your daughter would hopefully not be there  and you could in a safe environment address the issues :

 

• you either letting her know that you have made up your mind and are leaving her *** in which case I hope you will have a plan for accommodation and hopefully anything if sentimental value in a safe place like your car / new apartment 

 

• If my husband wanted a divorce from me i would appreciate around a month of weekly couples sessions Maby two months to discuss issues in a controlled and safe environment. And if no progress is made at least separation plans can be made hopefully in a calm environment. 

 

Dr. Uri speaks English and I know from individual sessions that he is good and apart from him being good it is just very nice to have someone to talk to that is non judgemental / bias. Who can also help you and your wife through this time, Maby if you dying now you can start a combination of couples therapy and individual sessions - I do all my sessions with him over Skype. Iv never been to his offices so you could also ask for that but trust me - for couples therapy go in there in person because your wife will not blow up like she might at home. 

 

Anyway ... 

 

I really do wish you and your family peace, harmony and love during the festive season and beyond. 

 

 

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On 11/28/2017, 9:06:50, notfromhere said:

I've been in Germany for many years now, and I have a german wife, and a 1 year old daughter. I'm British and since last year also German (due to Brexit...) My marriage to my wife has been very rocky almost immediately after she fell pregnant. We argue way too much and intensively. The dynamic has also changed with her family, especially now that we have a little girl, the MIL loves interfering more than she needs too, which doesn't help things. In the last few months, I've unfortunately been thinking divorce is looking more inevitable...

 

It's sad that you're already thinking of divorce. Seems too easy a thought to have after such a short period of time together. Have you guys gone to marriage counseling?

 

A relationship changes immensely once a baby is there. No one can prepare you for this and even the most solid of relationships can find themselves on a rocky path (and without work can and sometimes do lead to divorce). Everyone on the outside thought our marriage was a solid as they could come, I can't tell you how much my husband and I yelled at each other those first months,then one day he said "you make all the decisions from here on out" and that was the smartest thing he ever said to me. There just isn't time for a discussion when a baby is wailing! It wasn't easy for him either. And despite us trying to communicate, constantly having discussions, talking till our ears fell off, we finally saw a marriage counselor when our son was 3. The year before that was the the worst for our marriage and we kept going round and round with the same things. The moment I had the thought to divorce, I knew I was in trouble, so I suggested counseling. Surprisingly, he was on board from the get go (I don't know if he ever thought about divorce.)

 

That your MIL is interfering is clear to me. It's her daughter who has had a baby. And I tell you this, daughters just need their mamas during this time period EVEN if their relationship isn't the best one. I tell you from experience! But what is interfering in your opinion? Does your wife see it this way?

 

You have to set boundaries You and your wife  must be united in this.

 

Now onto the divorce:

 

The birth of the child of a friend of mine opened up many wounds and their relationship crumbled very quickly that first year . Once they agreed to go to counseling it was too late. He had already moved on. So they used the sessions as mediation in best preparing their lives as divorced parents. They had bought a house together prior to getting married and as per law, one could buy the other out (which she cannot afford, but he could). Their arrangement is that she stays in rent free (only paying her share of the mortgage) until the child is 16. Then she has the right to remain in the house for 10 more years, paying rent (to him). One reason, I suspect, for the arrangement, is that she is from the UK and they live in a small town close to his parents and himself. So this compromise is a small guarantee that she will stay put until the child is grown. Also, she loves her house and yard and doesn't want to leave it. They managed an amicable divorce in the end. But the beginning was very nasty.

 

I do hope you can find a good solution.

 

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I appreciate the advice, particularly the last 3 posts coming from only women...it helps me to see things more from a woman's perspective so that I can see where I may be going wrong, so this is good I think.

 

@Joanie: I'd like to think it was a hormone thing and totally understand what you mean by this being one of the most sensitive times of a relationship. I think strong couples can survive, but that's exactly the point, I don't think we are a strong couple. Even before the marriage, there have been the occasional bitter arguments. The unfortunate thing is, despite the good moments, arguments escalated and even went physical sometimes with her lashing out. She's not lashed out at me for about 2 years now, but she's gone into a fit of rage several times, at our flat, almost not been able to board a flight because she flipped out with a girl behind the check-in counter, the list goes on... You're probably thinking, why not bail out of the relationship earlier as soon as such circumstances happen, and believe me, there is no greater critic on this matter than me.

 

 

@ALLalone: thank you for the kind advice. I'm not really sure calling things a day in the next few weeks or waiting till after Christmas will make a difference. If anything, at least I get to not go to the in-laws for Christmas... I don't think my wife will forgive anyway, whether before or after Christmas. I like the idea of counselling, I even mentioned it a few times but it just gets rejected as if that is for other people. The problem is, we can't debate, well, I can, but she escalates the debate, and then that provokes me. Earlier in the relationship I was a lot more passive. Then when she started testing more and more my boundaries, I ceased being passive and began putting my foot down on certain issues. Arguing with her recently is like arguing with a teenager, and she's in her mid-30s. It gets to a point where I'm not even sure I have the motivation to get back with her, and if truth be told, if it weren't for the fact she was already one month pregnant with our daughter, I would have divorced her incredibly soon after the wedding, as sad as that sounds.

 

 @Elfenstar: you asked what is "interfering"...well in September my wife and I had an argument when her parents were at the flat too, she stormed off to the bedroom, and then her mother took over. She criticised me for not getting an permanant job in Franfkurt instead of freelancing (therefore giving up my freelance status), telling me to take a cut in my pay (I'm one night a week not in Frankfurt), telling me to sell my other flat to generate more money for us (despite the other flat is my pension pot, as I don't have a pension), then she criticised me for the prenup and "would never marry her husband" if he insisted on one...though she was married at 19 (how many 19 year olds have something to "prenup" anyway?!) and forgets the prenup also protects my wife's pension.

 

The situation exhausts me and I'm living in some kind of depression bubble. I need to dramtically change this routine. I'm not looking forward to moving out, not seeing my little girl everyday...but on the otherhand, it may help me to feel happy again. Plus I don't want my daughter growing up hating her parents because of the bitter arguments. 

 

I'd like advice on the "Trennungsjahr" and how to best handle this phase, both emotionally (keeping up a balance of seeing a child before the divorce is decreed that determines when/how long you get to see the child etc.), and financially (keeping on top of two properties, preparing to mitigate the fallout, etc.).

 

Thank you again for the advice everyone.

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Does your wife know you're thinking about divorce? If so, then maybe she would consider counseling knowing how seriously unhappy you are. I told my husband back then I was at my wits end and nearly ready to give up (I didn't say divorce). He agreed to counseling and we're better off for it.

 

I too was very passive and then I found my voice. Unfortunately, this means when my hubs and I argue, we usually start yelling at each other, which is unhealthy, but I get angry so fast! He usually backs down and then I calm myself and we begin talking properly. I've had to learn too how to communicate better.

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1 hour ago, Elfenstar said:

Does your wife know you're thinking about divorce? If so, then maybe she would consider counseling knowing how seriously unhappy you are. I told my husband back then I was at my wits end and nearly ready to give up (I didn't say divorce). He agreed to counseling and we're better off for it.

 

I too was very passive and then I found my voice. Unfortunately, this means when my hubs and I argue, we usually start yelling at each other, which is unhealthy, but I get angry so fast! He usually backs down and then I calm myself and we begin talking properly. I've had to learn too how to communicate better.

 

The problem is when contempt has reared it's ugly head and you no longer love your partner anymore. Then the damage is irrepairable. Some people do stick around for the sake of the kids, but this in itself can be damaging as the constant arguments can be bad for them. When divorce is on the cards, then it is too late already.

Some people do stay in an unhappy marriage, it is not worth it. We all only have one life after all.

 

https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/

 

 

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On 12/8/2017, 11:06:35, notfromhere said:

The situation exhausts me and I'm living in some kind of depression bubble. I need to dramtically change this routine. I'm not looking forward to moving out, not seeing my little girl everyday...but on the otherhand, it may help me to feel happy again.

 

If you are depressed, I don't think anything external would help. Please get some counseling if only for yourself.

 

Your daughter won't have to grow up with bitterness if you and your wife would get couple counseling and learn how to argue/not argue. It saved my marriage and there were no kids at home at the time.

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