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Divorce in Germany

When getting a divorce in Germany the first step is to consult a lawyer. Get a Fachanwalt for Familienrecht - this means the lawyer has passed a special exam on family law and is specialised in divorces.

Look for one here: https://anwaltauskunft.de/magazin#ls-extended
  • PLZ/Ort: your town
  • Fachanwältin/Fachanwalt: Familienrecht
  • nur Fachanwätinnen/Fachanwälte: An
  • Fremdsprache: Englisch
There will be loads of lawyers fulfilling above criteria in your town.

Since all lawyers cost the same, there's no advantage getting someone who is not qualified. If you don't know yet whether you want to file for divorce, the lawyer can charge you for the initial consultation (Erstberatung), maximum 226.10 euro (more usual is about 150 euro). However, if you are sure on filing for divorce you can just engage him/her to do so and he/she can't charge you that initial consultation fee, just the lawyer's fees for the whole divorce case calculated below.

On no account sign a "Honorarvereinbarung" with your lawyer, this would allow him/her to charge you more than according to the law governing their cost (RVG-Rechtsanwaltsvergütungsgesetz). If you have a low income your lawyer should apply for the German state to pay for your divorce (Prozesskostenhilfe). It is understood that when you start earning more, you will pay the German state back, but no interest is charged.

You should also know that your lawyer and your husband's/wife's lawyer will always try to reach an agreement (Vereinbarung, Vergleich), since this means they get 40% more fees (3.5 FEES instead of 2.5 FEES, see explanation next paragraph on extra 1.0 FEE Vergleichsgebühr). This effect is intended by the German state since it saves work for the courts and you will see the judge encouraging it very insistently (well, it saves her/him work, that way she/he won't have to write a judgement!).

You should calculate about 3.5 times a FEE for each lawyer:

1.3 fees for case (Verfahrensgebühr),

+ 1.2 fees for the court appearance of the lawyer (Termingebühr), and

+ 1.0 fees for the reached agreement (Vergleichsgebühr).


Total: 3.5 FEEs + some small fees for telephone costs, postage (less than 50 euro)

A FEE is calculated according to the sum of everything you want to argue (= Streitwert) about (value of your property to be divided + 12 times the monthly alimony you want). You can calculate a FEE (Gebühr) here: rechtsanwaltsgebuehren.de

Just put in:
  • your Streitwert, e.g. 50000 euro
  • Gebühr: 1.0
  • click on "Berechnen"
Multiply the resulting FEE 1046 euro by 3.5 = 3138 euro is the fee for each lawyer for a Streitwert of 50000 euro.

Additionally, you will have to pay court fees, but they are much less, e.g. 500 euro‚ for a Streitwert of 50000 euro.

From the time of filing for divorce until the divorce is pronounced, the partner who earns more has to pay the partner who earns less alimony during the time of separation (Trennungsunterhalt).It is usually calculated as follows:
  • if only your husband/wife earns: 3/7 of (95% of his/her net income - child alimony)
  • if both of you earn: half of difference between (95% of his/her net income - child alimony) and (95% of your net income)
However, "Trennungsunterhalt" is only due from the time your lawyer formally asks for it from your husband/wife and the court, e.g. if your lawyer just remembers about the Trennungsunterhalt 6 months after filing for divorce, that's just your bad luck for the time before (of course you could then try suing your lawyer for stupidity...).

If you have children, the alimony for each child is calculated according to the Düsseldorfer Tabelle (substract half of Kindergeld from the amount, minus 92 euro):

2018 version: Duesseldorfer Tabelle Stand 2018

According to German alimony law (Unterhaltsrecht), if you have no children, you get no further alimony from your husband/wife after the divorce (look on the bright side, this means neither will you have to pay him/her anything if he/she stops earning).

If you have children, you will be awarded child care alimony (Betreuungsunterhalt) by the court until your youngest child's third birthday. No alimony beyond that, since the German law supposes that from then on your child should attend Kindergarten and you should get a job.Alimony for the children is paid until the child has completed training in his/her profession (Ausbildung), i.e. until the university degree at the most.

However, since March 2013, change in the law takes into consideration long marriages (over 15-20 years, even childless) as a strong argument in favor of alimony, especially given the fact that the financially disadvantaged spouse in these cases are likely to be older with limited prospect of self-support.

Since 1977 it doesn't matter in Germany in a divorce case whose fault a divorce was, there are no punitive damages awarded. So as far as German law sees it, your husband/wife could have had 10 affairs or for that matter you could have had them, it will not affect the treatment by the court or the alimony awarded or who the children will live with (in 95% of cases the mother)!

Anyone English who is thinking of getting divorced in Germany should, as a preliminary step, find out whether there might be jurisdiction for them to file for a divorce in England.This is potentially crucially important as the financial outcome of a divorce in England may be very different from the financial outcome of a divorce in Germany. Furthermore, under Brussels II, whichever spouse files for a divorce first in time secures jurisdiction in that country.Thus, it is essential to establish which country you want to file in and do so before the other spouse does.

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