I have noticed that I receive many e-mails with the same questions, so I have started to post the most frequent questions – and of course the answers to them – for everyone to read for free. As this section might already answer many of your questions, I invite you to browse these FAQ before you contact me (or any other lawyer) about your case.
Before asking a new question, please read through the many comments which may already answer your questions. And if you find these FAQ useful or if you ask a new question, it would be very nice if you make a donation. Thank you!
1. We did not get married in Germany. Can we get a divorce in Germany or do we need to return to the country of marriage?
As long as you have some ties to Germany, whether it be residence or citizenship, you can file for divorce in Germany. You do NOT need to return to Las Vegas, Denmark or wherever you might have gotten married. – Although it might of course be a good excuse to do so if you got married in Fiji, for example.
2. We are both non-German citizens. Can we get a divorce in Germany?
Yes. As long as one of you has residence in Germany for at least a year, or both of you have residence in Germany at the moment, the German court will accept your divorce case.
However, if you are both foreigners, the German court might apply the divorce law of your home country. This is actually often quite an interesting option, because you can use your home country’s law without having to go back or having to undergo the court process in your home country.
3. Will my home country recognize the German divorce?
That depends on your home country, of course. But if minimum requirements of due process are kept (such as giving the other party time to respond and letting them know of the court date in due time), most countries do fully recognize German divorces and other court orders.
4. What are the requirements to get a divorce in Germany?
If the court applies German law, you only need to show that you have been separated for one year. You do not need to explain why the marriage broke up or why you separated. This one year separation requirement can also be met if you still live at the same address. You are just not supposed to sleep in the same bed or engage in too many joint activities.
This also enables a couple who both want a quicker divorce to file way before the one year of separation is fulfilled by just claiming that they have been separated for one year. If both spouses stick to the story, the court is not going to find out about it and will grant the divorce.
5. I am not yet separated for one year and my spouse won’t cooperate, but I still want a quicker divorce. Any chance?
There might be a chance, but it’s not easy: We could either try to convince the German court to use the law of your home country or the country of your last residence, which might not have the one year separation requirement. Or you could try to argue that remaining married poses an undue hardship on you. The courts only accept this argument if your spouse has committed criminal acts against you or is constantly harassing or cheating on you. Usually then, these cases become so messy that the court process takes over a year and you may as well have waited.
6. How long does a divorce proceeding take in Germany?
If both of you live in Germany and you have only the divorce (no child custody, no financial claims), it usually takes between 4 and 6 months. If you argue about custody and visitation for your children, about child support and alimony, about your house and your retirement, it might easily take a few years.
If your spouse lives in another country, getting him or her served is the things that drags it out. This could mean another one or two months if we need to get somebody served in the EU or in North America, or up to a year if you need to get somebody served in Kazakhstan.
7. Do we both need an attorney?
No, only the filing party needs an attorney. The respondent does not necessarily need an attorney if it’s an amicable divorce.
Sometimes, spouses even come in together to see me to take care of their amicable divorce. No other attorney is needed in these scenarios and you save quite some money.
8. Can I file for divorce without knowing where my spouse lives?
Yes, but we would need to show to the court that we have done everything reasonable in our power to locate him or her, e.g. by researching public records, by calling or e-mailing relatives, friends, former co-workers of your spouse. If all of this will yield no result, you can still get a divorce.
9. I would like to have an annulment instead of a divorce.
You would need to have a very good reason for that: Either you found out that your spouse is already married to somebody else. Or you can prove that your spouse lied to you or failed to disclose important things that would have prevented you from getting married to him or her, had you known about them (e.g. your spouse has a lethal sexually transmittable disease and did not tell you).
Without very good reasons (and the evidence to support them), it’s virtually impossible to get an annulment from a German court.
10. How soon after a divorce can I get married again?
Whenever I hear that question, I would like to ask “Didn’t you learn a thing from the last relationship? Why don’t you enjoy single life for a while?”. But the client is king, and no question remains unanswered: After the court grants the divorce, both spouses still have one month to appeal. Unless both of you waive their right to an appeal at the divorce hearing, you will have to wait one month before you can get married again.
CAVEAT: In a complicated legal field like international family law, there are thousands of possible constellations. It would be impossible to word these FAQ in a way that they would fit for all scenarios. These FAQ were written with “standard” cases in mind that constitute the large part of requests that I receive. They might not be applicable in unusually complex cases.
To find out where your case is on the complexity scale, some common sense will help: If you are two foreign nationals who moved to Germany, or you are a foreign national married to a German citizen, these FAQ should give you some pretty good guidance. If on the other hand, you are a dual citizen of Ecuador and the USA and got married in Cyprus to a dual citizen of Germany and Israel after you signed a prenuptial agreement in Switzerland which also governs the fate of your corporations in Russia and Turkmenistan and you have two children in school in Australia plus an adopted child from Zambia, you know that these FAQ cannot possibly address your case.