Argh. Your marriage has come to a practical end and how to get it legally ended!


Family Relations

This section will discuss situations dealing with family relationships. Since you are a foreigner, it is not normal, that German law and not your home law will be applicable to your matrimonial rights and duties. The contrary is more typical. Your national law will generally rule all questions – unless that rule violates Germany’s public order (art. 6 EGBGB). "Public order" is to be understood here as the elementary principles of German law. If your marriage is bi-national and one nationality is German, then German law is usually applicable. Generally, you may have problems with the acknowledgement of your national law when you are from an Islamic culture. The most common family interrelationships shall be treated, from the child to parent relations to divorce. You will also have the opportunity to download relevant checklists to become married or register your divorce in Germany.

Relationships between Spouses

This page will show you the relationship for the time after marriage and before split-up.


Family Relationships until Marriage as Finances

This page is covering the relationship of a man and a women until they have become married. Generally, the same will be apply to a homo relationship since Germany has something like a "homo marriage". When you are not married, regardless of your sexual orientation, you do not have a relationship that is ruled by family law. You do not have a family under German law – even you were living decades unmarried like husband and wife. In other words, a German boy/girl friend will usually not bring any privileges.

My fiance and I belong to different countries and want to marry in Germany. Do we have to meet German rules to be able to marry? And how do we prove it?

No, you have to meet the rules of your home country to be capable of marriage. If your national law says that you cannot marry because you are too young, then you can­not marry in Germany either. German law refers to your home law determining the capability to marry. When applying for a marriage certificate in Ger­many you have to hand in an "Ehefähigkeitszeugnis" (= certificate of impediment, §1309 BGB), which you can obtain from your consulate. Nevertheless, the German officer will control your status of not being married. Reckon that you will have to be married with an interpreter at the ceremony even if you fluently speak German. Bureaucracy…    

According to my national law, I cannot be divorced. Germany is a modern country. Is there not an exception to the ban on bigamy so that I can marry in Germany?

There are exceptions according to art. 13 II EGBGB . Exceptions will be made if

  • a fiance lives in Germany or is a German citizen, and
  • the fiances have tried all reasonable mea­sures to meet the formal requirements of marriage capacity.

It is incompatible with the freedom of marriage to deny marriage; a former marriage of a spouse especially does not oppose this freedom if the continuance has been removed by a decision ruled in or accepted in Germany, or the spouse of the fiance has died.
You must meet all the requirements, and not just one or two. You are expected to have tried to receive your divorce acknowledged in your home country, or to have applied to be relieved of a marriage impediment from your ambassador to fulfill point No. 2. The prerequisite of No. 3 will always be met if you fulfill one of the mentioned examples; but other reasons are also possible.
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In my home country, we are only required to go to our priest and apply for marriage. I heard that in Germany you must go to the local municipality. A church wedding has no legal and only spiritual meaning. Is that not strange?
Well, Germans consider your situation as strange. It is a conditio sine qua non to become married by the civil registrar of the office of vital statistics (Standesbeamter) of your municipality (Art. 13 III EGBGB). If you only went to your priest in Germany, then your marriage is not valid here. In Germany, you are first required to go to the Standesbeamter, and then to the priest! But not only that! To be wed first by a priest fulfills an administrative offense (§67 PStG) committed by you, your partner, and your priest.
That can’t be! We were wed in front of our Ambassador!

Yes, this is the only exception. I suppose, both of you are foreigners and a person authorized hereto by the government wed you, and at least one of the fiancés belongs to that country. You may be warned that if you marry in Germany in front of the officer of recording, but your national law exclusively requires becoming married by a priest, then you need to perform the ceremony with the pastor, too. Marrying only in front of an officer of vital statistics only complies with German law. Lawyers call this situation, where one country acknowledges the marriage, and another one does not, a “limping marriage”. This might turn out to be a problem if your national law requires something from your partner.  

I recently got married in church and just now found out that we should have gone to the Standesamt. Is German law really so strict? Is there no possibility that I can be married by a priest in Germany? Is my marriage really invalid?

Yes, German law is so strict. Your marriage is, at least in Germany, of no legal value – only spiritual. Your marriage might be binding at home, though. I am not saying that a priest at home may not marry you. It is only the rule of German law, saying “domestic marriage, domestic form”. Let us suppose that your matrimonial procedure was correctly obeyed, and furthermore that your wedding took place at home. Then, it will then be in force. Such a marriage will be acknowledged in Germany. Now, this leads us to a back door to this statutory decision. A decision of a foreign court or foreign government agency (e.g. embassy), saying that the marriage with a priest is valid in its country, will be acknowledged in Germany. To be really treated as a married couple, this court decision is to be filed at the Standesamt (office of recording). To file this decision it must be formally acknowledged in Germany. This procedure is completed by the Landesjustizverwaltung (= State Administration Office) at your municipality. When applying, please have some money for fees (approx. € 50 should be sufficient) and your wedding certificate in both original and copy with a certified translation at hand. 

How do I find the Landesjustizverwaltung?

This office is to be found at the Landgericht (district court) in your vicinity. District courts are only found in cities. So, if you live in a town, go to its homepage and look for the page on courts. If there should be no such entry, then you could try the next city’s homepage and carefully look for the local jurisdiction. Either look at the district court’s website or call or ask them if they have jurisdiction. If your town has a county court, you can call and ask them too.

Is there any paperwork to get married in Germany?

You need to manage a lot of paperwork. What exactly needs to be done depends on what your current status is. If you are divorced, widowed, have children or not is all taken into account. The details you will be reading will always relate to a non-German not born in Germany!

I just learned from the officer at the recording office that my divorce needs to be formally acknowledged. How is this done?

Only on an exceptional basis will foreign divorces be considered valid under German law. Fees will cost between € 10 and € 310 and are to be paid at the office of vital statistics, where you also hand in your application. Best would be to hire an attorney because this is a pretty complicated matter.


Relevant Checklists for you to purchase:

Documents for Marriage for Singles

Documents for Marriage if You are Divorced

Documents for Marriage if You Have Joint Children

Documents for Marriage if You Have Children from Previous Relationships


Additional information