If a partnership is no longer workable in the long run, it may be better to go your separate ways. But this is rarely easy. This is because there are many things to consider when unmarried couples separate or when married couples divorce. This is all the more true if you are currently pregnant or already have children. Many questions must be answered. Who will stay in the apartment or house? Whom will our child live with? When, where and how often can my partner visit our child? Who will support our child? What will happen to our joint assets? When and how do I file for divorce?
There are counselling centres that you can turn to for many of the questions that arise during this difficult phase. There you will find advice and support. Many of their services are free of charge. The counselors are knowledgeable about all the important issues, for example child support, visitation and custody. They will help you redesign your life and can explain what options are available for dividing your joint assets. Counselling centres can also provide tips on how to deal with conflicts. You can also find out how best to talk to children about the separation or how to get state financial support if you need it. You can find contact information for counselling centres in your area via the Early Help Network (Netzwerk Frühe Hilfen).
There are two important requirements for divorce. You need a lawyer and you need to be able to prove that you and your partner have had a year of separation. That means you and your partner need to have lived apart for at least a year. There should no longer be a ‘domestic community’. The separation year begins when the domestic partnership is officially dissolved.
The clearest way to show separation is when one of you moves out of the house or apartment you’ve shared. However, if there is not enough money for this, there is another way. Then each spouse must have their own area within the home and be responsible for themselves. That means you have separate finances. You no longer shop, cook or eat together. You will also need to split the cost of your apartment or house. There are a few exceptions only if you have children together. Then you are allowed to eat together again from time to time or do something together without it affecting the separation year.
It's important that you clearly tell your partner that you want a divorce. And it's best to keep a written record of the date of separation. This will later be evidence for the court when deciding on the divorce. You can also contact a lawyer and ask them to write to your partner telling them that you are separating. Maybe you signed a prenup when you got married. Then the provisions set forth in that document will go into effect.
In order to get a divorce, you must file a petition for divorce with your local family court. However, you can only do this application once the separation year has finished. If you file too early, there is a risk that the judge will reject your application and that you will have to pay fees.
Some married couples try to shorten their separation year. They claim to the court that the year has already expired, even though they have only been living apart for a few weeks or months. This can have serious consequences. For example, if your spouse changes their mind and refuses the divorce after all. If the judge finds out that you have not been honest about your separation dates, not only are you at risk of having the divorce petition dismissed, you will also have to pay the court and procedural fees and possibly an appointment fee for your lawyer. You could even be accused of trying to commit litigation fraud. That's a felony. So, stick to the truth if possible.
When couples break up, it's almost always about money. Your best bet is to get thorough legal advice on what's important to you in your situation. But there are also a few general rules you should know. If you have a joint bank account, you should request a closure of that account as soon as possible. If your joint child lives with you, or your joint children live with you, you are entitled to have your partner pay child support from the date of separation. If they refuses to do so or pay too little or irregularly, you can apply for an advance on child support at the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt). Under certain circumstances, your partner is also obligated to pay you alimony. However, you are no longer entitled to this if you are in a new committed relationship.