Filing for Divorce: When and How to End a Marriage

When can you file for divorce? What are the costs and do you absolutely need a lawyer? Here you will find the most important information about filing for divorce and find out what requirements married couples have to meet for the application.

What is necessary to file for divorce?

Simply going to a lawyer is not enough to file for divorce. In order for the lawyer to be able to file for divorce with the family court, an explicit order is required that the divorce application is to be filed. This can be done either in person or by post. In addition, the lawyer needs various documents to file for divorce:

  • The marriage certificate is required to file for divorce. It can be submitted either in the original or as an officially certified copy. If the marriage certificate can no longer be found, a replacement can be requested from the responsible registry office – for a fee. Under certain circumstances, an excerpt from the family register is sufficient.
  • If there are minor children in the marriage, their birth certificates must also be attached in the original or as a certified copy.
  • Except for the equalization of pensions, ancillary matters are not automatically processed as part of the divorce proceedings, but require separate applications. If available, evidence of the amicable settlement of ancillary matters, such as the marriage contract or the agreement on the consequences of divorce, must be enclosed. If separate applications are to be made, this can be done up to two weeks before the divorce date.
  • In order to be able to act in court, the divorce lawyer will still require a written power of attorney authorizing him to represent the applicant legally.

In addition to these things, information about the personal situation of the spouses is also required in the divorce application, for example where they currently live, what their last joint residence was, where the common children live, when the separation took place and how it went.

Filing for divorce without a lawyer?

Filing for divorce without a lawyer is not possible. For divorces in Germany there is an obligation to have a lawyer, which means that only a lawyer can submit the divorce application to the court. If the divorce is amicable, i.e. if the “opponent” agrees to the divorce application without further ado, no second lawyer is necessary. Only in the event that the application is opposed or other matters are to be dealt with during the proceedings do both spouses have to appoint their own lawyer.

When to file for divorce?

The filing for divorce is theoretically possible at the end of the year of separation at the earliest , as this is the prerequisite for a marriage to be divorced. In practice, however, the divorce lawyer often submits the application for divorce about three months before the end of the year of separation. He takes into account the waiting times that result from the calculation of the pension equalization and that usually means that there is no divorce date before the end of the year of separation.

However, such an approach when filing for divorce is not entirely risk-free. From a purely formal point of view, the application for a divorce is not conclusive in such a case, since not all the requirements for a divorce are present at the time the application is made. The family court can therefore reject the application, which would necessitate an appeal procedure and would incur additional costs. It is also possible that if the divorce is filed prematurely, the entitlement to legal aid will no longer apply.

Who should file for divorce?

In principle, it is irrelevant which of the two spouses files for divorce. The divorce process itself is always the same, no matter which spouse files the divorce application. There may only be differences with regard to the costs incurred. For example, if only one partner is entitled to legal aid, it is advisable that they take the initiative when filing for divorce. This makes sense above all if the partners agree and apart from the divorce itself there are no further follow-up matters, such as questions about maintenance or custody, are to be regulated. In such a case, the second partner would not need to hire their own lawyer, which would result in minimal costs for both spouses in the divorce.

What are the costs of filing for divorce?

In order to cover the costs incurred, the family court demands a so-called advance on court costs when filing for divorce. This only applies if the applicant receives legal aid. The divorce lawyer will therefore ask the applicant to pay this advance on court costs when filing for divorce. If this does not happen, the divorce lawyer can still submit the application, but it will not be processed further by the court. You can find more information about the costs of a divorce in our special Divorce .

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