Healy O'Connor

Germany and Ireland and Divorce-How do they compare?

The Myth of Immediate Divorce in Germany


“We don’t communicate anymore”

“He had an affair.”

“She got fat.”

“I don’t want to hide the bruises anymore.”

Over time, a lot of curious cases have taken place in Germany:

  • In Munich a man insisted that his wife spend every night with him in a hammock. She slept for 23 years with him, but her 16th tumble out of the “marital bed” was her one too many – the wife filed for divorce.
  • After 20 years of marriage a man claimed that his wife was solely to blame for the end of their relationship. The Reason: The woman had increased in weight excessively since the wedding. The application of the macho husband was dismissed on the grounds that an increase in weight counts for “ordinary life risk”.


  •  A man from Bavaria wanted a regular sex life. In the prenuptial agreement the husband entitled himself to sexual intercourse with his wife three times per week. That wasn’t it seems enough. It was also recorded which lingerie and which colour she was to wear each week. The wife initially agreed, but after two years she had enough of the daily routine. Divorced!


Reasons for divorce in Germany

The reasons for divorce in Germany have changed with time. Violence, alcoholism and infidelity have been replaced by communication problems and lack of common interests. By comparison, the divorce rate in Germany is higher than the rate of Ireland.

In Germany divorce connected with civil marriage was brought in 1875, but the history of divorce dates back much farther. For instance in the 16th Century there was divorce brought about by the Reformations of Martin Luther.

Until the 1960’s divorce had grave social and personal consequences in Germany. It was socially undesirable and connected to personal failure and collapse.

Until “The First Law for the Reform of Marriage and Family Law (1. EheRG)” in 1976 in Germany the distribution of tasks between spouses was regulated as follows: The man was responsible for the family’s income, the woman for the household and child education. Women were only allowed to work, if it was consistent with the family. The husband had all decisive rights.

Since the Reform there is no more statutory distribution of tasks. Spouses enjoy equal rights and have to show equal consideration for the family.

Whereas in Ireland divorce is possible since 1996.

Unfortunately, not every marriage has a happy ending, but normally the German Legal System prevents a sudden divorce.

The law says, the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Husband and wife have to appear before a Judge and to state this expressly.

However, the difference to other jurisdictions is that it is not necessary to establish the reasons for the breakdown.

On the one hand divorce is possible after a one-year separation on condition that it is consensual.

On the other hand, if one spouse disagrees with the divorce a three-year separation is necessary.

Legal Separations imply amicable, physical, mental and sexual separation.

The sole exception is the hardship case. The continuation of the marriage constitutes an unreasonable hardship for one of the spouses. It must be unbearable for that spouse, who relies on it to await the end of the one-year separation.

Examples for hardship cases are:

  • Repeated alcoholism, refusal or failure of treatment
  • Sham marriage to obtain a residential permit
  • Crime, death threats and abusive language against the spouse
  • Years of drug abuse in the presence of children


Whereas non-hardship cases are:

  • Marital infidelity
  • Children from extramarital relations
  • Sloppy housekeeping


In each of these divorce proceedings it is possible to decide solely or in conjunction with the following claims: maintenance settlement, division of family home and assets, alimony, child maintenance and parental custody.


Children of divorce

For the child it means strong emotional stress. At times such as these, children need more time and attention from their parents than usual, but the parents have no time. This has the consequence that the child is neglected and therefore often left to themselves.

That parent, who doesn’t live with the child must pay maintenance. Against this, the other parent with which the child lives must pay the living costs and this is considered as an equivalent to maintenance.

After the divorce, custody of the child can be devolved to one or both parents. If the parents have joint custody, one parent needs agreement from the other for the following matters:

Change of school, choice of apprenticeship, where the child will live and medical operations – unless it cannot be postponed urgency.

In Family Court one parent can request sole custody of their child, because of a risk to the child’s well-being or for a better way of life.

To avoid years of conflict, the focus of parents should be directed at the child’s well-being.


The process will be decided in Family Court. The divorce is valid with the final decision.


In summary, in Germany divorce is faster and cheaper by mutual agreement and an “immediate divorce” is only possible in hardship cases. Everybody should be aware that divorces have a number of legal consequences and a wedding needs to be well considered.


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