German Family Law: Alimony and divorce law in Germany

A.) Spousal Support during the marriage (“Familienunterhalt”) According to s 1360, 1360 a, b of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) spouses in Germany are legally obliged to support each other while the marriage persists.

This means, that both of the spouses are obliged, each in relation to their own means and their own ability to work outside or inside the home, to contribute to the needs of the family. This obligation generally exists until the spouses separate in preparation for a divorce (the “year of separation” described below).

Each spouse is obligated to support the family by paying housekeeping allowance, pocket money and under special circumstances the education costs and the special needs of the other spouse:

1.) Housekeeping allowance (“Haushaltsgeld”) Part of the family maintenance is the housekeeping allowance. Each spouse has to support the other (and the children) to meet basic needs (accommodation, food, clothes, medical support, health and pension insurance) regardless of how long they are married. If one of the spouses is unemployed, he is obliged to do the housekeeping.

There is no set formula for the amount of the allowance owed and therefore each case has to be assessed individually, based on the specific circumstances.

2.) Pocket money (“Taschengeld”) The employed spouse is also obliged to pay the not working spouse an adequate amount of so called “pocket money”.

Unlike the housekeeping allowance, which is earmarked for the purposes described above, the pocket money is free to use by the unemployed spouse.

According to the courts, the employed spouse should pay pocket money of about 5-7% of his net income to the unemployed spouse. However, the unemployed spouse is not entitled to get pocket money if the entire income of the employed spouse is needed to pay the housekeeping allowance.

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