Separation & Divorce

Relationships are very individual matters and the same is true for separations and divorces. How the latter are experienced is unique to each person affected and can range from an amicable settlement to a painful crisis of loss. How people deal with the experience is also unique to each individual. A separation or divorce can have an impact on all family members. Children in particular need a lot of attention during this time.

The decision to separate or divorce

Sad couple after an argument

Just as every relationship is unique, the reasons for a separation or a divorce are also highly individual. According to the statistics, around one in three marriages currently ends in divorce. The divorce rate in Germany in 2021 was around 40 percent. Admitting that the relationship has failed is not easy for many couples. Especially if children are involved, previous attempts may have been made to save the relationship – perhaps through family or relationship counselling, or with the help of friends or family. If this has had no effect and it is clear that the relationship has finally failed, one partner often moves out of the shared home. This marks the start of the divorce procedure in German law.

From relationship crisis to separation or divorce

Before a separation actually occurs, most couples go through several phases: 

1. Relationship crisis

In this phase, one or both partners are increasingly thinking about separation and the possible consequences. What might it mean financially and how might it affect the children? In the first place, you need to be clear about your own feelings and those of your partner as well as the possibilities of finding a way out of the crisis. It is important to explore possible ways of dealing with the crisis, as well as preferably seeking advice on the consequences of separation and divorce, and checking your own documents, income and assets.

2. Separation

In the event of a separation, it is up to the couple alone to decide how they want to organise it. Living apart for a while can help to overcome the relationship crisis. With the benefit of a little distance, the partners sometimes manage to rekindle mutual interest and affection and start to spend time together again. In a marriage, the separation does not change the fact that you are still married. A prerequisite for divorce in German law is that the spouses have been living apart and independently for at least a year. They must each maintain their own household and may no longer be intimate with each other.

3. Applying for divorce

Sooner or later, one or both partners might decide they want to draw a line under the marriage for good. The length of the divorce proceedings, from the initial application to the finalisation of the divorce, depends on the extent to which the spouses agree on the details of the divorce agreement. For legal divorce proceedings to be initiated, a divorce application must be filed by a lawyer with the relevant family court.

4. Divorce

During the final stage of the divorce proceedings, the spouses are given a date when they have to appear in front of the family court. At the end of the hearing, the judge will announce the divorce. A name change is now possible and matters of insurance, tax and inheritance change to fit the new circumstances.

Separating as a couple and remaining parents

In many cases, a separation also puts parenthood to the test. If the parents’ relationship breaks down, it also has an impact on the life of the children. If a separation is unavoidable, there are several things that can be done to minimise the stress and negative consequences for the children.  

heart between two hands
The needs of the child are paramount
The authors Remo Largo and Monika Czernin sum it up well: Whether children are happy or not is not determined by the structure of the family, but by the way parents respond to their children's needs and shape their relationships. The more parents know about their children's needs and fears, the easier it is to make the best possible decisions.
Keeping the best interests of the child in mind
In addition to the parents’ personal grief, disappointment, anger and pain, the children also experience a destabilised sense of security and safety. Arguments in front of the children and other impositions cause immense stress and should be avoided.
sewn heart
Talking to the children
Although often unspoken, children will be preoccupied with the question of what they have done to cause their parents to stop loving each other. By talking to them, parents can soothe this fear and explain that, although they will be breaking up as a couple, they are still the children’s parents and will be there for them for the rest of their lives.
two bodies symbolizing cohesion
Attention and Spending time with both parents
Children usually have an increased need for attention during this time. Spending time together with both parents shows the child that he or she is still loved and that the relationship with the parents remains stable despite the problems affecting the spousal relationship.

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