When a person assumes his/her marriage has ultimately failed, he or she may think of divorce. To prevent couples from prematurely ending their marriage, in Germany, there is a so-called "year of separation" ("Trennungsjahr") couples need to go through before the official divorce; i.e. you cannot be divorced until you live separately from your spouse for at least one year.
However, there are exceptions to this general rule:
- If you cannot be expected to wait for a year, your divorce may take place faster. You may be exempt from spending a year of separation, e.g. if your spouse was frequently and certifiably violent against you, or if you or your partner has been in an extramarital relationship for months, or when one of you is expecting a child from an extramarital relationship.
- If your partner does not agree to a divorce and presents valid reasons why your marriage has not ultimately failed, you need to live separately for three (instead of just one) years before you can officially get a divorce.
You need to prove that you have actually been living separately for one (or three) year(s). The year of separation begins immediately after the couple separate economically and physically, i.e. when your bank accounts are not joint anymore and you no longer live in the same apartment. If moving out is not possible and you still have to live together during the year of separation, you must have separate bedrooms and live independently from each other. If your partner does not agree with the separation, it is recommended to send him a registered letter ("Einschreiben") declaring your decision for divorce and to keep the postal receipt.
Important: You can submit the divorce application shortly before the end of the year(s) of separation, as it usually takes a few months before the court issues a divorce decree.