Duration, procedure and costs of the divorce proceedings

Duration of the divorce proceedings

The duration of the divorce proceedings may vary depending on individual circumstances. As a rule, it depends on the workload of the competent family court and the degree of agreement of the spouses regarding the divorce consequences. In an amicable divorce, where the spouses agree on all material matters, the process can be completed relatively quickly. In Germany, the legally required separation year before filing for divorce is usually the longest period of the proceedings. In general, the duration of the divorce proceedings depends on the following factors:

  1. Are both spouses willing to divorce?
  2. Have the consequences of divorce already been arranged in a prenuptial agreement or a separation and divorce agreement?
  3. Does a pension equalization have to be carried out?
  4. How quickly do involved lawyers and the relevant family court work?

The course of the divorce proceedings

Here is an overview of the divorce process:

  1. Separation phase: The separation phase begins when a couple decides to go their separate ways. This may mean that they live separately and run separate households. The spouses must be separated in Germany for at least one year before their marriage can be divorced.
  2. Filing for divorce: After separation, one of the spouses or both files for divorce with a court of competent jurisdiction. The filing is made in Germany by a lawyer.
  3. Service: After the divorce has been filed, the other spouse must be formally notified. This is done by an official notification from the court.
  4. Reply to the petition for divorce: The other spouse may comment on the petition for divorce.
  5. Pension equalization: As a rule, the so-called pension equalization takes place automatically in divorce proceedings. This concerns the equalization between the spouses of pension expectancy points acquired during the marriage. This can be excluded by notarial agreement or in court if the spouses are both represented by lawyers. If the marriage is of short duration (less than three years), pension equalization will only take place upon application. In the case of so-called foreign marriages, where the spouses are divorced in Germany but are not Germans, pension equalization also often only takes place upon application.
  6. Division of assets: The division of assets and debts is not an actual part of the divorce proceedings, but a so-called consequential matter that does not have to occupy the court. However, if the spouses cannot agree on how assets should be divided or how a claim for equalization of gains should be settled, the court can make decisions on this upon request.
  7. Custody and access rights: If the spouses have children together, custody and visitation rights must also be regulated if the parents cannot reach an agreement. This is also a so-called consequential matter. Child cases are usually severed and heard separately.

Costs of the divorce proceedings

The costs of a divorce are made up of various items, including attorney’s fees, court costs and, if applicable, other expenses such as costs for expert opinions or witnesses. The exact cost may vary depending on individual circumstances and will depend on the amount in controversy, the scope of the divorce matters, and the attorney fees chosen. If there are no issues in dispute between the spouses, only one of them needs to be represented by a lawyer to file the divorce petition. The other spouse can then agree to the divorce in person, saving costs for an attorney. It is advisable to find out about the costs of a divorce in advance and, if necessary, to make a cost agreement with your own lawyer. In detail, the following applies:

  1. The procedural value and thus the costs of the court proceedings are initially determined by three times the net income of both spouses. In addition, the court often takes into account the spouses’ financial situation. The amount of court costs is calculated on the basis of the resulting value of the proceedings. In the event of a divorce, these costs must be paid in advance and are usually split 50/50 between the spouses after the proceedings are concluded.
  2. The costs for a lawyer are calculated either on the basis of the statutory fees (RVG) or individually according to an agreed hourly rate. In any case, however, at least the fees incurred on the basis of the procedural value determined by the court in accordance with the RVG must be paid.
  3. If there is a separation and divorce agreement, it must usually be notarized, for which notary fees are charged in accordance with the German Law on Court and Notary Fees (Gerichts- und Notarkostengesetz, GNotKG).


Divorce proceedings are a complex process with personal, economic and legal challenges. It makes sense to deal with the individual steps of the proceedings, the divorce consequences, the duration and the costs at an early stage. Professional legal advice from an experienced divorce lawyer not only helps to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible and to represent your best interests. The divorce petition must also be filed with the court by a lawyer, which is why this lawyer can also be consulted at an early stage. Take the first step and book our initial consultation.