Marriage in Germany
Marriage is an important event in a person’s life. This is why all countries have a minimum legal age for marriage: often 18 years of age. But many people – mostly women – are younger than 18 when they get married. Maybe you too? There are many reasons to get married, when you are still 15 or 16, or even earlier.
- Did your parents choose a husband for you, because that is the tradition in your home country?
- Did you flee from your home country and did you decide (with your parents) that a marriage means better protection for you?
- Was your marriage important to help your family financially?
- Were you forced to get married or were you not allowed to say ‘no’? To be ‘forced’ means that you have to do something.
- Are you not yet 18 years old, and your parents are planning a marriage for you?
- Are you not yet 18 years old, but you want to marry your boyfriend?
If your answer is ‘YES’ to one of the questions above, continue reading!
The information is important for you.
Laws in Germany
The minimum legal age for marriage in Germany
- You cannot get married in Germany, if you are younger than 18 years old.
- If your parents are planning your marriage, even though you are still under 18, they have to pay money as punishment.
- You can get help. You can call a counselling center. The women who work there can understand and help you.
What happens if I got married when I was younger than 16 years old?
- If you were younger than 16 years old when you got married, then your marriage is not valid in Germany. That means it does not count.
- There are 2 exceptions:
1. You turned 18 before July 22nd, 2017. Your marriage is valid in Germany.
2. You turned 18 before you came to Germany. Your marriage is valid in Germany.
- If you came to Germany without your parents, there is another person that takes care of you. This person is your guardian. The guardian can be either a woman or a man. If you want a female guardian, you need to say that very clearly. Instead of your parents, it is the guardian who is responsible for you.
- If you have questions, you can call a counselling center. The women who work there can help you.
What happens, if I got married when I was 16 or 17 years old?
- If you were 16 or 17 years old when you got married, at first, your marriage counts as valid.
- However: If you are still not 18, your marriage will be annulled. An annulment is like a divorce. You count as not married anymore in Germany.
- There are two exceptions:
1. Your home country is in the European Union. Then, your marriage will probably be valid.
2. You will soon turn 18. Then, maybe your marriage will be valid – if you want that.
- If you are already 18 years old, you can decide if you want to continue to be married.
Do I have to leave Germany, if I got married when I was younger than 18 years old?
- You do not have to leave Germany. Even if you were younger than 18 when you got married.
- If your husband gets asylum or is recognized as a refugee, this also applies to you. That means you can stay as well.
- The asylum procedure in Germany is very complicated. It is better to get some help.
What happens if I am pregnant or if I have children?
- In Germany mothers get help. Even if they were not born here.
- If your marriage is not valid, you still have custody of your children. This means that you take care of your children. Your husband does not automatically count as the father. Your children get a guardian until you are 18. The guardian helps you in difficult situations. This could be a woman or a man. If you want a female guardian, you need to say that very clearly.
- If your marriage is annulled, your husband automatically counts as the father of your children. You both have custody. This means, that you both take care of your children.
Counselling centers in Germany
In Germany, there are counselling centers for girls and women, who got married early or who were forced to get married. The women who work there know how to help you. They are on your side. They can also give you advice anonymously. That means that you do not have to tell them your name.
They also speak a lot of languages, if you do not understand German very well. Or an interpreter will help. This is a woman who speaks a lot of languages, also yours. You have the right to get help.
Here is a list of a few counselling centers for you.
The rights of the child in Germany
Why is there this new law? This is very simple: the law was made for you and all the other children and young people. The rights of the child are very important in Germany. Children have their own rights. This means that your parents cannot make all decisions about you. For example, they cannot decide who you get married to. Especially not, if you are under 18 years old.
The German society is worried about marriages under 18 years of age. This is because suddenly, you are in the role of an adult. This means that you have many duties and things to do. This can be too much sometimes.
Remember: all children should have the opportunity to play and to develop freely. And to go to school, of course. In Germany, children and young people have the duty to go to school, even if they were not born here.
School teachers are there to make sure that you are okay. They help you. You can talk to them, if you are worried or have problems.
If you have big problems at home (like violence), the police will help and protect you. Just like the Youth Welfare Office. They are there especially for children and young people.
TERRE DES FEMMES
TERRE DES FEMMES is a human rights organization for girls and women. It was founded in 1981. We support girls and women by raising public awareness about violence against them. Then nobody can say they did not know about it. We ask politicians to make laws to protect girls and women from violence.
We organize projects that make girls and women stronger and tell them about their rights. We also support projects for women in other countries. We are politically independent and are not a state agency. Our goal is to make things better for girls and women.