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German Law/Divorce - financial entitlement


An english friend of mine married a German citizen and settled in Germany where they lived for 10 years in a house they were buying together. They separated and my friend returned to the UK. Her husband filed for divorce some time after and that was completed but there was no financial settlement. My friend was advised that this would have to be dealt with separately and the legal costs involved prevented her from progressing at that time. The divorce was amicable and the ex-husband agreed to sell the house and discuss division of any equity thereafter.  

Some 5 years or so on (I'm not sure exactly#, the house is still for sale and the ex-husband is claiming that it's very difficult to sell. He has been living in it rent free and my friend has received no financial contribution from him despite having put her life savings into the property when it was purchased.

She is concerned that there may be a time limit on her ability to obtain a financial settlement and is unsure of what her rights are. Given that she is currently unemployed, she has very limited financial resources and residing in the UK also makes it very difficult to investigate her rights or to progress anything. I would like to help her but we would like some indication of what her rights might be given the current situation:

Is there any time limit on her obtaining a settlement?

Is she entitled to any financial compensation for the time that she has been without any payment from the property given that the ex husband has had the benefit of living there. This is particularly relevant if there will be little or no equity left in the property if the price has to be drastically reduced in order to sell #this has not been independently verified)?

What advice are you able to offer in terms of finding suitable expert legal representation given that she resides in the UK and is of limited income?

I have her permission to be making enquiries and can arrange for her to post herself if necessary but I'm hoping that you might be able to provide some general guidance on her situation.

I very much hope that you are able to help as this is causing my friend considerable distress.

Hello Derek,

there is a time limit on the distribution of marital property. That time limit is 3 years from the time of the divorce, so the time probably has already passed away.

BUT there is NO time limit on exercising property ownership rights. So if your friend is registered as a co-owner of the house, she will never lose these rights until she agrees to a sale of it.

As to charging the ex-husband rent for it, that is tricky because your friend allowed him to stay there rent-free for so many years. He could argue that after such a long time, he could really not be expected to pay anything for the time already elapsed. However, your friend could of course try to charge him for rent from now on and for the future.

If she and the ex-husband won't be able to come to an agreement, she can set up the house for sale herself (again, assuming that she is a co-owner).

German legal aid is available to foreigners residing outside of Germany if they have a legal dispute going on in Germany, but if your friend owns half of a house she will probably not be considered as poor.

I would say that the first step is to determine the value of the property, e.g. through estate agents or local savings & loans banks.

Andreas Moser

German Law

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Andreas Moser


Extensive experience in international family law, especially international child abductions and child custody cases. All other areas of German law as well: constitutional law, criminal law, business and contract law, immigration law, inheritance law, and so on.


Lawyer in Germany from 2002 to 2009. Lawyer for US Army JAG Corps before. Bar-certified specialisation in family law and in administrative law. Articles and lectures about international and domestic family law.


2000 Law Degree from University of Regensburg, Germany 2002 admitted to the bar (until 2009) 2013 MA Philosophy at the Open University, UK

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