German government wants "community of responsibility" in addition to marriage


Central Europe


A shop, specialising in wedding attire, has a bride and groom wearing face masks on display in their shop window in Berlin amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo AFP, David Gannon

The German government wants to give new legal possibilities to unmarried couples, homosexual married couples with children and communities not based on a love relationship. Therefore, it is planning to introduce the so-called "community of responsibility" in addition to marriage.

Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann has announced that the family law reform will be passed by the middle of the election period. Specifically, it is about giving unmarried couples, homosexual spouses with children and unions that are not based on a relationship of love new possibilities of legal recognition in the sense of a community of responsibility. "We will probably offer a multi-level model for the community of responsibility that fits the different life situations and allows for different intensities of taking responsibility for each other," the minister of the liberal governing party FDP said to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

According to Buschmann, it is a matter of legally safeguarding senior citizens' shared flats, for example, who receives information if a flatmate is hospitalised or the tenant of the flat if a member of the community dies. He adds that it is essential that the law clearly distinguishes the community of responsibility from the civil law partnership and the community of need under social law.

Marriage light

Furthermore, when it comes to children, two women married to each other are treated legally in the same way as a man married to a woman. It means that the child born to one of the two women should have the wife as a second parent from the beginning. So far, the mother's partner can only become the child's legal parent through a stepchild adoption. It needs to be clarified how to proceed if such relationships fail, said Buschmann.

The CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag has reacted sceptically to the changes in family law. Above all, the idea of a legally recognised cohabitation poses constitutional risks, said the spokesperson on legal policy, Günter Krings, German weekly Die Zeit writes. "The new 'community of responsibility in family law has obviously not been thought through to the end by the traffic lights." What it should look like in concrete terms is unclear.

Krings continues: "Above all, it remains unclear whether there is any need at all for such a completely new legal institution". For strengthened rights of information and representation of people who assume responsibility for each other without marriage, there is no need for a new family law model, but only for unbureaucratic reforms of freedom of contract, he says. "If a 'marriage light' is to be invented here, one risks not only a tangible conflict with Article 6 of the Constitution, which particularly protects marriage but above all must create a highly complex new regulatory system."

Progressive family

Vice-chairman Dirk Wiese of the social democratic parliamentary group SPD told the German press agency DPA that the family law reform is a "historical dimension" project. "This chapter of our coalition agreement shows impressively how many socio-political issues the CDU/CSU has consistently put on the brakes over the past one and a half decades," Wiese criticised. According to him, there is a chance to create a progressive family law that recognises the diverse realities of life in the 21st century, German Christian media magazine Pro writes.



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