Online divorce: what’s behind all this?

What are the advantages and what risks should I be aware of?

For some time now, the concept of the so-called online divorce has become more and more popular. Both spouses agree that they only wanted to get a divorce as quickly and cheaply as possible – a divorce over the Internet sounds about right!

However, it should be noted that this isn’t possible without a short court hearing, even in 2020. Although this usually takes a maximum of 15 minutes in the case of a divorce by mutual consent, this court date is prescribed by law. This results from § 128 (1) FamFG. The court is supposed to hear the parties personally on the conditions for divorce and may only refrain from hearing the spouses in justified exceptional cases (e.g. if the spouse lives abroad and travelling to the court would be unreasonable).

The requirement remains that at least one of the spouses must be represented by a lawyer. The other spouse then does not necessarily need a lawyer of his or her own in order to agree to a divorce by mutual consent. Rather, he or she can also make this declaration without legal representation. As soon as he/she has received the spouse’s divorce petition, all he/she needs to do is send a short letter to the court stating that he/she agrees to the divorce. In practice, this can save the most costs if the spouses agree. The other spouse is free to appoint his or her own lawyer during the ongoing proceedings if the need for advice should arise at a later stage.

With the so-called online divorce you save yourself the personal visit to the lawyer. All the necessary information for the application for divorce at court is obtained beforehand through appropriate questionnaires. However, this does not bring any financial advantage. The lawyer and court fees are fixed by law and are the same as for any other regular divorce.

A further risk can be that the need for regulation is only recognised after a discussion with the lawyer. For example, in the case of foreign rights, the spouse entitled to equalisation is required to submit an application for equalisation. In contrast to purely domestic entitlements, the procedure does not take place ex officio. If the procedure is carried out in a purely automated manner via questionnaires, there is a risk that important legal advice may be forgotten. Especially in the case of divorces with a foreign connection, a so-called online divorce is practical and tempting. However, the particularities and difficulties of a cross-border case are often underestimated. In this case, it should be ensured that the appointed lawyer is also familiar with international family law.

If you wish, we could conduct an initial legal consultation by telephone, for example because you are currently abroad. Communication can then take place by e-mail. You will then receive all the written documents by e-mail. As a rule, an initial telephone consultation can take place within the next 48 hours of the first contact, but in any case within one week. You can send us the documents required for the divorce in advance by e-mail or fax. If you then decide to mandate us for the divorce proceedings, we will happily credit the costs of the initial consultation to the divorce costs.

If you are in a tight financial situation, you can apply for legal aid. If the conditions for granting legal aid are met, the state pays both the court costs and the lawyer’s fees for the divorce proceedings.

We are happy to advise you in detail and accompany you through your divorce proceedings.


Katharina Kutter

As an attorney for family and inheritance law and have specialised in advising companies and high net worth individuals in the areas of asset succession, asset division, tax law and family law retirement planning – with a particular focus on cross-border matters. 

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