In February, 2001, the German legislature the Bundestag passed the Gesetz zur Beendigung der Diskriminierung gleichgeschlechtlicher Gemeinschaften (Act to End Discrimination against Same-Sex Unions), which introduced an institution, similar to that of marriage, known as a "registered life partnership" ("eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft") Under the Act1, two unmarried persons of the same sex, over the age of 18, who are not blood relatives and wish to "found a partnership for life," may do so by making a joint declaration before the appropriate agency. (§ 1 LPartG)
As with a heterosexual marriage, the partners "are obligated to care for and support one another, and to live jointly. They are responsible for one another." (§ 2 LPartG2)In fulfilling their life partnership obligations, life partners must act with the degree of care they would exercise in their own affairs. These duties also include a duty to provide financial support for one another (§ 5 LPartG). Life partners are considered to be immediate family members, unless otherwise provided by law. Each life partner is considered to be related in-law to the family of the other partner, as a matter of law, even after the dissolution of the partnership. (§ 11 LPartG)
The assets of life partners may be arranged in two ways (§ 6 LPartG), either by founding an Ausgleichsgemeinschaft, in which "assets in the possession of the life partners at the beginning of the life partnership or acquired during the existence of the life partnership, do not become community property3." If the life partnership is ended, any assets in excess of those acquired by the individual partners are divided equitably. (§ 6 II LPartG). The other option is the Lebenspartnerschaftsvertrag (Life Partnership Agreement), which must be certified by a notary in the presence of both life partners. If either the life partnership agreement or the agreement to found an Ausgleichsgemeinschaft is invalid or unenforceable, the partners' assets are deemed to be separate. (§ 6 III LPartG)
Example:A and B form a life partnership, and select the § 6 II Ausgleichsgemeinschaft option. At the inception of the partnership, A has €10 000.00 and B has €15 000.00, and each have assorted personal property. During the duration of the life partnership, A acquires an additional €20 000.00 and B acquires an additional €20 000.00. In commemoration of their life partnership, A and B's friends and family give them various gifts, both monetary and nonmonetary, with a total value of €10 000.00. Upon dissolution of the life partnership, A will walk away with €30 000, and B will have €35 000 (the sum of the assets of each partner before entering the life partnership and the assets acquired during the duration of the partnership). Additionally, each will be entitled to one half of the € 10 000 in jointly acquired assets.
Life partners may also adopt a common family name, and the partner whose name does not become the "life partnership name" (Lebenspartnerschaftsname) may maintain his or her birth name through hyphenation. (§ 3 LPartG)
If one life partner has sole custody of a minor child, the other partner is authorised to participate in the decisions regarding the child. If time is of the essence ("Gefahr im Verzug") in making a particular decision with regard to the child, the other partner may take all legal steps necessary to protect the interest of the child, but must inform the partner who has custody without delay. (§ 9 I, II LPartG). The Familiengericht may limit or eliminate the non-custodial partner's decisionmaking authorisation if it is "necessary in order to protect the interest of the child." (§ 9 III LPartG). If the partners are "not temporarily" separated, the non-custodial partner is not authorised to make decisions regarding the custodial partner's child. (§ 9 IV LPartG)
Life partners are legally entitled to inherit from each other. If the deceased partner's immediate family (parents, children, siblings) is alive and entitled to inherit, the surviving partner receives one fourth of the total inheritance. If only the decedent's second-degree relatives (grandparents, cousins, etc.) are alive and entitled to inherit, the surviving partner receives one half of the total inheritance. In both cases the surviving partner inherits the household goods (Hausrat) and objects forming part of the partnership household (unless they are fixtures of a parcel of land), as well as any gifts given to the partners jointly to commemorate the partnership, prior to the division of the estate. However, if the surviving partner is inheriting alongside the decedent's immediate family, the partner only gets the household goods and wedding gifts prior to the division of the estate if they are necessary for the surviving partner in order to run the household in a reasonable manner. (§ 10 I LPartG). The surviving partner inherits the entire estate if there are no first- or second-degree relatives or grandparents (§ 10 II LPartG). The surviving partner is not entitled to inherit from the deceased partner if both partners had agreed to dissolve the life partnership, or one partner had petitioned to dissolve the life partnership and the other did not contest the petition. The same applies if one partner had petitioned to dissolve the partnership because its continuation could constitute an "undue hardship" (if that is in fact the case). (§ 10 III LPartG).
Life partners may make out a joint will. A will made out by one partner for the benefit of the other is possible within the same limitations as with a heterosexual marriage. (§ 10 IV, V). If one life partner writes the other partner out of his/her will, the surviving partner may obtain an obligatory share (Pflichtteil) of the estate in the amount of one half of the statutory share of the estate to which he/she would otherwise be entitled (i.e. one fourth or one eighth of the entire estate).
If the life partners are separated, one may request maintenance from the other, in an amount to be determined based on the partners' personal financial circumstances. An unemployed partner may be required to seek employment before obtaining maintenance, unless this represents an undue hardship. (§ 12 II LPartG) A life partner who is otherwise required to provide maintenance may be released from this obligation if it would be "unfair" to require the payment of maintenance.
(§ 12 II LPartG).
Each partner is additionally entitled to take with him or her all his or her personal belongings, with the proviso that the other partner must be allowed to use certain property if it is necessary in order to allow the other partner to have a separate household and the equities weigh in favour of allowing the other partner to use it. (§ 13 I LPartG4) Jointly owned household items are to be divided equitably between the partners. (§ 13 II LPartG)
One or both of the partners may petition for the dissolution of the life partnership. The Family Court will order the dissolution of the partnership if twelve months have passed since both partners declared their intent to dissolve the partnership (§ 15 II 1), 36 months have passed since one partner served the petition for dissolution on the other partner (§ 15 II 2), or it would be an "undue hardship" for one life partner to continue the partnership by reason of some characteristic of the other partner (§ 15 II 3). The division of assets, including the partners' residence, is generally subject to provisions similar to those applicable to divorce.
If one of the partners is unable to secure his or her own financial well-being, the other partner may be required to pay maintenance after dissolution of the partnership. The amount of the maintenance is calculated based on the conditions existing during the existence of the partnership, as well as circumstances that prevent the partner seeking maintenance obtaining employment that would reasonably secure his or her finances. (§ 16 LPartG)
1Short title: Lebenspartnerschaftsgesetz (LPartG Life Partnership Act)
2Die Lebenspartner sind einander zu Fürsorge und Unterstützung sowie zur gemeinsamen Lebensgestaltung verpflichtet. Sie tragen füreinander Verantwortung.
3Vermögen, das die Lebenspartner zu Beginn der Lebenspartnerschaft haben oder während der Lebenspartnerschaft erwerben, [wird] nicht gemeinschaftliches Vermögen.
4Er ist jedoch verpflichtet, [die Gegenstände] dem anderen Lebenspartner zum Gebrauch zu überlassen, soweit dieser sie zur Führung eines abgesonderten Haushalts benötigt und die Überlassung nach den Umständen des Falles der Billigkeit entspricht.