The Marriage Law Reform of 1977
misanthropic and antisocial
Nowadays it is not only the victims of divorce who doubt that justice is meted
out equitably in divorces in Germany, in the sense in which people understand justice
should be. More and more singles [sic] too prefer not to marry at all, rather
than to eventually have to become divorced again, to have to hand over money they can ill
afford and to have the State interfere. By now this objectionable message has
reached politicians and, increasingly, jurists; not to mention experts from psychological
professions who are being confronted daily in their offices by the suffering of people
affected by divorce.
Remedial measures are being developed for separated couples, to bring
them, if not back into sharing their bed once more, at least to a common negotiating
table. New professional branches are coming into existence, intended to survey the
pile of rubble that a marriage turned into, to sort it and to teach ex-partners of
marriage to sweep it under the table with decor. Only one thing is not
happening. No nonpartisan advisory board is becoming vocal that works intensively to
find solutions to the problem, that summarizes the serious consequences of the 1977
Marriage Law Reform and draws from that the only possible conclusion, that what is
presently being practiced is misanthropic and harmful to society.
Only one secret study is said to exist, so wrote
Focus in the
40/1994 edition, that is supposed to be in the desks of the FDP [Free Democratic Party],
waiting to be revealed. It is said that it contains proposals for the strengthening
of the self-determination of each couple after divorce and is to meet the demand, such as
by the Association of Support-Payers [in the original: Interessenverband der
Unterhaltspflichtigen (ISUV)], to put time limits on support payments. It seems
even in 1997, in spite of the steadily growing need, the hour of revelation has not yet
The fact is that the Marriage Law Reform of 1977, so highly praised by
its creators, leaves fathers and mothers on the battlefield of divorce, not as allies that
have mutual respect for one another in the interest of common children but almost
exclusively as winners and losers.
In the meantime, of over two-and-a-half million single mothers and
fathers, about 330,000 live at or below the poverty line. Over and above that there
are two million intact families who too live in similar circumstances. A large
proportion of them is comprised of partners of whom at least one is already divorced and
obligated to pay support to the first family. The number of bankruptcies that are
divorce-related and affect small and medium-sized family businesses whose incomes are
sufficient to sustain one family, but not two or after repeated divorce even
three families, is increasing rapidly. In consequence of these bankruptcies the
number of unemployed as well as that of those who are recipients of unemployment benefit-
and social-support payments is increasing simultaneously.
Since the income of a father who is the sole income-earner and who is
at the same time obligated to pay support generally does not or at best badly suffice for
two families, there are hundreds of thousands of children who grow up in crowded living
conditions or are even homeless. Every eighth child in the West and every fifth in
the East lives in poverty.
The consequence of the daily frustration and the rapidly increasing
growth of poverty is experienced in the example of a dramatic and extent of acts of youth
violence and criminality that has never been seen before, say, shoplifting, physical
violence, arson and vandalism driven by the impulse to destroy. Many parents who
themselves originate from broken family relationships are not in the position any longer
where they can be examples of an intact family life to their children. As we watch,
it is becoming more and more rare to find parents who are willing to bear the
responsibility for their children and partnership for twenty years or longer.
Accordingly, they impart to their children that a divorced marriage is in every case
better than to master a difficult one.
The children are always the ones who suffer the consequences. In
1993, about 130,000 minors were forced through a court decision to forego one of their
parents, a parent whom they love and don't want to forego. These parents were
predominantly the fathers. It isn't just that the valuable father persona is by
force being removed from the lives of these children, but also the important role model
that is to an equal extent irreplaceable for sons and daughters in bringing about social
and sexual orientation.
Out of love, a good thousand children whose fathers were violently torn
from their lives are annually being abducted by those fathers, because the mothers,
according to decisions by the Courts, are in complete possession of all rights of
determination over these children, rights that they don't exercise in the interest of the
child but, rather, abuse these rights by exploiting them highhandedly and in an extortive
manner against the father.
Several thousands of fathers flee annually into foreign countries,
further thousands repeatedly change their domicile within Germany or hit skid row, so that
they remove themselves from the judicially prescribed support payments to their divorced
wife. Many of them would voluntarily comply with the support-payment obligations if
their children hadn't been taken from them according to the Court-decision.
In about 40 percent of custody disputes the mother alleges sexual
child-abuse, to erase the father from the life of the children. Almost 95 percent of
these allegation are after thorough investigation found to be without foundation and to be
freely invented. Suicide amongst fathers and children of divorce is, next to traffic
deaths, the most frequent cause of death.
It gives one shivers of horror to think that at least every fifth
murder victim died in connection with a separation or divorce.
Not the least of all, an increasingly gigantic divorce industry
feeds on the miserable consequences of the divorce battles. The cream is skimmed by
expert witnesses, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and, ahead of them all, the
State. Normally a divorce costs between DM 3,000 and DM 10,000. However, if it
should happen that the battle between hate-filled and revenge-seeking partners surges for
years even over the last chipped milk jug, the bill can climb quickly by three to four
times that. More than a few lawyers deliberately drive the costs higher. Even
basic points of law are only too often ignored, to fan the monetarily rewarding fighting
spirit of the divorce opponents to new heights, time and again.
Even though there can't be anyone who is inclined to demand a return to
the old principle of fault and the misery of washing dirty laundry in public out of the
era from before "the divorce reform of the century," nobody can close his mind
to the fact that things aren't right when every greedy adulter/ess/er can be taken care of
by the other for life.
In 90 percent of all divorce cases, which on appeal wind up today in
the Superior State Courts, the main issues are money and assets according to
Family-Law Justice Siegfried Willutzki of the German Family Law Consortium, in
47/1994. Fairness and the wish for a mutually acceptable ruling fade as the duration
of the litigation and basically tied to that its costs increase.
As if the approaching bankruptcy had wakened them from the
sleeping-beauty-stupor of male vanity, more and more men put up a defence against being
degraded to mere wallets and sources of financial support. At a time when everyone
is threatened or even heavily pummeled by unemployment, an increasing debt load and
inflation, nobody can afford the luxury of generosity. There's haggling over every
Mark. And more and more often it is that, while that takes place, financial
destitution and social decline look over the shoulders of the antagonistic
For about 1.7 million divorced women and mothers there remains after
divorce only the walk to the welfare office, considered to be abasing. Inexorably,
there they meet the divorced men and fathers who are not any less being spared that
walk. All divorced partners of marriage are equal on the path to economic
ruin. Men's- and women's lobbies too revolted for a number of years now in unusual
harmony against the Marriage Law Reform that has been in force, virtually unchanged, for
just barely twenty years. Men and fathers bemoan their incapacitation with respect
to their access and custody rights to their children, as well as the ex-family's unlimited
right to support. A small band of upright fathers already trekked recently to the
Federal Constitutional Court, to finally force a reform of the current support laws.
Furthermore, men find energetic support in numerous interest groups. Often it is to
be learned there that the current marriage laws are hostile to men and that in its current
structure that is designed to lend support to "runaway-wives" it realizes the
equalization of the sexes about as perfectly as the alchemists' making of gold.
Women and, in the front-lines, feminists of all political colours
demand less in the way of financial measures, but rather far more in the way of social
measures that are to get at the roots of the problem. The family system isn't right
any longer, so they say. Man as head of the family is said to have failed.
That only an extensive change to the nature of man towards a type that is molded by women
to be perfectly family-oriented would provide a remedy. That it would be best if
woman were to revive the historical evolutionary archetypal heritage of the matriarchy and
show men who truly is the strong and the weaker sex.
A comparison with other countries shows that many nations long ago took
the edge off the divorce wars. A divorce model that would have a viable future for
Germany could be constructed after the Danish example. Danish couples merely
announce their intention to divorce at the local office of the Public Registry, without
having to endure the months, often years, of exhausting and financially depleting
and without the clever judicial fine points that divorce lawyers produce. The
marriage will be divorced six months after the publicly announced intention to divorce, as
long as the couple hasn't reconciled in the meantime. One moves to the Court only
when husband and wife disagree. [see my footnote
It is to be hoped for Germany that the debates that are carried out in
numerous media reports are ultimately followed by actions that secure the equality of
husband and wife in divorce processes, without giving excessive weight today to the male
side of the scales and tomorrow to the female side.
Only, it is too bad, that as so often for measures against the decline of
the family too there is a lack of resources in the fiscal system. These resources
probably were poured exactly into that pot of social assistance out of which all of the
divorce victims must be cared for.
[Next: Socially uprooted: TORE, OLLI, MASCHA
(testimonies by children of divorce)]
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