Policy Document

Marriage Law 1938 (from 1945-1990: West Germany)






Family & Children



Main implications

This marriage law of the Nazi Regime enforces earlier enacted laws on preventing reproduction between people with genetic diseases, and between people who were forced to be sterilised and healthy people (Erbgesundheitsgesetz 1933, RGBl. I S. 529), and between people of 'different blood', i.e. Jews and Germans (Ehegesundheitsgesetz, Blutschutzgesetz 1935, RGBl. I S. 1146). These laws defined impediments to marriage in order to prohibit marriage and consequently to prohibit reproduction of the 'inferior race' and diseased people (Essner and Conte 1996).

Benefits & Requirements

Coverage: Requirements for its application

If the marriage has been divorced before the enactment of this law (but probably after signature/publication), the alimony orders of this law apply.

Does this law grant the right to unilateral divorce?


Remarriage waiting period after divorce is finalised

10 months for women, unless the woman has given birth in the meantime

Alimony orders established by this document: eligible beneficiary

Men and women.

Alimony orders established by this document: eligibility criteria

Only the spouse who was not or not mainly found guilty can receive alimony. If none of the spouses was found guilty then the spouse filing for divorce has to pay alimony to the other spouse. Men can only receive alimony if they are unable to provide for themselves. Women can receive alimony up to an amount that establishes their living standard before divorce.

Types of custody established by this document

Sole custody, in the best interest of the child.

Visitation rights established by this document

Yes, the non-custodial parent has the right to see the child. The guardianship court can further regulate visitation rights in the best interest of the child.

Child support: age of emancipation for child support

Not mentioned.

Child support: maximum percentage of parent's average net income

Not mentioned.

Read the Law

Original full text source in native language

RGBl 1938 I :807

Original full text web source in native language


Comments & Clarifications

For divorce, the no-fault principle (the possibility of getting divorced on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, without requiring the fault of one spouse in order to get divorced) can apply and divorce can be granted after three years of having lived apart (§55, and see Martiny and Schwab (2002: 2)). However, the principle of fault still has priority over other reasons, and is crucial for the granting of maintenance payments.

Secondary Literature & Sources

Secondary literature

- Martiny, D., & Schwab, D. "Grounds for Divorce and Maintenance between former Spouses - Germany". Commission on European Family Law (2002): Available at: http://www.ceflonline.net/wp-content/uploads/Germany-Divorce.pdf
- Essner, C., & E. Conte " “Fernehe”, “Leichentrauung” und “Totenscheidung”. Metamorphosen des Eherechts im Dritten Reich". Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte 44(2) (1996): 201-227.


Anke Radenacker
WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Data collected in the framework of the Population Europe Research Finder and Archive (PERFAR)

Cite as

SPLASH-db.eu (2014): Policy: "Marriage Law 1938 (from 1945-1990: West Germany)" (Information provided by Anke Radenacker). Available at: https://splash-db.eu [Date of access].