What is Germany’s “responsibility companionship” and how is it different to marriage?
German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) has said that the government plans to introduce Verantwortungsgemeinschaften, a new legal partnership model, by 2025.
German government announces details about Verantwortungsgemeinschaften
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann has announced further details of Germany’s plan to introduce so-called Verantwortungsgemeinschaften (literally, “responsibility companionships”). The law would allow people to share responsibilities when it came to care, finances or housing, as married couples do, but the arrangement would not necessarily be based on a romantic relationship.
A “responsibility companionship” could also be shared between more than two people, Buschmann explained, but no more than six people. The Verantwortungsgemeinschaften law would make it easier for single people, single parents or older people, who might live together but are not married, to look after each other in emergencies since their responsibility to each other would be legally recognised.
The new model would be a four-tiered system. At the lowest level, only some responsibilities would be legally shared, such as housing. At the highest level, companions would share responsibilities in multiple areas, such as housing, finances and care. At any tier, companions would be able to choose which responsibilities they would like to share.
Responsibility companionships would not be “marriage lite”
Buschmann explained that for people who want to support each other, the new law would make things a lot easier, especially when it comes to medical emergencies. Members of the companionship would have the right to information from doctors should something happen to their companion, and would be able to represent their companion if needed.
One distinction that Buschmann wanted to make was that responsibility companionships would not be a “marriage lite”, and there would be no law changes relating to the parent-child relationship or inheritance law, nor would people using Verantwortungsgemeinschaften benefit from tax breaks like married couples in Germany do.
Criticism has already come from the CDU / CSU, who argue that the law could mean that Germany indirectly recognises polygamous marriages, which are illegal in Germany. Union spokesperson Grünter Krings also argued that the country already had paths for individuals to make such legal agreements with each other, but the Ministry of Justice prevailed that these current rules are so bureaucratic and time-consuming that they are never used.
Buschmann will now coordinate writing up a draft of the law, which if it passes through Germany’s multi-tiered legislative process, could be enshrined in 2025.
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