Civil marriage

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The civil marriage is as in most countries legal institution of civil law embodied form of marriage . It is the subject of marriage law .

In this context, “civil” denotes the demarcation of state-regulated marriage from religious marriage mediated by religious communities (e.g. church or Islamic marriage ). The prerequisites for entering into a civil marriage and their legal effects in detail differ depending on the legal system. Civil marriage has been open to same-sex couples in many western countries since the beginning of the 21st century .


Civil marriage is marriage entered into in a non-religious form (i.e. before the registrar or notary ) and is not subject to religious law .

Based on the individual marriage, there is the state side of the pure civil marriage, the purely religious marriage or mixed forms, in which the state allows the participation of religion to a limited extent (marriage, possibly also annulment). In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but also France and the Benelux countries, for example, pure civil marriage is mandatory. At the same time, a marriage according to religious, for example canonical law can exist here, but this remains irrelevant for the state (cf. " Kaiserparagraph " § 1588 BGB or Art. 1:30, Paragraph 2 BW ). In the case of optional civil marriage, on the part of the state, pure civil marriage exists alongside purely religious marriage or mixed forms.



Document on the civil law marriage of Metta Schütte and August Haese (1855)

In Germany, during the French period, the civil code was introduced in areas occupied or annexed by France , as well as in the so-called Napoleonic satellite states of the Rhine Confederation (for example in the Grand Duchy of Berg in 1810 ). It was introduced as an option in the four Rhenish departments in 1795; compulsory on May 1, 1798.

In the course of the general restoration at the beginning of the Prussian period in 1815, civil marriage was gradually abolished again, with the Prussian state - for example in the Archdiocese of Cologne - initially acting ready to compromise with the incumbent conservative episcopate. Due to the federal structure of the German Confederation , there were regionally different approaches to the reintroduction of civil marriage until the establishment of the Reich .

The forerunners were the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg , where on the initiative of the Baptist Frerich Bohlken a "Law on Civil Marriage for the State of Oldenburg" was promulgated on May 31, 1855. The first civil marriage on this legal basis took place on July 12, 1855 in the city of Varel ; at that time the Baptist pastor August Friedrich Wilhelm Haese and Metta Schütte married. Until then it was not possible for members of free churches and other dissidents such as free religious people to marry. Until the enactment of the aforementioned law, the right to conduct legal marriages rested solely with the respective state church . This in turn refused to marry those who had left the state church. On March 9, 1874, Prussia introduced compulsory civil marriage with a law passed by the state parliament on January 23, 1874. There was in some cases considerable resistance to civil marriage . In the German Empire , civil marriage was regulated in the course of the Kulturkampf in 1875 by the law on marriage based on the Prussian model (see also Kaiserparagraph ).

Legal position

In Germany today the so-called mandatory civil marriage ( § 1310 BGB , Art. 13 Abs. 3 EGBGB ) applies . This means that state authorities only consider those spouses who have married in accordance with the provisions of the German Civil Code (“ civil law ”). An exception to the compulsory civil marriage includes the healing regulation for marriages not entered into before the registrar in Section 1310 (3) BGB. In 2011, 377,831 marriages were concluded in Germany.

Up until the end of 2008, church weddings in Germany were only allowed to take place after the marriage ( prohibition of religious marriage in advance ). With a valid since 1 January 2009 personal status law reform bill this ban is lifted, the church wedding now has no civil longer relevant and is therefore no longer subject to government restrictions. The Protestant Church has forbidden church marriage without prior civil marriage; in the Catholic Church it is possible in exceptional cases.


The intended marriage must be registered with the registry office in accordance with § 2 , § 3 and § 12 of the Civil Status Act . At least birth certificates (or a certified copy from the birth register) and a certificate of marital status must be submitted. In individual cases, for example in the case of foreigners or people who have already been married, additional documents are required. As a rule, these documents must be applied for in writing from the responsible registry offices. A notice of civil banns no longer exists since the lifting of the Marriage Act on July 1, 1998th

State protection of marriage

Article 6 of the Basic Law assumes in its sentence marriage and family are subject to the special protection of the state order and in principle only protects civil marriage . ( see also protection of marriage and family )


In Austria (more precisely Cisleithanien ) civil marriage was introduced with the May Laws of 1868 as an “emergency civil marriage” if there was a denominational but not a state impediment to marriage. It was then expanded until compulsory civil marriage was introduced after the Anschluss in 1938 ( Section 15 EheG ). This was retained after the end of the war.


In Switzerland, in the course of the Kulturkampf in Switzerland in 1874, it was stipulated that one must first marry civilly before one can marry in church (prohibition of marriage in advance, Art. 97 Para. 3 ZGB ).

Other states with compulsory civil marriage

In addition to the legal systems influenced by France, compulsory civil marriage is also common in the countries of the former socialist legal system (including China) and in Latin America ; also in Japan and Korea.

Western and Central Europe:
  • NetherlandsNetherlands NL : Art. 1:63 BGB ( BW )
  • FranceFrance FR : Art. 165 ZGB ( CC )
  • BelgiumBelgium BE : Art. 166 ZGB ( CC ); Art. 21 para. 2 Ed
  • LuxembourgLuxembourg LU : Art. 165 ZGB ( CC ); Art. 21 Ed
  • MonacoMonaco MC : Art. 141 ZGB ( CC )
  • LiechtensteinLiechtenstein LI : Art. 26 Marriage Act
  • HungaryHungary HU : § 4: 5 ZGB ( Ptk )
  • SloveniaSlovenia SI : Art. 16, 28 EheFamG ( ZZZDR )
Southeast Europe:
  • RomaniaRomania RO : Art. 287 ZGB ( CC ); Art. 48 Verf
  • BulgariaBulgaria BG : Art. 4 FamGB ( СК ); Art. 46 Ed
  • North MacedoniaNorth Macedonia MK : Art. 15, 27, 30 FamG ( ЗС )
  • SerbiaSerbia RS : Art. 15 FamG ( ПЗ )
  • KosovoKosovo XK : Art. 28 FamG ( LF )
  • MontenegroMontenegro ME : Art. 16, 31 FamG ( PZ )
  • Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina BA-BIH : Art. 7 FamG ( PZ )
  • Srpska RepublikaRepublika Srpska BA-SRP : Art. 14 FamG ( ПЗ )
  • Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina BA-BRC : Art. 6 FamG ( PZ )
  • AlbaniaAlbania AL : Art. 28 FamGB ( KF )
Eastern Europe / successor states of the USSR:
  • RussiaRussia RU : Art. 1 Para. 2 FamGB ( СК РФ )
  • BelarusBelarus BY : Art. 15 EheFamGB ( КоБС )
  • UkraineUkraine UA : Art. 21 FamGB ( СК )
  • Moldova RepublicRepublic of Moldova MD : Art. 9 FamGB ( CF )
  • GeorgiaGeorgia GE : Art. 1106 ZGB ( სკ )
  • ArmeniaArmenia AM : Art. 9 FamGB ( ԸՕ )
  • AzerbaijanAzerbaijan AZ : Art. 2 FamGB ( AM )
  • KazakhstanKazakhstan KZ : Art. 2 Para. 3 EheFamGB ( НжОТК )

In Tunisia , marriage is mandatory in front of a civil registrar or notary; Material marriage law is also approximated to civil principles.

Optional civil marriage

There are two variants of optional civil marriage, depending on the alternative form.

Civil marriage alongside religious marriage

Most states with optional civil marriages only allow a choice between civil (non-religious) and religious forms of marriage; In any case, marriage is subject to non-religious national law. These include the countries of the Anglo-American and the Nordic legal system as well as some Catholic countries. The following European legal systems allow religious marriages:

Predominantly Catholic: Predominantly Protestant: Mostly Orthodox:
  • GreeceGreece GR : Art. 1367 ZGB ( ΑΚ ; since 1982)
  • Cyprus RepublicRepublic of Cyprus CY : Art. 3 EheG ( Κεφ. 279 )

Mostly Muslim:

  • TurkeyTurkey TR : Art. 22 PStG ( NHK ; since 2017)

The Catholic countries Italy, Spain, Portugal and Malta also allow annulment by a canonical church court .

Civil marriage alongside religious marriage

Some states have civil marriage alongside religious marriage. A typical example is the special marriage in India , Pakistan and Bangladesh , which exists here alongside the purely religious Islamic marriage and at least religiously closed other forms of marriage. Further examples are the partnership alliance of non-denominational partners in Israel (which, however, presupposes that both parties are non-denominational and therefore does not represent a real option) and the option of Muslims in Greece .

Religious marriage

The only state in Europe with compulsory clerical marriage is the Vatican state , which only allows canonical marriage (until 1993 also Andorra). In many Islamic states from Morocco in the west to Indonesia in the east (exceptions: Tunisia, Turkey, successor states of the Soviet Union) and also in Israel, purely religious marriage is common, although several religions are generally recognized, but marriages of different denominations are hardly possible.

In Israel , Jews , Muslims , Druze and some Christian denominations (at least the Latin , Maronite and Greek Orthodox ) have their own law and jurisdiction in matters of personal status. Here, for example, a Jewish marriage can only be divorced by the rabbinical court , which archives the divorce letter (Get) . There are even 18 recognized religious communities in Lebanon , each with its own marriage law and jurisdiction. Some couples from Israel or Lebanon who are willing to marry move to Cyprus to get married in a civil form.

Other examples: Jordan, Syria, Iran, Indonesia.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Andreas Becker: Napoleonic elite politics in the Rhineland: the Protestant clergy in Roerdepartement 1802-1814 (= Rhenish Archives, Volume 156). Böhlau Verlag, Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-412-20655-0 , p. 51 ff.
  2. ^ Varel-Lexikon: Johann Gerhard Oncken paved the way for civil marriage. In: Nordwest-Zeitung online. June 5, 2010, accessed December 16, 2017.
  3. Michael Sachs: 'Prince Bishop and Vagabond'. The story of a friendship between the Prince-Bishop of Breslau Heinrich Förster (1799–1881) and the writer and actor Karl von Holtei (1798–1880). Edited textually based on the original Holteis manuscript. In: Medical historical messages. Journal for the history of science and specialist prose research. Volume 35, 2016 (2018), pp. 223–291, here: p. 278.
  4. Calendar sheet 2006: January 23. Rhein-Zeitung, January 23, 2006.
  5. Weddings in Germany - data and facts. ( Memento of March 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Retrieved March 26, 2013.
  6. Getting married soon without a registry office. on: , July 3, 2008.
  7. After the Civil Status Reform Act of 2007 came into force on January 1, 2009, the family and marriage books etc. will be replaced by electronic civil status registers.
  8. For the adopted cf. Civil status certificate .
  9. cf. for example the requirements of the registry office Bad Homburg. Website of the city of Bad Homburg, accessed on December 16, 2017.
  10. Reichs-Gesetz-Blatt für das Kaiserthum Oesterreich, year 1868, 19th item: RGBl. 47/1868 , p. 93.
  11. Art. 8 EheG ( 婚姻法 )
  12. Art. 739 ZGB ( 民法 )
  13. Art. 812 ZGB ( 민법 )
  14. Art. 31 PStG ( Loi n ° 57-3 réglementant l'état civil )
  15. Personal Statute Code ( Code du statut personnel )
  16. ^ Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania , Case No. 6/94
  17. Background: Bergmann aktuell (October 26, 2017)
  18. cf. Art. 63 of Regulation (EC) No. 2201/2003 ( Brussels IIa ); Thomas Rauscher: European civil procedure and conflict of laws , Art 63 Brussels IIa-VO
  19. ^ India: The Special Marriage Act, 1954 ; Pakistan: The Special Marriage Act, 1872 ; Bangladesh: The Special Marriage Act, 1872
  20. ^ Civil Union Law for Citizens with no Religious Affiliation, 2010
  21. Art. 5 Para. 4 of Act 1920/1991 in the 2018 version; Bergmann aktuell (January 29, 2018)
  22. Art. 4 letter c Law on Sources of Law
  23. cf. The Palestine Order in Council, 1922–1947 , ss. 51-67; Angelika Günzel: Religious Communities in Israel (2006)
  24. Gil Yaron: Divorce Law: Why Women Are "Chained" in Modern Israel Die Welt , April 11, 2016
  25. Hanno Hauenstein: "Get - The Trial of Viviane Amsalem": No carte blanche for the woman Die Zeit , January 17, 2015
  26. According to the decision No. 60 of the French High Commissioner of March 13, 1936 with amendment from 1996 ( Arabic ) these are
  27. Constitution ( English ), Art. 105-106 (Islam), Art. 108-109 (other); including (Law No. 2/1938 on the Councils of Non-Muslim Religious Communities; Arabic ) the Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Armenian, Latin and Anglican communities
  28. Decree Law No. 59 on the Personal Statute of September 17, 1953 ( Arabic ), Art. 307 (Druze), Art. 308 (Christians and Jews)
  29. Constitution ( English ), Art. 12 (Islam), Art. 13 ( Zoroastrianism , Judaism, Christianity)
  30. ^ Marriage Act ( UU No. 1 Thn 1974 - Perkawinan ), Art. 2. In addition to Islam ( Kompilasi Hukum Islam ), Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism and, since 2006, Confucianism are recognized ( Bergmann , Indonesia p. 29).