1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany's top court demands child marriage law be amended

March 29, 2023

A 2017 law invalidating all marriages where a participant is under 16 is unconstitutionally vague, the court said. Lawmakers will have until mid-2024 to clarify the statute.

The building housing Germany's Constitutional Court
Germany's top court demanded that parliament clarify whether the marriages were reinstated after both parties turn 16Image: Uli Decke/picture alliance/dpa

Germany's Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that a 2017 law aimed at ending child marriages is not clear enough and must be amended.

The current statute declares all marriages invalid if one of the parties was under 16 at the time of the wedding. This includes marriages entered into abroad by German residents.

It was designed to prevent parents from sending their children to other countries to participate in arranged marriages, and to invalidate child marriages performed abroad on couples who later came to Germany.

Court calls for clarification

The court gave lawmakers until the end of June 2024 to issue clarifications on issues such as whether minors could petition for alimony before or after their 16th birthday, and whether a previously void marriage becomes valid after both parties are at least 16 years old.

The current case was brought before the Constitutional Court by a Syrian couple whose marriage was invalidated when they arrived in Germany in 2015 as refugees.

At the time, the girl was 14 and the man was 21. Upon arrival, she was separated from her husband and placed in a facility for female refugees.

es/sms (dpa, AFP)

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.