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Senior shared apartments should also benefit from the community of responsibility.

Photo: Hinterhaus Productions / Stone RF / Getty Images

Obtaining information in the hospital, forming a community of beneficiaries and claiming financial support in the event of need for care: This should be possible for people in a so-called community of responsibility from 2025. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) presented a corresponding key points paper last Monday. However, his proposals have met with criticism from legal associations.

The German Association of Women Lawyers, among others, complains that such an alternative to marriage is not necessary in Germany. “Contracts or powers of attorney can already cover the constellations on paper,” said Anna Lena Göttsche, chairwoman of the Commission for Family, Inheritance and Civil Law. The key points paper stipulates that up to six adult people can join together to form a community through a notarized contract.

Low interest expected

The aim is to make it possible for people to be able to legally stand up for each other even outside of romantic relationships. The partners in a community of responsibility should, for example, be able to receive information in health emergency situations or make decisions about further treatment. If the contract is only concluded between two people, they can also form a community of profits.

According to Göttsche, many of these points can also be regulated using powers of attorney or a living will. “We have the right, we just have to apply it or transform it,” says the family law professor. The German Lawyers' Association also expects "low interest" in the new regulation - among other things because there are costs associated with notarization. Eva Becker, chairwoman of the Family Law Committee, speaks of a legal instrument "that is likely to overwhelm those affected in its ramifications."

The associations also fear disadvantages for people who take on unpaid work in the household or in childcare for a long time. Unlike a marriage, the community of responsibility can be dissolved unilaterally without such a division of labor being balanced, for example through maintenance payments. The relationship between the partners is also difficult to understand.

The key issues paper stipulates that there is an “actual personal closeness relationship” between the members of a community of responsibility. "It's unclear to me how this should be controlled," says Anna Lena Göttsche. This in turn poses the risk of enabling family models that are similar to a marriage with several people. Because even people who are already married should be able to enter into a community of responsibility with others.

France as a model

In France, it has been possible to legally bind oneself outside of marriage since 1999. The “pacte civile de solidarité,” or PACS for short, was originally introduced as an alternative for same-sex couples. The partners commit to supporting each other – what exactly that support looks like is up to them. Unlike the German model, they are taxed together. Since France made marriage universal in 2013, 96 percent of PACS contracts have been signed by heterosexual couples. For Anna Lena Göttsche, the model makes little sense: “From an equal opportunity policy perspective, I don’t see any advantages in the PACS.”

The same applies to them for the community of responsibility. The Justice Minister's proposal does not help queer families. Because: According to the key points paper, the parent-child relationship remains unaffected. A woman whose partner has a child is not automatically considered a parent - even if the couple lives in a community of responsibility. Instead, she has to adopt their child. In order for that to change, a new regulation of parentage law would be needed. Justice Minister Buschmann has already presented a key points paper on this. For the German Association of Women Lawyers, this is currently the more urgent reform.