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Secured: The community of responsibility should cover relationships beyond family and marriage

Photo: Science Photo Library / IMAGO

What does community of responsibility mean?

It is a project that the traffic light coalition has been promoting since the beginning of the legislature: the community of responsibility. The aim is for people to be able to take legal responsibility for each other beyond marriage and romantic relationships. After the publication of key points was repeatedly postponed, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) presented the first ideas today.

Those involved should therefore be able to determine for themselves which rights go hand in hand with the community of responsibility. The key points of the Ministry of Justice stipulate that people can choose from various “modules” that cover areas such as housing, care or finances.

Who is the community of responsibility aimed at?

In the future, up to six adult people will be able to join together in a community. A person cannot enter into several communities of responsibility at the same time. But: People who are married can also join forces with people other than their spouse in a community of responsibility.

The concept is intended for everyone who wants to protect themselves outside of marital and family relationships. This can apply, for example, to shared apartments, to friends who support each other in everyday life, to neighbors or single seniors. The only requirement is that the people joining together have an “actual personal closeness to each other,” as it says in the key points.

Whether such proximity exists is ultimately not controlled. It is enough that the people themselves declare this when they merge. The contract for a community of responsibility must be notarized.

What can be regulated with this?

The Justice Department's proposal distinguishes between two steps. First there is the “basic level”. It stipulates that the legal regulations that also apply to personal relationships apply between partners in a community of responsibility. This includes, for example, that the members of the community of responsibility are taken into account if a legal guardian has to be named for one of them - this is the case, for example, if a person can no longer manage their own affairs independently due to illness.

In addition, there is an “advanced level” with which the community of responsibility can be expanded to other areas of life. The key points of the Ministry of Justice provide for various modules that those involved can freely choose between and which they can also combine if necessary:

  • Health matters:

    If the partners decide to do this, in the event of a health emergency, each person in the community of responsibility can request information from the treating doctors. The partners can also make decisions for each other, for example when it comes to consent to operations.

  • Living together:

    Communal living should also be regulated. This includes, for example, partners granting each other rights to manage the household and determining how the costs of living together are shared. What happens to the shared living space if the community dissolves can also be specified.

  • Care

    : People who decide to care privately for someone in the community of responsibility could be treated the same as relatives. The carers can then be released from their professional activities and receive financial support.

  • Community of gain:

    The community of gain has so far existed in marriage, but in the future the model will also be open to communities of responsibility. According to the key points, however, this should only apply to communities that consist of two people. After the end of a community of responsibility, the partner who has earned less in the community is entitled to an asset settlement.

What distinguishes community of responsibility from marriage?

The CDU and CSU are already warning about the potential for abuse of the new regulations. “Nobody will be able to control what kind of connection there is between people in such a community of responsibility,” Günter Krings, legal policy spokesman for the CDU, recently told the “Editorial Network Germany.”


What if the state ends up recognizing connections that our legal system has so far rightly rejected? That could be polygamy, for example.”

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, however, repeatedly emphasized that the community of responsibility was not a “light marriage”. “The special protection of marriage” remains unaffected by the new construct, it is also stated in the key points.

Some rights that come with marriage are explicitly excluded from the community of responsibility. This includes, for example, the relationship with children and associated questions of parentage and custody. Inheritances also remain unaffected by the community of responsibility, as does the right to name - people in communities of responsibility cannot therefore adopt a common surname.

In addition, unlike marriages, communities of responsibility should not receive any tax benefits. And the merger into responsibility communities does not affect residence and work permits either.

How can a community be dissolved?

It should be possible to change or terminate the contract for a community of responsibility at any time. Changes to the contract, for example if new partners are to be accepted or additional modules are to be integrated, must be made with the consent of all those involved and must also be notarized.

However, if someone wants to leave a community of responsibility, he or she can do so unilaterally. The Ministry of Justice still wants to examine how this needs to be done.

What happens next with the law?

The key points are present. However, a specific bill still has to be drawn up, voted on in the cabinet and passed through the Bundestag. According to Justice Minister Buschmann, the project should be moved forward quickly so that the law can come into force next year - in time for the next federal election.