Answer to a question from a reader

How can I get Home Affairs to change my marital status?

The short answer

You may need legal assistance to speed up the process.

The whole question

I got divorced in Germany in 2016. I applied and handed in documents needed for Home Affairs to change my status. It's been more than a year and my status is still the same. Now, I want to marry again but I can't because of my current marital status. How can I get Home Affairs to change my marital status?

The long answer

I’m afraid there is no quick or easy solution here: Home Affairs is widely experienced as dysfunctional and it takes much longer than it says it will to process changes in marital status. It’s supposed to take three months to amend your marital status from the time Home Affairs receives your divorce certificate, but many people have waited for longer than a year for the amendment. It seems that there is a very large backlog of cases and they don’t have the staff and resources to deal with it effectively.

This maddening inefficiency has become very much worse since the Covid-19 lockdown with reduced hours and services at Home Affairs offices.

The only way Home Affairs could be compelled to amend your marital status more speedily is if a court found the delay unreasonable and ordered the Minister of Home Affairs to issue it within a given period of time. This would mean engaging lawyers, which would usually be expensive, unless they were prepared to do it without charging for their services, i.e. pro bono.

There may be human rights lawyers in Germany who could assist you; you could also contact Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa, who have taken up many cases involving Home Affairs. You can email them at [email protected] and ask if there is any way they can assist you in this matter.

Answered on Sept. 18, 2020, 11:01 a.m.

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