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Same sex cohabitation

What does the law say?

The "one" rainbow family does not exist

The forms of cohabitation of rainbow families are diverse. A rainbow family is a family in which at least one parent is lesbian, gay, bisexual or pansexual, trans* or inter*. For homosexual couples, until 2017, legal protection of their family model could only be achieved through a registered civil partnership. Since 1.10.2017, the possibility of "marriage for all" exists. What this means for same-sex and queer couples, read this article.


Marriage for all has been in place since October 2017. This makes it possible for two people - regardless of gender - to enter into marriage with each other.

To enter into a marriage, the following conditions must be met:

  • Both partners*innen are of legal age and fully capable.
  • The partners*innen are not married or partnered.
  • The partners*innen are not related to each other in a straight line.
  • The partners*innen do not enter into a marriage of convenience.

The same-sex marriage is almost equal to the marriage of heterosexual couples when it comes to tax, family and custody aspects. Also, same-sex married couples can jointly (rather than consecutively) adopt other people's children. However, there are still differences when it comes to questions of adoption and parentage law:

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  1. 1. Stepchild adoption remains necessary despite opening of marriage
    If a man is married to the mother at the time of the child's birth, he is automatically the child's legal father. This also applies if the child was conceived with the help of a sperm donor. The situation is different for same-sex couples. A woman who is married to the mother of the child at the time of birth must go the stepchild adoption route.
  2. 2. The law of parentage prescribes stepchild adoption
    Unmarried heterosexual couples can legally recognize a child before it is born. Same-sex couples do not have this right. Civil partners must still adopt the biological child in the course of a stepchild adoption. Until the adoption procedure is completed, the child has only one legal parent.

Registered civil partnership

The Civil Partnership Act (LPartG) has made it possible for same-sex couples to enter into a registered civil partnership since 2001 in order to legally secure their relationship. All legal issues are regulated in the LPartG.

Since the introduction of "marriage for all" on Oct. 1, 2017, however, it is no longer possible to enter into a registered civil partnership. It has been abolished. You can (but do not have to) convert an existing registered civil partnership into a marriage.

Most of the regulations of the Civil Partnership Act have been adapted over time to the statutory marriage law. With the name right for example, the regulations to the family maintenance or the maintenance payments with separating as well as the parents maintenance apply the same rules. The matrimonial property regime of community of gains also applies to both partners, unless something else has been expressly agreed. This applies to registered civil partnerships just as it does to married couples. Also with the pension equalization there are no differences to married couples.

Differences exist, however, if you have the desire to jointly adopt a child. In a civil partnership you can adopt a child not simultaneously, but only in the form of a successive adoption. Detailed information on the forms of adoption can be found here on the Familienportal.NRW.

The conversion of a registered civil partnership into a marriage

Whoever entered into a registered civil partnership before 2017 can continue it or convert it into a marriage. The marriage takes place at the registry office. In addition to the usual documents, the civil partnership certificate must be presented.

Where can we find help and advice?

You have questions about same-sex marriage or civil partnership, would like to get advice or want support in family planning issues? You can find points of contact near you in North Rhine-Westphalia on the website of the LAG Regenbogenfamilien NRW.

A compilation of counseling centers and self-help groups that offer support and information for rainbow families can also be found on the website of the Fachstelle Regenbogenfamilien NRW.

More informationLinks for further reading

The Rainbow Families Portal provides materials ranging from feature films to guidebooks about rainbow families in its extensive database.

Since August 2021, there is the Fachstelle Regenbogenfamilien NRW with many offers and information for networking, making visible and empowering for


Under Rainbow Family you will find information on family planning and family life, networking and much more.

The website Andersundgleich-NRW does information and anti-discrimination work on sexual and gender diversity in NRW.

The KiTa-Portal NRW also provides information about family diversity in daycare.

More informationTo the downoad

On the Internet side of the family Ministry North-Rhine/Westphalia the brochure is available "rainbow families become and be" to the free Download.

You can download the brochure "We're in" Resources and Competencies of Rainbow Families in Child Day Care" for free as a PDF.