The Protection against Violence Act [Gewaltschutzgesetz] is intended to ensure that all persons affected by violence are protected from further violent attacks. The following information will give you an overview of your rights. We encourage you to take advantage of the free consultation service offered by violence counselling centres, where the necessary legal steps can be discussed and arranged with you.
Protection order and removal
If, on the basis of certain facts, the police have reason to believe that your health, your freedom or even your life is at risk - particularly after an individual has been violent or threatened violence against you - they can prohibit the perpetrator from entering the apartment/house and its immediate surroundings (again). If he refuses to leave the area covered by the protection order the police must remove him.
If children under the age of 14 are also at risk, the police can prohibit the perpetrator from entering their school or childcare facility as well.
The police will take the keys that the perpetrator affected by the protection order has to the apartment/house from him immediately. He will only be allowed to take absolutely essential personal possessions.
Any perpetrator of violence can be issued with a protection order and removed - the owner of the residence or an ex-boyfriend who "turns up" there, for example.
The protection order initially applies for two weeks. If the perpetrator breaches it, he will be liable for prosecution. During the first three days, the police must monitor compliance with the protection order by visiting your apartment/house.
Irrespective of this, you should call the police immediately if the order is breached. You are also bound by the protection order, i.e. you must not let the perpetrator into the apartment/house. If he urgently needs something from the apartment/house while the protection order is in force, he may only collect it if he is accompanied by the police.
If you apply to the court for an injunction immediately, and no later than within 2 weeks, the protection order will expire no later than 4 weeks after its commencement. During this period the court will usually make a decision on your application, so that if it is accepted the protection offered by the protection order will run seamlessly into the protection offered by the injunction.
Longer-term protection by a court injunction
If longer-term protection against the perpetrator or protection during the separation period is necessary, you can submit an application for an injunction to the district court.
The ownership of the apartment/house in question is of no relevance. This means the perpetrator can be ordered to leave the residence and prohibited from entering it even if it belongs to him.
In order to apply for an injunction, violence or the threat of violence or psychological terror must be present, making it unreasonable for you to continue cohabiting or coming into contact.
In order to achieve continuous protection after a protection order expires, you must contact the district court within 2 weeks of the police action. However, the police do not have to have issued a protection order for you to apply for an injunction, so you can go to the court irrespective of this at any time.
In certain cases the court may even issue an injunction without questioning the perpetrator. At your request, it can:
- order the perpetrator to leave the apartment/house and the immediate surroundings,
- prohibit the perpetrator from returning to the apartment/house and the immediate surroundings,
- prohibit the perpetrator from visiting certain places (such as the children's nursery, school, playground or your place of work) and/or
- prohibit the perpetrator from meeting with you or
- making contact with you (by telephone, text or by "waiting for you").
The ban on returning to the apartment/house, is valid for a maximum of 6 months. If you initiate court proceedings to clarify the living arrangements during this period, e.g. file for divorce, the ban may be extended at your request until the legally binding conclusion of these proceedings, so that you no longer have to live with the perpetrator.
The ban on making contact and meeting with you and any ban on visiting specific places initially applies for a maximum of 1 year and, if the ban is ignored, may be extended for a further year at your request.
If the perpetrator fails to comply with the injunction, contact the police immediately. They are responsible for ensuring on scene that the perpetrator complies with the provisions set down. The perpetrator will receive an administrative penalty and the court will also be informed.
Advice and assistance through the Protection against Violence Centre
The Protection against Violence Centre is a statutory, government-funded facility that specialises in comprehensively supporting victims of domestic violence and stalking.
If a protection order has been issued by the police, they will immediately inform the Protection against Violence Centre. A female advisor will then contact you and actively offer support. The support ranges from creating a safety plan and legal advice (e.g. when applying for an injunction) through to psychological and social support.
The police must also notify the Protection against Violence Centre of any reports of stalking and in this case you will again be contacted actively straight away.
Of course, people affected by domestic violence or stalking can also contact the Protection against Violence Centre directly, i.e. without prior intervention by the police.
Work permits for migrant women in cases of domestic violence
A work permit may be issued to a foreign national who is unable to continue living with her spouse because he has physically attacked or threatened her or her (non-adult) children, or has behaved in a way that significantly impairs her mental health.
The conditions for this are that as a result of the spouse's violent behaviour:
- a report has been filed against him by the safety authority or
- an injunction has been issued or a judicial decision to grant separate residence has been made or
- the marriage has been ended with a divorce or
- a doctor, a hospital, a Protection against Violence Centre/intervention centre, a women's shelter, the youth welfare office /youth welfare centre or a child protection centre has been visited and a corresponding report has been made by this person/institution or a certificate drawn up.