Change in case law on maintenance for minor children - standardised requirement rates in Düsseldorf table also expected for higher income levels in future

In its ruling of 16 September 2020, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) set the course for a simplified calculation of maintenance payments by higher-earning parents for their children:

The family courts use the so-called Düsseldorf table to calculate maintenance. This contains standardised amounts for the child's maintenance requirements, depending on the income of the parent obliged to pay maintenance.

For income above €5,500.00 per month that is relevant under maintenance law, the table refers to the "circumstances of the individual case". In concrete terms, this previously meant a certain amount of effort for the child entitled to maintenance: they could only claim payments in excess of the amount shown in the table by specifically setting out their needs and proving them in the event of a dispute - regardless of whether the parent obliged to pay maintenance has a net income of €6,000.00 or €60,000.00 per month. The current Düsseldorf table for 2021 cites a Federal Court of Justice ruling from September 2020 for the first time for these cases.

In this, the Federal Court of Justice announced that it would no longer adhere to its previous case law without restriction: While it previously rejected the use of standardised requirement amounts for higher income brackets, it no longer considers an update of the Düsseldorf table for monthly net income amounts of up to €11,000.00 to be ruled out in future. In view of this change in case law, the higher regional courts, which update the Düsseldorf table on an ongoing basis, are likely to see themselves obliged to promptly stipulate graduated requirement amounts for net income amounts between € 5,501.00 and € 11,000.00 and to adjust the maintenance guidelines accordingly.

In order to be able to determine the amount owed from this updated table, the child entitled to maintenance has a right to information from the parent liable for maintenance. Unlike in the past, the parent can no longer limit themselves to declaring that they have "unlimited ability to pay", but must disclose their income situation.

For many children of higher-earning debtors, this change in case law means that in future they will share more in their above-average income. It will then no longer be necessary to demonstrate increased need, which may be disputed.

Nicola Kolossa, trainee lawyer

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