Custody, Contact & Child Support

In addition to the desire to be there for a common child, you also have the duty and the right to care for your minor child. Custody includes all matters that affect the further life of your child. This includes, for example:

  • the determination of the name
  • registering your child in a day care centre or school
  • the choice of school,
  • education,
  • (religious) education,
  • the right to determine the child’s whereabouts,
  • rights of access and
  • medical treatment.

In many cases, both parents share custody. The best interests of the child are always at the centre. As parents of your child, you have or acquire joint custody,

if you are married to each other at the time of the child’s birth,
if you marry each other after the birth,
if you declare that you want to take over custody jointly (custody declarations), or
if the family court gives you joint custody of the child.

Sometimes it is better for the welfare of the child to transfer parental care to only one parent. To do this, a corresponding application must be made to the family court.

If you are not married to each other and have not yet made any declarations of custody, then the mother has sole parental custody. If you nevertheless wish to jointly care for your child, you must declare that you wish to jointly assume custody. These so-called declarations of custody must be publicly notarised, for example at the Youth Welfare Office or at a notary’s office. It can also be made before the birth.

Since 2013, fathers can also obtain joint custody without the mother’s consent. They can apply to the family court for the transfer of joint custody. The court grants this application if the transfer of joint parental custody is not contrary to the best interests of the child. This is presumed if contrary reasons are neither presented by the mother nor otherwise apparent within a period determined by the family court. In this case, the family court decides in a simplified procedure without hearing the youth welfare office and hearing the child’s parents in person.

The same applies to parents after separation and divorce. Here, too, joint custody is maintained as long as this is not contrary to the best interests of the child. How parents can behave in such a case when exercising custody and how they can decide in matters of considerable or everyday importance can be read in my dissertation ‘Decision-making rights in cases of joint parental custody of separated spouses in Germany and Australia’. (see publications).

With regards to the cash maintenance of the child, the following differentiation can be made: If the parents take turns in caring for and bringing up the child, they have to pay for the child’s cash maintenance on a pro rata basis (BGH FamRZ 2006, 1017).

However, the parent liable for maintenance is entitled to a necessary deductible to secure his or her own existence. This amounts to 1,160 EUR/month for employed persons and 960 EUR/month for non-employed persons. The deductible for children of full age is 1,400 EUR.

The obligation to pay maintenance exists as long as the child is unable to support itself, i.e. it is needy. Child maintenance is defined by law as minimum maintenance. Minimum maintenance is the amount that the parent liable to pay maintenance must pay. Since 1 January 2016, minimum maintenance is based directly on the subsistence level of the child (§ 1612a BGB).

Custody, Visitation & Child Support

In addition to the desire to be there for a common child, you also have the duty and the right to care for your minor child. Custody includes all matters that affect the further life of your child. This includes, for example:

  • the determination of the name
  • registering your child in a day care centre or school
  • the choice of school,
  • education,
  • (religious) education,
  • the right to determine the child’s whereabouts,
  • rights of access and
  • medical treatment.

In many cases, both parents share custody. The best interests of the child are always at the centre. As parents of your child, you have or acquire joint custody,

if you are married to each other at the time of the child’s birth,
if you marry each other after the birth,
if you declare that you want to take over custody jointly (custody declarations), or
if the family court gives you joint custody of the child.

Sometimes it is better for the welfare of the child to transfer parental care to only one parent. To do this, a corresponding application must be made to the family court.

If you are not married to each other and have not yet made any declarations of custody, then the mother has sole parental custody. If you nevertheless wish to jointly care for your child, you must declare that you wish to jointly assume custody. These so-called declarations of custody must be publicly notarised, for example at the Youth Welfare Office or at a notary’s office. It can also be made before the birth.

Since 2013, fathers can also obtain joint custody without the mother’s consent. They can apply to the family court for the transfer of joint custody. The court grants this application if the transfer of joint parental custody is not contrary to the best interests of the child. This is presumed if contrary reasons are neither presented by the mother nor otherwise apparent within a period determined by the family court. In this case, the family court decides in a simplified procedure without hearing the youth welfare office and hearing the child’s parents in person.

The same applies to parents after separation and divorce. Here, too, joint custody is maintained as long as this is not contrary to the best interests of the child. How parents can behave in such a case when exercising custody and how they can decide in matters of considerable or everyday importance can be read in my dissertation ‘Decision-making rights in cases of joint parental custody of separated spouses in Germany and Australia’. (see publications).

With regards to the cash maintenance of the child, the following differentiation can be made: If the parents take turns in caring for and bringing up the child, they have to pay for the child’s cash maintenance on a pro rata basis (BGH FamRZ 2006, 1017).

However, the parent liable for maintenance is entitled to a necessary deductible to secure his or her own existence. This amounts to 1,160 EUR/month for employed persons and 960 EUR/month for non-employed persons. The deductible for children of full age is 1,400 EUR.

The obligation to pay maintenance exists as long as the child is unable to support itself, i.e. it is needy. Child maintenance is defined by law as minimum maintenance. Minimum maintenance is the amount that the parent liable to pay maintenance must pay. Since 1 January 2016, minimum maintenance is based directly on the subsistence level of the child (§ 1612a BGB).