Child Support and the Laws Governing it in Germany

child

According to the children’s rights, children are entitled to providence and care from their parents. Different countries have different laws that ensure that children in their territory and/or carrying their citizenship access this basic right.

Child support in Germany can be a bit complicated, but I’ll try and explain the general rules. If you’re in any of these situations, it would help to talk to a qualified lawyer.

The assumption here is that one parent is taking care of the child solely and requires child support from the other parent.

Who is the Child’s Father?

If it is a mother demanding for child support from the “father”, the father has to be as defined in the German law. A Father under German law (§ 1592 Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) is defined as the man:

  • Married to the mother of the child
  • Who accepts the pregnancy (one who signs the “Vaterschaftsanerkennung”)
  • Whose paternity has been declared by a court (e.g. in cases of adoption)

The mother’s word DOESN’T count. In cases of discrepancies, a court may demand a DNA test.

When BOTH parents live in Germany

The child’s father is to pay child support until the child is at least 21 years of age or until the child is able to earn a living from their trained profession. The amount is dependent on

  • father’s income,
  • child’s age,
  • whether or not the child is in school
  • prior living standards (for divorced couples)

In Germany the basic amount to be paid is regulated by the Düsseldorfer-Tabelle-2013. Those in southern Germany may follow the variations from the Süddeutsche Leitlinien. The Süddeutsche Leitlinien are not binding laws but guidelines for those living in the South.

The parent living with the child can either settle on payments with the other parent privately or use the courts to set the amount and frequency of payment.  In cases where the other parent does pay for child support, then the Jugendamt has the ability to take the money from them and give it to the parent who lives with the child.

The jugendamt then deducts the amount owed in child support from the parent’s account and sends it to the parent the child lives with.

Below are some of the changes made to the Düsseldorfer Tabelle in 2013:

Unterhaltspflicht gegenüber … in Euro Unterhalt 2012 Unterhalt 2013 NEU
Kindern bis 21 Jahre (im Haushalt eines Elternteils und allgemeine Schulausbildung), Unterhaltspflichtiger erwerbstätig 950 1.000
Kindern bis 21 Jahre (im Haushalt eines Elternteils und allgemeine Schulausbildung), Unterhaltspflichtiger nicht erwerbstätig 770 800
anderen volljährigen Kinder 1.150 1.200
Ehegatte oder Mutter/Vater eines nichtehelichen Kindes 1. 050 1.100
Eltern 1.500 1.600

When the child lives in Germany and Parent to pay is abroad:

If the child lives in Germany, then the German laws would apply in paying the child support. The mother/father who lives with the child in Germany should visit the Amtsgericht for advice and proper analysis of the issue then the case is escalated to the Federal Office of Justice (Bundesamt für Justiz). The Jugendamt can be called in to act as the child’s representative or just support the parent in following up the case.

Unfortunately, the only thing the German court can do is issue a court order against the parent abroad but can’t follow it up. In countries with joint agreements, the court order issued in Germany can be presented in the other parent’s current location for implementation and even then, the other country can only ensure the information reaches the affected in their territory but can’t follow it up.

Germany has reciprocal laws with South Africa, the US (except Alabama, Mississippi und dem District of Columbia), and Canada (except Provinz Québec and Territories Nunavut), if the parent to pay lives or is a citizen of the above named countries, Germany can follow up the child support.

In cases where it’s not clear which law to use, then the Hague Protocol for Child Support 2007 (pdf) is used as reference if both countries are signatories of the protocol. The Federal Office of Justice also has its regulations on how it undertakes such matters as well as a step by step guide for parents seeking child support from Abroad: Auslandsunterhalt (pdf)

According to the Federal Office of Justice, once a person applies for child support then the Federal Office of Justice together with the responsible office in the other country should work together to ensure the person gets the court order. All this is free. Costs for a lawyer, DNA test or court cases should be paid for by the applicant.

The parent to pay is allowed to appeal the ruling on child support within 45days of receiving the order failure to which s/he has to fulfil the stipulated ruling.

When the child lives abroad and parent to pay is in Germany:

Where a parent sues for child support depends on the child’s location. The child support laws of the child’s location apply and when it’s not clear which law to use, then the Hague Protocol for Child Support 2007 is used as reference if both countries are signatories of the protocol. If the country where the child lives has an agreement with Germany, a court order from that country can be presented to a German court for implementation.

When the child is German and lives abroad and parent to pay is in Germany:

If the child has German citizenship and lives outside Germany, then the German law applies. The parent can either:

  • sue the parent based in Germany in a German court or
  • sue the parent in the local court and use the court order in Germany

The first option would work best simply because in the second option the German authorities can only make sure the person living in Germany knows they have a court order abroad and not implement it while in the first, the Jugendamt can come in and deduct the money on the child’s behalf.

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