Custody, access rights & naming rights
In addition to the desire to be there for a child together, you also have the duty and the right to care for your minor child. Custody covers all important matters that affect your child’s life. These include, for example:
- the determination of the name
- registration in a daycare center or school,
- the choice of school,
- (religious) education,
- the right of residence,
- the right of access,
- medical interventions with the risk of considerable complications (operations or other serious diseases).
Usually both parents share the care. The child’s well-being is always the focus. There is a common custody,
- if you are married at the time the child is born,
- if you marry each other after birth,
- if you declare that you want to take care of the care together (declaration of care) or
- when the family court jointly transfers parental responsibility to you.
Sometimes, for the sake of the child, it is better to transfer parental care to just one parent. You do not have to make this decision alone. You are entitled to advice from the responsible youth welfare office, which supports you in developing good rules. This advice is also offered by independent youth welfare organizations, such as church or non-profit organizations. You can find more information under Support, Advice and Assistance.
How do you get custody?
If you are not married to one another and do not provide any custody statements, then the mother has sole parental responsibility. However, if you still want to take care of your child together, you must declare that you want to take care of them together. These so-called care declarations must be officially certified, for example at the youth welfare office or at a notary. They can also be given before the birth. Since 2013, fathers have been able to apply for joint custody at the family court without the mother’s consent and have been granted a new, simplified procedure.
The family court transfers joint custody to the parents if and insofar as this does not contradict the best interests of the child. If nothing speaks against the transfer of shared custody, the family court assumes that shared parental custody is in the best interests of the child. The mother can comment on a custody request from the father at least within six weeks after the birth of the child.
Can one become a guardian for the partner’s child?
In two cases, step parents can also apply for guardianship for their stepchild:
- if the court has ruled that the biological parent is not given custody,
- or if the biological parent has died.
The custodial birth parent can also specify in a will that the step-parent is to be used as a guardian. In this case, the court is normally bound to the determination.
Under certain conditions, a stepchild adoption can be considered. A spouse or life partner adopts the biological child of his spouse. Here you can find more information about adoption.
Who gets custody in the event of separation?
Parents usually have joint custody after divorce or separation. You still have to decide all important matters together. You can find more about this under Decision-making powers.
For more information on custody, please contact the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The right of access regulates the right to contact – both the handling of your minor child with parents, step parents and third parties, and vice versa. Even if you have no custody as a parent, you have a right of access. The right of access primarily gives you the authority to see and speak to your child at regular intervals. In addition to personal encounters, contact also includes letter, email and telephone contact.
The right of access serves to initiate, maintain and promote your child’s contact with those who are particularly close to him. Especially after a separation or divorce, the grown, family relationships of your child should be preserved as far as possible. Contact with both parents is particularly important for the development of your child. Dealing with the child is also part of the parental responsibilities.
Who has a right of access?
Your child has the right to deal with both parents, and each parent has the right and duty to deal with the child. The family court can therefore also oblige you to deal with your child if this serves the best interests of your child.
You also have a right to deal with:
- the child’s grandparents,
- the child’s siblings,
- close caregivers of the child who have or have had actual responsibility for the child (usually to be assumed if the child has lived in the community for a long time).
Other people usually do not have their own access rights. However, dealing with other people with whom he has ties can also serve the well-being of your child. Parents must therefore enable and encourage dealing with these people.
As a parent or close caregiver who is actually responsible for the child, you are entitled to seek advice and support from the youth welfare office on exercising access rights. You can find out more at "Support, advice and support".
For more information on access rights, please contact the Federal Ministry of Justice.
If you violate existing handling decisions, the supervising court can impose administrative measures. These can still be enforced afterwards. For example, if you refuse to allow the other parent to deal with your child, you may be fined even if the time to deal with them, such as the weekend or the holidays, is over.
Here you will find more on the subject of law and advice on handling issues with separated and single parents.
Advice and support in the exercise of personal care and access rights: § 18 Social Code – Eighth Book (VIII) – Child and Youth Welfare (SGB VIII)
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