Caring for unmarried fathers

a marriage is not for everyone. They may be attracted to each other, completely in love, but perhaps they do not feel the need to bind themselves. Or maybe you go the other way too: waiting for the wedding until your baby is older and / or you have more money for the wedding. The fact is that in contrast to the traditional family in Germany, the number of ""alternative forms of life"" is on the rise. In 2010, 8, 6 of all parents lived together without a marriage certificate. Federal Statistical Office 2012. In addition, there are more and more single parents. Even though custody changed in favor of unmarried fathers in 2013, they still do not have the same rights as a married father.

What is custody and do I have it as a dad?

When a baby is born, his mother automatically has custody. This legal term includes all rights and obligations for the child. She has to take care of and protect her child but is also his legal representative and manages his assets.

As a father you automatically have custody:

If you are married to the baby's mother (either at birth or after)

  • if a parent applies for joint custody of the family court and does not object to the best interests of the child ,
  • An entry as a father in the birth certificate or recognition of paternity is not synonymous with custody. This must be requested separately.

Why do I need custody?

You do not need custody of your everyday role as a father. Most parents do not even think about it - they all make their daily decisions about raising your child together. However, custody gives you the opportunity to make the big decisions for your child until it's 18 or on your own. One of the things you can then decide is:

to give consent for medical treatment of the child
  • to be able to choose the child's school
  • to apply for a passport for the child
  • about his religious Education to decide
  • to decide on the place of residence
  • to give consent to a child's wedding before the 18th birthday
  • to manage the child's assets, eg. For example, to open an account in his name.
  • Strictly speaking, fathers without custody may not even pick up their child from the kindergarten or from the school, unless the parents have made written arrangements. An educator who does not want to give his son a child without custody is legally correct.
For many families custody is only a legal safeguard of what they see in themselves: a protection for their child. In tragic circumstances, it can be very important for you to have this safety net. For example, if the baby's mother dies, then you would be the person who looks after the child, is legally his parent, and his protector.

Although every court would probably award you custody in this situation, there is no guarantee. Sometimes other relatives apply for custody and then it can get complicated. Maybe a testamentary custody order can help you here.

But if you and your partner live together like married people, then it seems the most sensible and near-term to apply for custody.

I do not have custody right now. How can I apply?

If you have acknowledged the paternity, then you get the custody if:

you marry the mother of your child
  1. both parents declare the common care (care statements)
  2. you the family court at your request, the common concern transmits
  3. What does a custody account look like?

There is no uniform form for the declaration of care in Germany. It must be requested in a document. This can be done free of charge at the local youth welfare office or by paying a notary.

In order for you to receive the certificate, you would have to fulfill the following requirement:

The parents must not be married

  • The mother has sole custody
  • You have the fatherhood recognized as a father
  • The parents are of legal age or have the written consent of their legal representative
  • Both parents must appear in person for certification
  • The declaration of care can be given prior to birth. Which documents you need to bring with you can vary individually. Therefore, contact the youth welfare office beforehand. Generally, the following documents are required:

Valid card (ID card or passport)

  • Certified copies of the document recognizing paternity or a judgment of the court
  • After birth: Child's birth certificate (some offices request a recent copy the birth certificate, that is, the copy issued by the Office must not be older than 48 hours!)
  • If you apply for custody, you do not have to live with the mother and you do not have to have a partnership. The nationality of the parents is not important.

Alternative Parental Agreements

If you do not want to get custody or do not want to apply for it, you may still be considering what might happen if the child's mother died. If she thinks the child is the best person for you in this case, she should mention that in her will.

If we split up, do I still have custody and must I pay maintenance?

Maintenance for your child and custody are not linked. This is regulated in different laws. All parents (whether by adoption or birth) have a duty to financially care for their child, whether or not they have custody. You have a duty if you recognize paternity, or a court has declared you father. The custody does not affect the amount of the maintenance payable.

Even after separation, you have custody. This means that you have to be involved in all major decisions. Smaller decisions may be made by the mother after a separation without her, but not larger ones. For example, she could sign up for a ballet lesson without consulting her daughter. But she should not decide on a possible operation alone.

Once you have successfully applied for child custody, you can only be deprived of it by a family court.

If you did not apply for custody before the separation, you can apply for it after a separation at the family court. If the mother of the child does not object within six weeks, or if she does not give reasons for the child's welfare, then they will have joint custody.

Does custody mean that I can see my child even after a breakup?

No, because custody and access rights are two separate areas. But each parent is entitled and obliged to deal with his child. The law makes no difference if you are divorced or never married. However, after a separation, the visitation rights can be regulated individually.

Does the mother give up rights if she shares custody?

No. Your rights as a parent are not limited thereby. But the law expects all parents to make all decisions as amicably as possible.


Federal Statistical Office 2012.

Families with minor children according to family form www. destatis. de [Status: April 2012]

BMJ 2011. Federal Ministry of Justice

Custody of unmarried parents. Questions and answers. , January 2011 www. bmj. de [Status: April 2012]

BMJ 2009. Federal Ministry of Justice

Living together. Information for couples who cohabit without marriage or registered partnership , August 2009 www. bmj. de [Status: April 2012]

BMJ 2008. Federal Ministry of Justice

The right of children. , 15. 07. 2008 www. bmj. de [As of: April 2012]

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