How many divorced parents have custody

Custody after divorce or separation: this is what parents need to know

Even with separated parents, it is now common for mother and father to exercise custody together. But what if the parents disagree on important decisions that affect the child? We asked around.

If the mother and father are married, they automatically have joint custody and thus the right and duty to look after their minor child. This means that the parents take care of upbringing and care, medical care, determine his whereabouts and manage his assets. It is anchored in the German Civil Code (BGB).

Sole custody

Mother or father are granted sole custody upon application to the family court. In order to withdraw custody from the other parent against their will, the child's best interests must be endangered by joint custody. According to the information, this is the case, for example, if there are constant arguments about the child or if one of the parents is too sick to meet their responsibilities.

Custody of unmarried parents

Unmarried couples can also have joint custody. This is possible by marrying after the birth, having joint custody transferred by the family court or by submitting a declaration of custody together. The declaration of custody must be officially documented, for example at the youth welfare office or a notary, and can also be submitted before the child is born.

In Germany, custody of underage children remains with both parents after almost all divorces. Since the change in the family law regulations in 2009, this proportion has remained constant at 95 percent.

In 2013, this was 96 percent of divorces or 63,425 proceedings. Family courts transferred custody to one parent 2,808 times. In almost three quarters of the procedures (2,065) this was the mother. The Federal Statistical Office has no more recent figures.

Joint custody against the will of the mother

For unmarried couples, joint custody was only possible with the consent of the mother for a long time. Following the reform of custody in 2013, fathers can now apply to the family court for joint custody against the mother's will. The mother can contradict this, but must then justify why common concern is detrimental to the child's best interests. She has a period of six weeks from the time of the birth to do so. If the deadline has passed or the reasons are not convincing, the court decides on the basis of the files.

Joint custody after divorce

In the event of a divorce between the parents, joint custody remains in principle. In the best case scenario, the parents agree with whom the child mostly lives and how and when the other parent can see the child. In the event of differences of opinion, the youth welfare office can advise the parents.

Make decisions about joint custody

The parent with whom the child lives predominantly and with the consent of the other parent or on the basis of a court order can regulate the child's everyday life alone. This affects, for example, eating habits, bedtime, tutoring, visiting friends and relatives, membership in a sports club, pocket money or normal medical care.

The consent of both parents is required for matters that are of major importance to a child. These include, for example, determining or changing the child's center of life, registering and leaving school or kindergarten, decisions that affect the choice of career, placement of the child in a home or boarding school, serious medical interventions or religious upbringing.

Rights and duties of step-parents and non-custodial parents

If the child stays with the parent who does not have custody, he or she can also make decisions about everyday life. However, the prerequisite is that the child is lawfully resident there. Even more far-reaching decisions may be made as an emergency representative, for example consent to an operation, but then there must be danger in arrears. Similar powers apply to the spouse of the parent with custody, i.e. stepfather or mother, but only with the consent of the spouse.

Switching model and decision-making authority

If separated parents split the care and care of the children almost in half, this is known as the changeover model. In this particular case, there is no parent with whom the child predominantly lives and could therefore be considered the main caregiver. In this variant, things of everyday life may have to be decided together if they affect the everyday life of the other parent.

When the court will decide

If the parents cannot agree with whom the child should live, or in matters that are of considerable importance for the child, one parent usually applies for sole custody or parts of it (e.g. the right to determine the place of residence).

A common dispute is, for example, that a parent wants to move far away or abroad with the child. In the case of joint custody, the parents have to reach an agreement or let the court decide. The child's situation must not be changed until this has been clarified. The family court must then decide for the benefit of the child. Statements from the youth welfare office or family psychological reports may also be taken into account.

Such arguments are very stressful for everyone involved, but especially for the children. Because far-reaching decisions are made, everyone is under enormous pressure. In addition, a study revealed that the reports that the family courts refer to in their decisions are often inadequate. Parents should definitely seek advice in advance of legal disputes.

The child himself is also allowed to express himself. The older it is, the more likely the dish will take its wishes into account. The best interests of the child are always in the foreground.

The right of access

The parent with whom the child does not live permanently has a right of access. Paragraph 1684 of the BGB states: "The child has the right to interact with each parent; each parent is obliged and entitled to interact with the child." The parent with custody should not make contact more difficult or prevent it.

The decision on how to deal with the child can be made by the parents themselves. If an agreement is not possible, the family court must intervene here as well. A ban or exclusion of contact is only possible in serious cases, for example child abuse.

Withdrawal of custody

If the physical or emotional well-being of children is at risk, the state may withdraw custody of one or both parents. According to figures from the Federal Statistical Office, this became necessary in around 15,000 cases in Germany in 2013. The right of custody can be withdrawn in whole or in part and then passes to an official guardian. This ensures that the child is placed with foster parents or in the home. Usually, the removal of custody is the last step in a series of measures designed to help the family.

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  • Subjects:
  • Family and work,
  • Children,
  • Parents,
  • Care,
  • Birth,
  • School,
  • Youth welfare office,
  • Education,
  • Pocket money,
  • Access rights,
  • Child abuse,
  • Interchangeable model