Parental responsibility for minor children

Information about Rights & Duties

Birth, custody for minor children, parental responsibilities, rules on surrogacy and adoption, including second-parent-adoption, maintenance obligations in relation to children in a cross-border family situation

Birth: Rules for registering births

Every child born in Germany must be registered with the competent municipal registry of births, marriages and deaths in their place of birth. If the child was born in a hospital, the hospital is responsible for notifying the registry. Otherwise, this responsibility lies with all parents holding rights of custody and any other persons who were present at the birth.

Since in Germany the federal states are responsible for administering their own regulations relating to civil status, anyone with further questions is advised to contact the competent municipal registry of births, marriages and deaths.

Rules regarding surrogacy

In Germany, surrogacy is prohibited under § 1(1)(7) of the Embryo Protection Law. The aim of this prohibition is to prevent split maternity, where the genetic mother is not the mother who carries the child. The legislation is designed to ensure the unambiguous nature of motherhood in the interests of the childs welfare. Under German law on descent, the mother is the woman who gives birth to the child (§ 1591 BGB); adoption is the only way for a woman who has not given birth to the child to be legally classified as its mother.

Rules and requirements for adoption, including second-parent adoption

Adoption results in the establishment of a new parent-child relationship by way of a decision passed by a family court. It is possible to adopt both children and adults. When a child is adopted, their relationship to their previous parents and relatives ceases to exist (Sections 1755 et seq. of the German Civil Code [ Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch , BGB]). However, this is not always the case when a person is adopted as an adult, as there are certain exceptions to this rule (Sections 1770 and 1772 of the German Civil Code).

Any adult can apply to adopt, although they must usually be at least 25 years of age (in exceptional cases: 21) (Section 1743 of the German Civil Code). It is possible for a single person to adopt, or for two spouses to adopt jointly. In addition, the spouse of a parent can adopt their step-child (Section 1741 of the German Civil Code); this provision has now also been extended to long-term life partners (Section 1766a of the German Civil Code). A child that has already been adopted may only be adopted by the spouse of the adoptive parent, and not by other third parties (Section 1742 of the German Civil Code).

Adoption is (only) permitted if it is in the best interests of the child and it is expected that a parent-child relationship will come about between the adoptive parent and the child (Section 1741, para. 1, first sentence of the German Civil Code).

In order for adoption to occur, the consent of the child, its parents and the spouse of the adoptive parent is required. In certain cases, this consent can be replaced by a court decision (Section 1746 et seq. of the German Civil Code).

More detailed information about the rules and requirements for adoption, its effects and the possibility to annul an adoption can be found in Sections 1741 to 1772 of the German Civil Code, and in Sections 186 to 199 of the German Act on Procedure in Family Matters and Non-Contentious Matters [ Gesetz über das Verfahren in Familiensachen und in den Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit ].

This legislation is supplemented by the German Act on Adoption Placement [ Adoptionsvermittlungsgesetz ]. This act sets out restrictions on adoption placement, and provides special rules for international adoptions. When it comes to the effects of international adoption within Germany in particular, the provisions of the German Adoption Effects Act [ Adoptionswirkungsgesetz ] must be observed.

As regards international cases, Article 22 of the Introductory Law to the German Civil Code [EGBGB] determines what law applies to adoption and the forms of consent required on the part of the biological parents of the person being adopted.

International adoptions can be recognised in Germany. The relevant rules are set out in the Hague Adoption Convention of 1993, as supplemented by national law. In Germany, this national law takes the form of the Adoption Placement Act, the Adoption Effects Act, and the Adoption Convention Implementing Act [ Adoptionsübereinkommens-Ausführungsgesetz ]. Section 6 of the German Citizenship Act [ Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz ] specifies in which cases an international adoption gives rise to a right to German nationality.

Maintenance obligations for children in cross-border family situations

Depending on the country in which the person with a duty/entitlement to pay maintenance resides, maintenance claims can be asserted abroad using a procedure as per Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 of 18 December 2008 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations (EG-UntVO for short), a procedure as per the Hague Convention on the international recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance of 23 November 2007 (HUÜ 2007 for short), a procedure as per the New York Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance, concluded in the UN of 20 June 1956 (UN Convention 1956 for short) or proceedings with formal reciprocity. The German Act on the Recovery of Maintenance in Relations with Foreign States ( Auslandsunterhaltsgesetz - AUG) provides the legal and regulatory framework for all four specified procedures in Germany.

Further information






Familienportal des Bundesministeriums für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend


Informationen rund um die Familie

Familienportal des Bundesministeriums für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend

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