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


Every child born in Germany must be registered with the competent registry office in their place of birth.

The following must report a birth:

  • the hospital where the birth took place
  • the parent(s) with parental responsibility, or any other persons present.

If you have any further questions, please contact the registry office.


In Germany, surrogacy is prohibited under Section 1(1)(7) of the Embryo Protection Act (ESchG). 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 that motherhood is unambiguous, in the interests of the childs welfare. According to German descent law, the mother of a child is the woman who gave birth to that child (Section 1591 of the German Civil Code [BGB]). A woman who is not the birth mother of a child can only be legally classified as the mother if the child is adopted.

Maintenance obligations for children in cross-border family situations

Depending on the country of residence of the person liable for or entitled to maintenance, maintenance claims can be enforced abroad through various procedures.

The Foreign Maintenance Act (AUG) provides the legal framework in Germany for procedures with international bases for action though which maintenance obligations can be claimed. In particular, these bases are:

  • 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
  • the Hague Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance and
  • the UN Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance, signed in New York on 20 June 1956.

The AUG also applies where formal reciprocity, as defined by the Foreign Maintenance Act, is guaranteed.


Adoption results in the establishment of a new parent-child relationship by way of a ruling handed down by a family court.

Adoption of a child: The relationship of the child to their previous parents and relatives expires (Section 1755 et seqq. BGB).

Adoption of an adult: In principle, the relationship to the previous parents and relatives does not expire. However, exceptions are possible (Sections 1770 and 1772 BGB).

An adoption is only permitted if it serves the best interests of the child. In addition, a parent-child relationship is expected to arise between the adopting person and the child (Section 1741(1), first sentence, BGB).

The consent of the biological parents, the adopting person and the child is required. However, consent may be substituted by a court where necessary (Section 1746 et seqq. BGB).

Who can adopt?

Married couples can only adopt a child together. One spouse must be at least 25 years of age, the other at least 21 (Sections 1741 and 1743 BGB). Single parents can adopt a child by themselves if they are at least 25 years of age (Sections 1741 and 1743 BGB). For unmarried couples, including those in registered civil partnerships, only one person can adopt initially. The other person has the option to adopt the child whom the partner has already adopted (successive adoption). In addition, a person may adopt their own stepchild if that person is married to or in a registered civil partnership with the stepchilds mother or father, or lives together with them in a stable relationship (Sections 1741 and 1766a BGB). The minimum age of the adopting person in a stepchild adoption is 21 years; there is no minimum age for the partner.

Other rules and requirements

Sections 1741 to 1772 BGB and Sections 186 to 199 of the Act on Proceedings in Family Matters and in Matters of Non-contentious Jurisdiction (FamFG) lay down further rules and requirements with regard to adoption and its effect and to the possibility to annul an adoption.

This legislation is supplemented by the Act on Adoption Placement and Support and on the Prohibition of Surrogacy Placement (AdVermiG). These provisions set out restrictions on adoption and lay down special rules for international adoption. As regards the effects of international adoption within Germany in particular, the provisions of the Adoption Effects Act (AdWirkG) must be observed.

As regards international matters, Article 22 of the Introductory Act to the Civil Code (EGBGB) determines what law applies to adoption and the consent required on the part of the biological parents. German law applies to adoptions granted in Germany.

International adoption

Adoption decisions issued in contracting states to the Hague Adoption Convention of 1993 (the Adoption Convention) are recognised in Germany, pursuant to the Adoption Convention. In addition to the Adoption Convention, recognition is regulated by national law (Adoption Convention Implementation Act [AdÜbAG], Adoption Effects Act [AdWirkG]). Section 108 et seq. FamFG continue to apply to adoption decisions issued in states that are not party to the Adoption Convention. It is essential that a procedure for determining judicial recognition be mandatory for the recognition of foreign adoption decisions that are not accompanied by a certificate pursuant to Article 23 of the Adoption Convention confirming that the adoption took place in accordance with the provisions of the Adoption Convention. Section 6 of the Nationality Act (StAG) specifies in which cases an international adoption gives rise to the right to German citizenship.

Further information



Familiy benefits

  • Familienportal of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth


  • The German Civil Code is available online in German and English.
  • Brochure of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Kinder suchen Eltern. Eltern suchen Kinder. (Children are looking for parents. Parents are looking for children.)

Responsible for the content
Birth: Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community Surrogacy: Federal Ministry of Health Adoption: Federal Ministry of Justice

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