Custody – in German “Sorgerecht” also called “elterliche Sorge” – means parental care for a child. It determines who makes decisions for the child. In most cases the parents share the right of custody.
If you are unmarried or divorced and a single parent, you have sole custody. This means that only you, as a mother, can and must regulate the issues of your child. For example, only you can choose a pediatrician, apply for child support or day-care for your child.
In the cases of married parents, both parents automatically receive joint custody, which means that they make decisions about the baby together.
It is somewhat more difficult if you are not married or separated again. The father does not automatically receive custody. He has to make a declaration of joint custody if he also wants to have the right to determine about issues concerning your infant – called “Mitbestimmungsrecht” in German. This can be done either before and after the birth. Both parents have to go to the Youth Welfare Office and sign a document. Previously you will receive counselling and instruction, because caring for a little person is a major responsibility.
If you think that the father is not up to this task, you are welcome to seek support at the Youth Welfare Office.
Note: If you give birth and you are officially married to a man, but separated although not divorced yet and he is not the biological father, he will still be automatically registered as the father. He has to announce that he is not the father. That is called “Vaterschaft anfechten” in German.
You can find the custody authorities in your area in the adress box.