German Adoption Lawyer

In 2019, a total of 3744 children were adopted in Germany. Of these, 63% were so-called stepchild adoptions. Accordingly, it is no longer uncommon for a partner’s child to be adopted and for them to also become a legal parent. Furthermore, adoption can be an alternative if a couple wishes to have children but cannot have children themselves. As a rule, however, the adoption procedure is very lengthy and subject to strict requirements, and German adoption law has inherent complexities and strict requirements. In the following paragraphs, you will determine which requirements have to be met, how the adoption process works, what costs you have to expect, what consequences adoption entails and how a German adoption lawyer can be of service.

Our team of experienced German family lawyers at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte will advise and represent you in all matters relating to adoption law in Germany. From our offices in Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf, our German adoption lawyers support our clients in negotiating the adoption procedure and working their way through the legal necessities.

Expert advice on German adoption law when you need it

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, you will get comprehensive legal assistance

Our Full-Service Approach to the Adoption Process in Germany

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our experienced German adoption lawyers are ready to provide you with full-service legal support. Contact our team using the information below, and carefully outline the issues of your case.

When adopting a child, our lawyers will ensure that the legal requirements are fulfilled throughout the process. Adoptions in Germany involve locating different documents such as health certificates and a certificate of good conduct, our German adoption lawyers will assist you in finding them and will ensure that they are suitable for the process.

The consent of the birth parents is another crucial aspect of adoption in Germany. Here, our team will ensure that the consent provided is in line with German law requirements and prevent legal claims or disputes from arising in the future. Finally, throughout the adoption process, the term “best interests of the child” plays an enormous role in how decisions are made. For those not familiar with the adoption process or German family law, this can be a vague requirement. As family law experts, our German adoption lawyers will advise you on what measures are generally considered under this definition, and how best you can prepare your application in line with it.

However, our services are not limited to the more traditional idea of adoption, and our team of German adoption lawyers advise, support, and prepare the documentation for all types of adoption. Regardless of whether you are adopting a child in Germany or from abroad, adopting a family member or a step-child, or even adopting an adult our lawyers will guide you through the necessary paperwork and see the adoption through the German courts system. Moreover, our German adoption lawyers will represent you expertly in the event of any legal dispute arising during the process, whether it concerns contested consent or complications with international adoption.

Current Legal Situation: German Adoption Law

German adoption law is regulated in the German Civil Code (BGB). The German legislator distinguishes between the adoption of a minor (§§ 1741 ff. BGB) and that of an adult (§§ 1767 ff. BGB). In addition, the Adoption Mediation Act (Adoptionsvermittlungsgesetz, AdVermiG) regulates further details on the adoption procedure and on adoption mediation. The interaction between the different legal requirements can make German adoption law quite challenging to follow.

In principle, an adoption establishes a relationship between the parents or an adopting parent and the child. This relationship is independent of the biological parentage of the child. After a legally effective adoption, a minor adopted child is placed on an equal footing with natural children, so that he or she has the same rights and obligations.

Forms of Adoption under German Adoption Law

The most common type of adoption in Germany is that of a minor child. Even here, different forms of adoption are available, each of which entails different legal consequences. In this paragraph, we explain everything you need to know about the different forms of adoption under German adoption law. Our expert German adoption lawyers advise on all of these cases and can guide you through the requirements as provided for.

How to Adopt a Child in Germany

When adopting a minor, a distinction must be made between three different forms. The decisive factor is the relationship between the adoptive parents and the natural parents of the child.

If there is a wish to adopt, the incognito adoption would first be possible. In this case, the data of the birth parents remain under lock and key, so that no contact between them and the adoptive parents is possible. However, it is possible for the child to view the placement file. However, this is only possible when the child reaches the age of 16. In addition, the child can be granted a certified printout of the birth entry per § 63 (1) Personal Status Act (PStG). This means that the child still has the opportunity to find out something about their biological parents. Before the age of 16, the decision to inspect the record lies with the adoptive parents.

The adoption of a minor child can also take place in the form of a semi-open or open adoption.

In the case of a semi-open adoption, there is the possibility of contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. However, this is a contact in the form of a personal meeting that is arranged by the responsible adoption agency. Contact details are not exchanged. Such a meeting enables the relinquishing birth parents to get a first impression of the adopting adoptive parents. This form of adoption also enables contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents, for example to exchange pictures, letters and the like. However, this is made possible anonymously via the placement agency.

Open adoption, on the other hand, differs from the latter form in that there is open contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. In addition to a personal conversation, there is also an exchange of data such as name and address. This type of form is particularly common when a child is already in foster care with a family and the birth parents of this child give the child up for adoption. In this case, there is necessarily an open adoption.

Kinship Adoption

In kinship adoption, a child is adopted within a kinship up to the third degree. For example, a child can be adopted by their grandparents, aunts, uncles or even adult siblings. A kinship adoption is usually only implemented when there is a death or another reason which means that the child’s parents are no longer able to look after and care for their child.

Stepchild Adoption

In 2019, most adoptions in Germany were so-called stepchild adoptions. This is applied for when the registered partner or spouse already brings a child into the partnership from a previous relationship. The new partner, who is not related to the child, then adopts the child with all rights and obligations. The child is thus adopted by the stepmother or stepfather.

Adoption of an Adult under German Adoption Law

Adoption of a person over the age of majority is also possible. This differs from the other types of adoption mainly in its legal consequences. This is quite a complex topic and for that reason we have a dedicated page for Adopting an Adult in Germany. Contact us directly if you require legal assistance from experienced German adoption lawyers with the process of adopting an adult.

Requirements for an Adoption under German Adoption law

The focus of an adoption is the best interests of the child. This principle is central to how a child is adopted and must be taken very seriously. Therefore, some requirements have to be fulfilled to be able to adopt at all. Our German adoption lawyers will guide you through the most serious considerations when determining what is in the child’s best interests and ensure that your application is made according to the requirement. Here are some general considerations:

Minimum Age for Making an Adoption

A wide range of requirements must be met for adoption in Germany. First of all, the age of the adopter is decisive. It is assumed that the adopter has full legal capacity and is at least 25 years old. It is irrelevant whether the adopter is single or lives in a partnership. In the case of a joint adoption with a spouse, on the other hand, the other person must be at least 21 years old. For example, the stepmother who wants to adopt her husband’s child from a previous relationship must be 21 or older.

It should be noted that there is no age limit. However, the age difference between the adopters and the adopted child should not be too significant. There is no legal limit on the age difference. However, the Federal Association of State Youth Welfare Offices is of the opinion that the maximum age difference should be 40 years. The possibility of adopting an infant, therefore, usually ends after the age of 40.

Documents Required for Making an Adoption in Germany

In addition, adopters have to provide some proof in an adoption procedure. These include a health certificate and a certificate of good conduct. If you have any difficulties locating the appropriate documents, our lawyers are on hand to support you.

A health certificate is required to gain an insight into the health of the adopter. It is assumed that the adoptive parents are able to care for the child for as long as possible. Adoption would therefore be ruled out in the case of a life-shortening illness. However, serious illnesses or mental or psychosomatic illnesses also make it difficult to care for a child for as long as possible. Therefore, adoption is also ruled out in the case of addiction.

With regard to the certificate of good conduct, only a previous conviction for sexual offences or bodily harm, for example, is relevant. Allow our team of German adoption lawyers to examine your documentation and determine whether they are per the requirements.

Personality and Motivation for Adoption

The motivation for wanting to adopt a child is also questioned, as well as whether the adoptive parents can commit themselves to the child fully and whether they are willing to inform their future adoptive child about its parentage or history.

Consent of the Natural Parents

To be able to adopt a child, the biological parents must have consented to the adoption. It is irrelevant how the parents relate to each other. The consent must come from both parents. For example, in the case of stepchild adoption, the permission of the parent who does not continue to care for the child must be given.

In the case of the adoption of an infant, a distinction must be made between the mother and the non-marital father concerning the period of consent. The latter can already declare his consent before the child’s birth, whereas the mother can make her declaration from the ninth week after the birth at the earliest. If there is a declaration of consent from both parents and the guardianship court has received it, the decision made is irrevocable. The natural parents are released from their duties and rights, and the youth welfare office assumes guardianship of the child.

Our German adoption lawyers will oversee all the requirements relating to the consent of the natural parents. By ensuring that everything is “above board” and in line with the legal requirements, the likelihood of a contested adoption process decrease dramatically.

Furthermore, a child who is older than 14 can decide for themselves whether or not to consent to the adoption. This means that for children under 14 years of age, the guardian must declare their consent. From the age of 14, the guardian and the child declare their consent to the adoption.

However, the declaration of consent by the biological parents can also be waived. However, this is only possible in absolutely exceptional cases.

Marital Status of the Adopters

Another decisive point in German adoption law is the marital status of the adopter. In turn, specific requirements are linked to this. § 1741 (2) German Civil Code stipulates that unmarried persons may only adopt alone, whereas married couples must decide jointly to adopt and therefore adopt the child jointly. It is irrelevant whether the couple is of the same-sex or a heterosexual couple.

An exception to the provision on joint adoption by a married couple arises if one of the spouses is not legally competent or is not yet 21 years old ( § 1741, (2), sentence 4 German Civil Code). In such a case, the spouse who is already capable of adopting a child may exceptionally adopt it alone.

Other Requirements under German Adoption Law

In the context of adoption in Germany, it must also be examined whether the living and economic conditions of the adopter(s) are to be considered sufficient. Therefore, there should be enough space for the child to feel comfortable in the new living quarters and to have the possibility of having its own place of retreat.

Furthermore, the economic circumstances of the adoptive parents must be right. It is assumed that the child’s livelihood is secured.

In the case of adoption by a married couple, there should also be a stable partnership. In addition, they should have dealt with the issue of raising the child.

Procedure, Costs & Consequences of Adopting a Child

If you decide to adopt a child, you must apply to the local youth welfare office or a recognised adoption agency. As part of the application, you will then have an information interview. If you still decide to adopt after this interview, a wide variety of documents must be submitted. These include:

  • Application form
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Health certificate and certificate of good conduct
  • Proof of assets, citizenship and much more
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Completed application form

Once all documents have been submitted, the suitability procedure begins. The competent authority will check whether you meet the above-mentioned requirements (age, living and financial circumstances, etc.). The examination can take six to twelve months.

After the aptitude test has been completed, the competent agency will look for a child for you. It is the task of the placement offices to find suitable parents for children to be placed. The decisive factor in the search is therefore that the applicants are suitable for the adoption of the child. The personality and special needs of the child are taken into account (§ 7 AdVermiG). This procedure can also take some time. Due to the large number of applicants and the comparatively smaller number of possible adoptive children, waiting times usually arise here.

However, if a child is found for whose adoption you are particularly suitable, you will be informed of this. The child will then be taken in for so-called adoptive care with you. This is a foster care period that is required prior to adoption in accordance with § 1744 BGB. This foster care period lasts about one year and serves to acclimatise the child to the family. During this time, however, the youth welfare office remains the child’s guardian.

After the foster care period, an application for adoption must be submitted to a notary public to conclude the adoption procedure and a legally binding adoption, which in turn must be submitted to the guardianship court. The responsible youth welfare office consequently submits an expert opinion to the court. The family court then examines whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child or not and then decides whether to accept the adoption. If the interests of the child and the applicant are not in harmony, the court must refuse the adoption pursuant to § 1745 BGB. However, if this is not the case, the adoption of the child is decided by the family court (§ 1752 BGB).

If you go through this process and the court agrees to adopt the child, you become the child’s parent from a legal point of view.

Costs of Adopting a Child

Adoption involves costs for the family court and the notary, among other things:

Court costs Approx. 100 €
Preparation of the application (notary’s fees) Approx. 60 € (plus taxes)
Each additional declaration of consent (notary costs) Approx. 30 € (plus taxes)

However, the costs depend on the type of adoption. International adoptions are considerably more expensive. Here, travel costs, fees of the youth welfare office, costs through placement agencies as well as possible additional lawyer and court costs must be taken into account. An international adoption can therefore cost up to €20,000.


After an adoption, the child’s birth name changes. Thus, the surname of the adoptive parents or the single adopter is now the child’s birth name. If a couple does not have a common surname at the time of adoption, the couple decides jointly which name the child should take. It is also possible to change the first name.

Furthermore, the relationship of the child also changes. Whereas in the case of a kinship or stepchild adoption, the child retains at least part of the kinship relationship, in the case of the other forms of adoption, any kinship relationship to the natural family ceases to exist. This means that the child is not entitled to any inheritance rights or maintenance claims from his or her biological family. Furthermore, once the adoption has been accepted, the biological parents no longer have parental rights of care and contact. However, the adoption of a person above the age of majority is an exception to this. The relationship of this person is not extinguished, so that all maintenance and inheritance rights remain in force. However, there are also some exceptions here.

International Adoption

It is also possible to adopt a child whose habitual residence is abroad. This procedure is again carried out by the competent international adoption agency. It should be noted that in the case of an international adoption, not only German law applies, but also that of the foreign country.

In the case of an international adoption, the suitability of the applicants is also examined on the basis of the above-mentioned criteria. The same documents must be submitted for the application as are required for a domestic adoption. Here, too, there is a check within a suitability procedure. It should be noted, however, that the suitability of the applicants is checked specifically for the type of adoption. In particular, it is questioned how the applicants would deal with the child’s culture and discrimination in the future. The examination is carried out by an international placement agency.

If the adoption procedure is positive and an adoption is possible, the application, a social report from the Youth Welfare Office and all other required documents are sent to the country where the adoption is planned. Here, too, the placement office’s task is to find suitable parents for the children available for adoption. If a child is found for whom the applicants are suitable for adoption, they must travel to the child’s country of origin and fetch the child there.

Throughout the adoption process, staff from the relevant agencies are on hand to advise applicants. However, working alongside an experienced German adoption lawyer is strongly recommended, as it is not uncommon for adopting couples to face complex legal issues when adopting from abroad. Our team of family law experts are available for you.

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Practice Group: German Family Law

Practice Group:
German Family Law

Dr. Tim Schlun

Lawyer | Managing Partner

Maria Ivanova


Patricia Zeuß



Contact a German Adoption Lawyer for Advice

Please use the form on the right to inform us about your family law and German adoption law concerns. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment on the basis of the information provided and give you a cost estimation. You are then free to decide whether you want to instruct our family law team on your case concerning German adoption law.