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Recognition of Paternity in Germany

Declaring the fathership of a German child and the recognition of paternity is becoming more and more common in Germany. This is mainly because the traditional image of the family, according to which marriage is a prerequisite for having children, no longer prevails. If a nonmarital child is born, the man concerned can acknowledge paternity if the mother consents thereto. As a result, he will become the child’s legal father and have all corresponding rights and duties.

This article will outline the procedure of recognising paternity in Germany. If you have any further questions about this topic, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm directly. Consulting a lawyer will allow you to properly foresee all legal consequences of the recognition before you take action.

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What is the Purpose of a Recognition of Paternity?

While a mother is legally defined as the woman who gave birth to the child (see § 1591 BGB / German Civil Code), declaring fathership of a German child is somewhat more complex. Generally, the man married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth is regarded as the father (see § 1592 no. 1 German Civil Code). This will also be the case if the child was born through artificial insemination or sperm donation. In these cases, an acknowledgement of paternity is not necessary.

If an unmarried woman gives birth, however, the paternity may be unclear. In this case, the man concerned can acknowledge paternity. Thus, recognition of paternity is of particular interest to unmarried couples since the legal presumption mentioned above does not apply. Rather, paternity needs to be officially acknowledged. The mother’s consent is required.

Declaring the fathership of a German child also becomes a major issue in the case of divorcing couples. The law assumes the man married to the mother at the time of birth is the father of the child and for divorced couples, this presumption can exist depending on when the conception took place. However, an exception exists in the event of another man successfully challenging the paternity of the child in question. Recognition of paternity can also be brought to the fore in cases where a child is born and the father dies before its birth.


The Paternity Recognition Procedure in Germany

Recognition of paternity must be declared by the man in question in front of a competent authority. Generally, this will be the local youth welfare office or the registry office. While the procedure at the youth welfare office is free of charge, costs may occur when choosing the registry office. The paternity can be acknowledged before or after the child’s birth.

Legal paternity may be acknowledged by a man who is not the child’s biological father. This means that, for example, as the mother’s partner, you can legally become the child’s father regardless of your biological relationship with the child.

The recognition of paternity requires the mother’s consent. Under certain circumstances, the child’s consent or the mother’s husband may also be needed. The parents can make their declarations separately. However, consent must have been declared once the man acknowledges paternity.

The recognition of paternity and the mother’s consent will be certified by the authority. This certificate will then be forwarded to the registry office of the child’s place of birth. There, the father’s name will be included in the child’s birth certificate.

A man acknowledging paternity will often also provide a declaration of (joint) child custody in practice. Our lawyers will gladly assist you in this regard as well.


What to Expect after the Recognition of Paternity in Germany?

The recognition of paternity in Germany has far-reaching consequences. The person acknowledging paternity will take the legal position of the child’s father and will henceforth have all the corresponding rights and obligations. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a lawyer before taking this step, allowing you to get an image of what exactly will be expected of you. This is of vital importance, considering that revoking recognition of paternity is only possible under exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, the revocation procedure can be highly burdensome for all parties involved.

Financially speaking, child maintenance is the most significant consequence. This duty will arise once paternity is recognised. As the date of recognition is decisive in this regard, you will not be required to pay maintenance retroactively for previous years. Additionally, under certain circumstances, you may be required to pay child support to the mother. Furthermore, paternity will affect your inheritance as your child will be entitled to the compulsory portion.

Moreover, the recognition may have beneficial effects on the child’s prospect of receiving German citizenship. The father, in turn, may be granted visiting rights allowing a healthy relationship with the child.


Revocation of Paternity in Germany?

Paternity in Germany can also be revoked. According to § 1597 BGB the acknowledgement of paternity can be revoked within one year of becoming a father. This year is defined as from the date of the legal paternity. Revoking the acknowledgement of paternity needs to be notarially recorded. Furthermore, violations of the formal requirements according to § 1597 BGB whereby the appropriate documents have not been recorded can lead to a lack of form and thus to an invalidity of the acknowledgement of paternity.


Paternity Lawsuit in Germany

If a man refuses to acknowledge paternity or the wife does not cooperate, legal action may be considered. The child’s mother and father can apply to the family or district court to establish paternity. The right to request such a procedure is also granted to the child. If it is a minor, it will be represented by the youth welfare office during the proceedings.

Within this procedure, the court will oblige the man to take a paternity test. Thus, we advise you to refrain from secretly collecting and examining the genetic material of the person concerned. Otherwise, you could face fines of up to 5.000€. Rather, it is best to follow the proper procedure. If, in doing so, you require legal support, our team of family lawyers will be happy to assist you.

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