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Child protection and losing custody of child in Germany

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

Parents have the responsibility and obligation to take care of their children in Germany, just like any other countries. However, in Germany, local communities and government agencies play a crucial role in safeguarding children and young people from parental neglect and abuse.

Can the government take custody of my child if abuse is suspected?

Germany's child protection system explicitly states that children must be able to develop as healthy as possible. In order to ensure their well-being, they need to be cared for and protected from all threats. It is the parents' responsibility to ensure that their children's fundamental rights are protected. It is the state's responsibility to ensure that parents perform this task adequately.

A court can take away custody of a child from their parents if they fail to protect the child repeatedly. A court will only do this if it is necessary for the welfare of the child and there is no other way to protect them from danger or abuse.

Withdrawal of custody of a child in Germany

Any situation that jeopardises a child's well-being, both physically and emotionally, could result in the forfeiture of parental custody. This is not limited to physical violence, but if the parents are neglectful in terms of the child's welfare, then a judge can decide to withdraw the custody from them. This includes not feeding the child properly, not getting medical attention for the child, or allowing the environment to be hazardous. A parent who is negligent in keeping their own children safe may lose custody rights. The courts and the Department of Social Services remain responsible for assessing the case.

Physical violence as well as verbal abuse can trigger the authorities. It is important to note that verbal violence towards the child is not the only form of abuse; a conflict between the parents that escalates to shouting and verbal violence can affect the welfare of the child and put it at risk. Losing custody of the child has nothing to do with the parent’s religion or nationality. In the past, many German parents have lost custody of their children due to negligence.

Every EU member country agrees on the protection of children. However it is implemented differently in different countries. Child protection system is very stringent in the Scandinavian countries.

What happens when the child is taken away from the parents in Germany?

Initially, the children are taken to a care center or nursery. In some cases however, they are handed over to foster families later. Pflegefamilies are families that take care of children professionally.

It is, however, not an easy process to remove a child from its parents. The children's family must be in very difficult conditions to reach this point. A number of meetings are held with the parents, who are counselled to change the way they treat their children. When circumstances call for a speedy withdrawal, the Social Services Department will assist the police. There are cases in which children should be taken away from their parents until a court decision has been made, and the Social Services department will be in charge of the child until the case has been decided.

Losing custody of the child has nothing to do with the parent’s religion or nationality. In the past, many German parents have lost custody of their children due to negligence.

Getting custody of the child back in Germany.

In the event that the parent loses custody of the child, there are often legal avenues to try and get custody back. To restore custody of the child, the parents can go to the court and object to the actions of the police or social service department. You need to have a lawyer and the lawyer can negotiate the terms with the court. It is however recommended to have a lawyer insurance before reaching out to one.

After losing custody of a child in Germany, am I allowed to see my child?

If a parent loses custody of their child in Germany, they may wonder if they are still allowed to see their child. In most cases, the answer is yes. However, there are some exceptions.

If the reason for losing custody was related to harassment or sexual exploitation of the child, the parent may not be allowed to have contact with the child. In such cases, the court may issue a restraining order to protect the child from any potential harm.

If the reason for losing custody was not related to harassment or sexual exploitation, the parent may still be allowed to see their child. In fact, the court may even encourage regular visitation to help maintain a healthy relationship between the parent and child.

It's important to note that the specific terms of visitation will be determined by the court on a case-by-case basis. The court will consider the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody and visitation. In some cases, the court may require supervised visitation, where a third party is present during the visits to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

Overall, losing custody of a child in Germany does not necessarily mean that a parent will never see their child again. However, it's important for parents to understand that the court's priority is to protect the best interests of the child, and visitation may be restricted in certain circumstances.

Legal references to the child protection rules in Germany

Below are some references to the legal aspects of child protection in Germany that may be useful for those seeking more detailed information:

  • The Child and Youth Welfare Act (Kinder- und Jugendhilfegesetz - KJHG): This act is the main legal reference for child protection in Germany. It sets out the responsibilities of various agencies and authorities in safeguarding the welfare of children, and covers a wide range of issues related to child abuse and neglect, child welfare services, child custody, and juvenile justice.

  • The Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch - StGB): This code contains provisions that address crimes against children, such as child abuse, sexual exploitation of children, and child pornography. It provides a legal basis for prosecuting offenders and sets out the penalties for these crimes.

  • The Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch - BGB): This code contains provisions on family law, including child custody and visitation rights. It outlines the legal framework for determining custody arrangements and visitation schedules in cases where parents are separated or divorced.

  • The Family Court Act (Gesetz über das Verfahren in Familiensachen und in den Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit - FamFG): This act sets out the procedures for family court proceedings, including those related to child custody and child protection. It provides a framework for resolving disputes between parents and establishing custody arrangements that are in the best interests of the child.

  • The Federal Child Protection Act (Bundeskinderschutzgesetz - BKiSchG): This act was introduced in 2012 and strengthens the legal protections for children in Germany. It includes provisions for preventing child abuse and neglect, improving child welfare services, and ensuring that children's rights are upheld in all legal proceedings.

  • Overall, these legal references provide a comprehensive framework for protecting the welfare of children in Germany. They establish the responsibilities of various agencies and authorities in safeguarding the interests of children, and provide a legal basis for prosecuting offenders and resolving disputes related to child custody and child protection.

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