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German Law/German Custody Law re Grandparents


QUESTION: My friend, who is a German citizen but living abroad would like custody of her grandchild assigned to her as the Department of Youth in Germany is planning to terminate parental rights of the mother who is living in Germany. The mother is agreeable to this. What is my friend's rights as the Grandparent of the child in this situation and what information would she have to provide to the courts to be awarded custody?

ANSWER: Hello Nicolette,

that is quite possible. If the parental rights of the mother are removed or suspended, then the next option would of course be the father. If there is no father who has custodial rights (e.g. because the parents were never married or for other reasons), then the Department of Youth typically steps in, but the Family Court would actually usually give preference to a close relative who is willing and able to step in.

Your friend would need to show that the mother is fine with this, the child is fine with this, that there has been a long-standing real relationship between the child and its grandmother and that the grandmother could take care of her.
The general assumption is that a family member is a better person to care than an unrelated third party.

In my experience, the Department of Youth (Jugendamt) is often reluctant to accept this and might therefore be rather antagonistic. However, the Jugendamt can't d anything against the mother's wish without court approval, so the Family Court has the last word.

I would advise to contact the Jugendamt and let them know of this option, the offer and the mother's preference. I would be very happy to speak to your friend and help with the correspondence to the Jugendamt and eventually the Family Court if it will become necessary.

Andreas Moser

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QUESTION: Dear Mr Moser

Many thanks for your response. All the conditions you mention in your response re mother and father of child are met and my friend is flying to Germany on 9th December to attend family court hearing. She has informed the Jugendamt of her intentions and they seem friendly, but have not advised whether she will need to present any documentation to family court to show she can take care of child. Can you advise what documents she should prepare to take with her e.g. any need for financial statements, police clearance, psychiatric evaluation etc?

It is very good to hear that the Jugendamt seem open to the idea because they usually put up the biggest opposition in cases like these.

The court will be most interested in the emotional relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Beyond that, financial statements and some proof of the place where she lives would be helpful. Depending on the age of the child, schooling options may also be of interest. If she can get a police clearance, she may also add that. A psychiatric evaluation is not necessary unless somebody has raised doubts about her, which it doesn't sound like.

I wish you all the best for 9 December!

Andreas Moser

German Law

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Andreas Moser


Extensive experience in international family law, especially international child abductions and child custody cases. All other areas of German law as well: constitutional law, criminal law, business and contract law, immigration law, inheritance law, and so on.


Lawyer in Germany from 2002 to 2009. Lawyer for US Army JAG Corps before. Bar-certified specialisation in family law and in administrative law. Articles and lectures about international and domestic family law.


2000 Law Degree from University of Regensburg, Germany 2002 admitted to the bar (until 2009) 2013 MA Philosophy at the Open University, UK

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