German Law/Sibling Visitation
QUESTION: I am American and divorced from my German husband. We had three kids. To make a long story short, my husband poisoned my teenager's mind and caused her to hate me. She ran away from my house twice while this was happening almost 4 years ago. During custody, she told the social workers she did not want to live with me, so she was placed in a group home and now a foster home. I have sole custody of my youngest two children and the father told the court he did not want any visitation with them. The teenager had some contact with me since then, but the last face-to-face visit with me and her two younger siblings was about 16 months ago. She has made various threats against me and her siblings, so I refuse to allow her visitation with her siblings. Last fall her social worker threatened me with court so the teenager could visit her siblings, but that didn't happen. The teenager is again threatening court, and she says that her social worker said she would have my two younger children removed from my home for refusing visitation (I met this SW once and I'm sure she would have said that!).
What are the sibling visitation rights in Germany? What can the social worker legally do? I am a civilian covered by SOFA, so would any court summons be delivered directly to me or to the military post/base I am connected to?
Thank you for your assistance!
ANSWER: Hello Cherry,
I am sorry to read about this situation.
Sibling visitation is not a very strong right in German law. § 1685 I BGB states that siblings (and grandparents) have a right to contact with the child of this would be in the interest of the child's well-being. This is a far lesser right than parental visitation which is the parent's right even if it is not particularly in the child's interest.
The social worker can't do much. Whatever the "Jugendamt" (Child & Youth Services in Germany) do, you can challenge in court. Only a court could order your youngest two children to have contact with their older sister.
Based on the SOFA and the Supplementary Agreement thereto, a court summons should reach you through the US military, but the courts in Germany sometimes overlook this requirement, so there is no way of predicting how they would serve you.
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QUESTION: Thank you for the quick reply!
The court would have to take into consideration the feelings of ALL siblings, correct?
If the summons does not reach me through the US military, am I obligated to appear in court?
The court will take everything into consideration, but due to § 1685 I BGB the burden of proof is on the teenager who wishes to have visitation. She would need to prove that it is in the other two children's best interest. A hard feat, I would say, with the background you provided.
If you don't appear in court, the court will order you (and the two younger children) to appear. If you then still don't appear, the court may pass an order without you. I don't see the advantage of that strategy.
You may be able to ask for a reinstatement of the proceeding, but why wait until your teenage daughter stands on your doorstep with a court order in her hands, ready to call the bailiff if you don't allow her inside?
I would highly recommend not to ignore any paperwork from either the court or the "Jugendamt". Once you receive any mail, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more specific advice about how to react and respond.