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German Law/Elternunterhalt when living abroad


Dear Carolin,

Following on from the question posed by Lars on 10/24/2013.  My elderly father lives in Bavaria and wishes to move into a care home.  He suffered a stroke last year and it has affected his mobility, speech and physical strength.  His doctor, as I understand it, thinks he only needs some support with daily living.  Regardless of this, it seems inevitable that my father will need to move into a care home eventually.

My father's pension is enough to pay for about half the costs.  My father has been led to believe by the care home manager that if he quits his rented flat and moves into the home, then the state will pick up the remainder of the bill.  From what I have read elsewhere, I expect that the state will seek to recoup the costs from me and my brother.  Neither of us want to prevent my father from enjoying his remaining years in comfort, but we have been unable to ascertain under what circumstances we would be liable to fund the remaining costs, which neither of us can afford to meet.

My brother is my father's 'Betreuer' and lives in rented accommodation in Switzerland on very little income but owns a small property in the UK which is inhabited by his adult son.  He is worried that he will be forced to sell this property and lose his savings if my father moves into the care home.

I live in the UK with my wife and adult step-daughter.  Although our Household income is considerably higher than average, after mortgage costs, utility bills, food etc., we are just about managing to keep our heads above water.  Apart from mortgage repayments I also have other debts which I am servicing but not managing to pay off.  These debts built up during a period of 5 years when my wife was a full time student and not earning.  My wife is paying off a student loan.  We have no savings other than our pensions.

My father has a state pension from the UK and from Germany, having worked and paid taxes in both countries.  He has no other assets.

Is the care home manager's advice sound?  Am I likely to be liable to pay towards my fatherís care, if so how will the German authorities calculate my liability?  On what grounds would I be able to argue successfully that I could not afford to contribute to my fatherís care?  What powers to the German authorities have to make me contribute as a UK citizen?    


Dear Michael,

The legal situation for you and your brother is different because you live in different countries and the law regarding the Elternunterhalt is different for both countries.  The situation for you in the UK  is better than for your brother in Switzerland. But on the other hand your brother's income seems to be lower.

I will need more information about your and your brother's net income to advice you how to handle the situation.

I would be glad to have a telephone consultation with you. I will send you a client info form prior to the consultation to fill out.  You can contact me directly at

Carolin Burgess
Foreign Legal Consultant

German Law

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Carolin Schulz-Burgess


German legal issues on inheritance, divorce, alimony, child custody and support, last wills and testaments, and other problems involving international family and civil law.


I am a certified German laywer with professional experience in both German and American law firms. Since 2001 I have been working independently at my firm, German Legal Services. I have represented hundreds of clients on matters involving US-German legal issues. One of my firm's areas of specialization is in divorce and child support and custody issues between members of the U.S. Armed Forces and German civilians.

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I received my undergraduate and JD degrees both from the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, whose law school is consistently ranked in the top 10 in Germany.

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