German Law/Visitation- Other Forms legally binding?
When I was 17, my girlfriend and I had an unexpected pregnancy. Very near to her due date, when she turned 18, we had broken up and she decided to keep the baby. The child was born in Saarbrucken on April 21st, 2011. Because she had dual citizenship in both the U.S. (Where we lived) and Germany, she had elected to move to Germany because the government would provide her support.
I tried my best to stay in touch with them, but she was always changing locations and her time zone was seven hours ahead of mine, so it was difficult. However, she was certain to fax the birth certificate so that I would sign it, and I am legally recognized as the biological father. Because of this, I have sent money for the past four years (about 150 euros per month) as child support at the legal request of the German government.
The mother recently got married (about a year ago) to a 35 year old man, and he acts as the child's legal guardian alongside the mother.
I was wondering if there is some form of visitation I have a legal right to. I cannot afford to physically visit Germany as I am a low wage fast food employee, but could I request legal visitation in the form of phone calls or Skype calls?
Is there any way for me to have a *legal right* to speaking to my daughter over the phone? If so, how often would I be allowed to speak to her?
As I said, I cannot afford to physically go to Germany myself, so this is the best I can do in terms of seeing or speaking to her.
Thank you very, very much in advance!
-a concerned, distant father
yes, you absolutely have a right to contact with your daughter. And, just as importantly for discussions with the mother, your daughter has a right to contact with you (§ 1684 I BGB).
If contact cannot (yet) be facilitated in person, then it can/must be done in different ways, for example by phone calls, letters, video/Skype calls, e-mails. The best method depends also on the age of the child and may well vary over the years. At your daughter's current age, I guess Skype/video calls would be the best thing.
Contact with your daughter is a parental right which is independent of your legal status as a custodian or guardian.
There are three possible routes to try to achieve contact:
- Talk to the mother (which sounds like it hasn't been very successful in the past).
- Contact the "Jugendamt", Child and Youth Services/CAFCASS, in the town/county that your daughter lives in. They cannot force the mother to agree to contact, but they may try to mediate an agreement between the two of you. As you have been paying child support, this might be the agency that you have already been dealing with, so they know that you are a responsible father which should make them more amenable to your request.
- If all else fails, you would need to hire a lawyer in Germany and file a petition in Family Court. Even as a foreigner and a non-resident in Germany, you may qualify for legal aid. The German government would then pay your lawyer and your court fees. You would only need to show that you have exhausted all other routes before applying for legal aid.
The path ahead is not an easy one, particularly if the mother remains obstructive, but I wish you all the best!