Arguments & fights
over children

Crossing boundaries

Central Contact Point for Cross-border Family Conflicts

ZAnK - Zentrale Anlaufstelle für grenzüberschreitende Kindschaftskonflikte

Right of access

hildren have a right to contact with both parents. As a consequence, parents have the right – and the duty – to have contact with their child. Contact means: meeting in person as well as letter exchange and telephone contacts on a regular basis.

The point in these contacts is to give the child the feeling of not having lost their family in spite of their parents’ separation or divorce. Retaining contact with the parent with whom the child does not reside gives children the feeling that the other parent is there for them and cares about them, too. Therefore, restriction of contacts or a ban on contacts is only possible if it would pose a risk to the welfare of the child.
Usually all parents have a right to contact with their child , no matter what is their nationality or residence status; the same applies to grandparents, siblings and persons to whom the child relates closely, who actually bear responsibility for the child or did so in the past (“social family relationship”).

When the child and the non-custodial parent live in different countries, however, contact may be difficult to maintain. If a parent moves to another country, the contact arrangement which had previously been practiced may no longer be suitable. New and different arrangements have to be made – e.g. telephone contacts or Skype, holiday times and public holidays will gain in importance. The following will give you an overview of the options available in case of problems concerning contact.

To whom you can turn if your child lives in Germany

If the child’s habitual residence is in Germany, the parent can turn to the Youth Welfare Office or to counseling agencies run by voluntary agencies to obtain counseling and advice. This possibility is also available to parents living abroad (cf. Section 6 SGB VIII /Child and Youth Services Act).

Enforcement of contact abroad

If your child lives in another country, there are different options available to you, which should be discussed in detail, especially with regard to advantages and disadvantages with regard to the child concerned. If local authorities and courts are involved, this may help clarify the situation and find a solution, but it may just as well aggravate the conflict, thus causing further harm to the child.

Out-of-court settlement

can and should always be tried. Whether it can be reached with the help of family members, an arbitrator, a mediator or another authority, depends on the particularities of the individual case. Contact us and we will work out together how to proceed.

Court proceedings in another country

Many parents cannot imagine filing a lawsuit in another country. They are afraid of high costs, or of being put at a disadvantage in the other country. But sometimes a lawsuit cannot be avoided.

There are several international legal instruments dealing with enforcement of the right of access in another country. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction enables the parent to file a lawsuit in another country if it is a Contracting State. Other relevant international instruments can be applied as well: the 1996 Hague Convention for the Protection of Children, the European Brussels II bis Regulation, and the European Convention concerning Custody of Children. They include provisions on the procedure to be followed, jurisdiction of authorities, as well as recognition and enforcement of court decisions.

Whether and which of these international regulations can be applied, and how they relate to one another, depends on whether the relevant State is a Member State of the European Union and a Contracting State to one of these Conventions. The proceedings take place under the law of the State whose court is seized.

Existing contact arrangements

remain valid after a parent’s relocation to another country. The parent who has moved will usually not be successful if he or she says anything different. But in actual fact, a move has far-reaching implications. Contact arrangements which had proved to be successful, e.g. meeting the child every second weekend or one day per week, will hardly be practicable over the geographical distance. On the other hand, it must be checked how the contact arrangement can be enforced in the other country. In this regard, too, the above-mentioned legal instruments can be applied.
Besides International Social Service, the Central Authority in Bonn can provide further information. Relevant applications can be filed with the Central Authority.

Enforcement of the right of access in Germany

The above usually applies equally if you live abroad and want to make contact with your child living in Germany. You should make enquiries as to which international regulations apply in the relations between your country and Germany. Information can also be obtained from the cooperation partner of International Social Service in your country.

If you decide to turn to the Central Authority in your country, the request will be forwarded to the German Central Authority, who will engage a lawyer to represent your interests in the German court.

If you want to, or have to, apply for a right of access or its enforcement directly to a German court, it would be advisable to engage a lawyer.

We will be pleased to inform you about the details, including the costs possibly incurred.

 

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