Children who are German citizens have the legal right to care and support from their parents, regardless of where they live in the world. As part of parental responsibilities, any parent who does not actually look after the child is obliged to pay child support. The obligation to pay starts at birth and ends when the child, after completing education, is able to earn her own living.
Germany uses a set of predetermined guidelines for calculating child support payments, which are based on the parent's income and the age of the child. Most states will recognize a German court order for child support.
Obligation to Pay
By German child support laws, the non-custodial parent has an obligation to pay child support for as long as the child needs financial support and the parent is capable of paying. The obligation to pay typically ends when the child completes her education and is able to earn a living. "Education" in this context includes voluntary further education such as an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. So, the non-custodial parent may be paying child support until the child turns 25 or older. It's up to the custodial parent to make a claim for child support on behalf of the child. In situations in which the parents have joint custody, the one who has charge of the child by German law is responsible for making the claim.
Amount of Child Support
German courts use the "Düsseldorfer-Tabelle" as a jumping off point for settling payments. This matrix standardizes payments in family law matters with the aim of making child support payments fairer. Essentially, your minimum liability is a predetermined amount based on your income and the age of the child. For example, a father earning between 2.701 and 3.100 Euros per month would pay a minimum maintenance of 461 Euros to support his 6-to 11-year-old child. Beyond that, each matter is settled on a case-by-case basis. The court will adjust the recommended amounts to take account of specific factors, such as the child's living standards before the divorce and whether the child has additional physical or emotional needs.
When the Child Lives in Germany and You're in the U.S.
The Düsseldorfer-Tabelle still applies when the child lives in Germany and the parent responsible for paying child support lives in the United States. Germany has reciprocal laws with all states except Alabama, Mississippi and Washington D.C, which means that most states will recognize and enforce a German court order for child support. In practical terms, the German Federal Office of Justice will work together with the U.S. relevant state department to ensure the non-custodial parent receives and abides by the court order.
When a Child With German Citizenship Lives in the U.S.
If the child has German citizenship and lives with you in the United States, then German law applies. In this scenario, you can either:
- Sue the non-custodial parent based in Germany in a German court or
- Sue the non-custodial parent in one of the states that has a reciprocal arrangement with Germany, and use the U.S. court order to force the Germany-based parent to pay up.
The first option is generally better since enforcement is much easier. That's because the German family courts work closely with the "Jugendamt" or child welfare office. The Jugendamt has the legal authority to take the child support money directly from non-custodial parent's account in Germany and pay it to your account in the United States.