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Custody rights for unwed fathers strengthened

DDP/DPA/The Local · 3 Aug 2010, 12:41

Published: 03 Aug 2010 09:50 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Aug 2010 12:41 GMT+02:00

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The exclusion of an unmarried father from joint custody is a disproportionate violation of his rights as a parent, the Karlsruhe-based court said, ruling in favour of a North Rhine-Westphalian father’s appeal to gain custody of his son, born in 1998.

The boy, who lives with his mother, sees his father regularly, but the mother has denied him the right to joint custody. A court on Bad Oeynhausen, and another in Hamm both rejected his case, leading him to take it to the highest court in the country.

Meanwhile the European Court of Human Rights had also ruled in December 2009 that the German law – codified by the Karlsruhe court in 2003 to avoid lengthy legal custody battles – discriminated against single fathers.

The Constitutional Court justices admitted on Tuesday Germany's current law "disproportionally put parental rights of a father below those of the mother, even if this is not in the interest of the child." The ruling also calls on lower courts to automatically award joint custody to unmarried fathers until lawmakers could pass new legislation ending the discrimination against them.

In anticipation of the ruling, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said just that she had directed officials to draft a new custody law that provides automatic equal rights for fathers.

Story continues below…

“I want a reform that shows affected fathers how they can have custody without a previous court ruling,” said Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger after the ruling was announced.

"We want a modern custody law that reflects the reality of society and brings parental rights for unmarried fathers in line with the constitutional requirements."

DDP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:47 August 3, 2010 by BurberryKoenig
aww I love this picture
13:56 August 3, 2010 by cklb
"We want a modern custody law that reflects the reality of society and brings parental rights for unmarried fathers in line with the constitutional requirements."

Yeah, was about time. Only now of one case were it worked out more or less well, but of 4 cases where the "Ex" took advantage of the situation...
16:46 August 3, 2010 by moistvelvet
No one pointing out the obvious then? If both people took responsible action before having children then the problem wouldn't be as large, responsible action as in contraception and marriage. Too many single parents are encouraged to stay single!
20:00 August 3, 2010 by slawek
It would seem like this makes it worthwhile having children for a change. I wonder however how it affects alimony payments.
21:10 August 3, 2010 by iseedaftpeople
This was about time. The German law was a travesty. I know a few single dads who never got to see their kids after the breakup, but when it came to child support, the mothers sure as hell made sure they paid up. One of them wanted to confront his former partner in person about visitation rights, and she threatened to file a restraining order against him!!

This levels the playing field.
09:44 August 4, 2010 by moistvelvet
iseedaftpeople, yes this is a travesty and I feel for the dads who don't have access. But like I said although making it a level playing field is fair, why not also make it less attractive to play on it and so easy to access.
19:31 August 4, 2010 by MonkeyMania
Sex discrimination works both ways. Bout time this was sorted out.
12:40 August 5, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I know nothing about German law, but in the American legal system "legal" and "physical" custody are terms of art. Courts uniformly draw the distinction when child custody is awarded. Sole legal and physical custody means that one of the parents has physical custody of the child exclusively and is solely empowered to make all decisions on the child's behalf, including decisions regarding education, medical care, living arrangements, travel, etc. In that case, the noncustodial parent is obligated to pay child support but has no say in how the child is raised, but usually has limited visitation rights.

Joint legal and physical custody means that each parent shares equally in the important decisions relating to the child's upbringing, including educational issues, education, housing, etc., and the child lives with each of the custodial parents on a more or less equal basis as determined by the court.

Sole physical custody means that the child lives with one of the parents 100 percent of the time, with the noncustodial parent usually afforded some sort of visitation rights. It is possible, and is often the case, that one parent has sole physical custody but legal custody is equally shared by both parents.

Under any custody arrangement, it is usually the father who is required to pay child support based on his income, and in the case of a vindictive mother, is often relegated in practical terms to a check writing machine with no real influence on his child's upbringing. The system purports to operate in the best interest of the child, but that is more often than not a legal fiction.
23:07 August 5, 2010 by ChildrenNeedParentsEqually
Yes, most of all, sole custody is a violation of humane rights of the children. Sole physical custody is a breeding ground for alienating the father if the mother so wants. The comments of the one author above aren't correct about custody. Sole physical custody in the US means the mother normally has most of the parenting time and the father normally has between 0 and 18% visiting time. Having sole physical custody gives the mother about 99.9% of the decision making in reality, even if joint legal is ordered by the court. The mother dicates almost everything regarding parenting visits even in violation of court orders. If she wants, the mother dictates almost 100% of the decisions about the children even with joint legal custody. Joint legal is an art because it means the mother should share decisions, but they almost never have to share ANY decision, except children's names. Judges rarely even shake a finger at mothers who violate court orders endlessly. About all that joint legal provides is it allows the father to get school records and report cards. The father can get medical records but the women in the hospitals will fight to make it as difficult as possible to get the information and will make the father go to the hospital even if he lives hundreds of kilometers away while they automatically mail the same information to the mother. I have phone recordings to prove it. Passports for disappearing with the children can easily be obtained by the mother without the father's signature. With joint legal, the children's BIRTH NAMES can't be changed easily. So JOINT LEGAL in the U.S. is 99.9% control by the mother as she desires. SOLE LEGAL is 100% control by the mother including changing BIRTH NAMES without even TELLING the father before or AFTER.
00:23 August 6, 2010 by Prufrock2010
You're correct about parental alienation, which is all too common under most disputed custodial arrangements, and you are correct about abuses that commonly occur and are ignored by the courts. You're writing as an aggrieved father. I'm writing as a California attorney with years of experience dealing with these issues. Of course the child custody laws vary from state to state. I've seen abuses on both sides, and very seldom have I seen truly equitable rulings made and enforced by the courts. Thus my comment that the notion that the system purporting to operate in the best interest of the child is more often than not a legal fiction.
12:34 August 6, 2010 by ChildrenNeedParentsEqually
A child's humane right is to have equal relationships with both parents. That's the wording of the French law. Danish custody presumption is 50-50 parenting. Australian law appears to encourage judges to decide on equal parenting - but that is under attack. In the rest of the "advanced" world, the judges decide in the BEST INTEREST OF LAWYERS and call it the best interest of children. Whatever the lawyers can make the most money at is often the result of judges decisions. Equality stabilizes conflicts and relationships. Inequality generates over 50 Billion dollars every year for lawyers in the US. To change the law, it takes government people who have a REAL SOUL and a REAL CONSCIENCE and REALLY CARE about children's best interest and children's humane rights. Lawyers don't have a worldwide reputation for having consciences and being fair and honest. Lawyers will protect their 60 Billion dollar money making machine as long as possible - it could be decades in the US. The US Federal government pays over 10 Billion dollars in matching incentives to the states every year for child support money management (CLASP data). States increase their share by reducing the time with fathers, which increases the child support amounts and the matching money. Mothers take in over 100 Billion a year in profits every year. Three 'advanced' countries and most of the 'less advanced' world actually care about children's emotional needs above the needs of lawyers and money making for people. Thank God that Germany has a government person with a soul and a conscience who is in a position to push for children's needs. Pray that more government workers will have a conscience for children's humane rights above their own agendas. Decision making is mostly determined by the parent who has the most time with the children. Equal parenting is necessary if a judge thinks decision making is going to be joint. Children need their parents equally for their psychological welfare and to learn how to be a man or a woman.

When a father is BEAT DEAD by the court system, the judges and lawyers call them 'aggrieved' in order to degrade what they say. Whether I'm aggrieved or not doesn't change the facts about the money driving the system and the abuse of children and fathers for money. If a father isn't 'grieving' the loss of time with his children, THEN you might be able to criticize him. JOINT PHYSICAL ordered by a judge in the US (all states) is often NOT EQUAL time. It is usually between 15% and 49% time with the father so the mother gets thousands in tax benefits too. 4 of 28 days is 14%.
16:10 August 6, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I wasn't referring to you as "aggrieved" in a pejorative way, or intending to degrade you. I understand your dilemma and your frustration. I agree that most family law practitioners I have encountered are bottom feeders, which is why I devoted very little of my practice to that field, and usually only as a last resort after a client or friend of the firm had been screwed by one or more previous lawyers and/or the court. I am also a father who once fought for custody of my child, so I have a great deal of sympathy for your situation. But family law courts are courts of equity, which reposes too much discretion with the judges who more often than not abuse that discretion. Unfortunately there is no uniform or easy formula for an equitable outcome so long as human beings called judges are making decisions based largely on guesswork, speculation and so-called expert opinion. And yes, men most often get the short end of the stick. Perhaps you have a concrete solution. I have yet to see one.
19:56 August 6, 2010 by ChildrenNeedParentsEqually
"Joint custody" gets headlines, but doesn't mean much unless EQUAL parenting time goes with it. CONCRETE SOLUTION. The US Govt has known the concrete solution for decades. Most psychological studies from the last 30 years show that children are much better in equal parenting environments. The US Govt statistics prove that 50-50 parents are the VERY BEST at supporting their children with money - and with time which is many times more important. 10 Billion dollars in Federal incentives to states can be eliminated with equal parenting. HUMAN politicians and judges (lawyers!) in France, Denmark and some in Australia seem to have a conscience for the humane rights of children. Why can't the rest of the judges and lawyers in the 'advanced?' world? because of lots of money for lawyers!! and for moms! And basically anything that you can stamp as a "female" issue in the US, becomes legal via lawyers (NOT VIA VOTER ballots) no matter how inhumane and cruel it is to children (killing babies and sole custody). They said it was all about EQUALITY until they had equal rights. But now the same people scream the OPPOSITE - that equality for children and fathers is wrong.

"Joint legal" custody ordered by a judge in the US is usually DECEPTION and mostly a title. Equal parenting time is usually the only way to have fathers in an equal role in children's lives. Joint legal might happen if the mother agrees without going to court to fight. Judges often think and say they are "so generous" to "give" fathers the gift of joint legal, instead of judges just obeying the constitutional rights of children and fathers. Joint legal is ADVERTISED AS having the father in an equal role in the children's lives. It is meant to give the father a title that looks like equality. If a judge orders joint legal, but gives the mother sole physical (parenting time), joint decision making usually isn't going to happen.

'The BEATINGS will continue until the morale improves' creates lots of money for lawyers and anit-father court workers, but DOESN'T HELP the children, the father or the mother (in the long run when the children realize what she did to their father). Lawyers and judges turn MILLIONS of good 100% fathers into 0-14% fathers INSTANTLY with a mere signature by the mother at the courthouse. An instant change in stability from 100% to 14% is extremely ABUSIVE TO CHILDREN. On day 1, court dependent workers proclaim, "children adapt easily." Then months later they declare the OPPOSITE when ordering permanent custody and declare that it would very harmful to the children's "stability" to change parenting time from 14% and "give" the father a real role (even going from 14% to 50% over a few months) . Their claims are 100% abuse of children and deception. It takes less than one month of sole physical custody with a mother or with a father to alienate children.
23:05 August 6, 2010 by JimBWarrior
Greetings from New Zealand - Well done German Dads as you move forward toward real **Equal Parenting** - Onward - Together - Equal Parenting @ Ration Shed - Jim - www.rationshed.wordpress.com
05:18 August 7, 2010 by Canadian Dad
Before any fathers get too excited about this, note that the proposed law applies to "unwed" fathers. It doesn't say anything about divorced fathers.

As many others have already pointed out, and like myself, who have lived through the harassment, prejudice, abuse, debasement, and heartbreak of trying to be a divorced "father", there is certainly no justice when it comes to fathers' rights - nor, in my experience, is there any intent to be.

The court systems and the "law" have absolutely nothing to do with justice as it pertains to fathers and their children. The court systems and the law are no more than entrenched systemic discrimination targeted at fathers.

The entire set of stakeholders in the Divorce Industry - the judges, the lawyers, the child assessors, the social workers, the politicians, the government social agencies, the psychologists, the domestic violence shelter industry, the feminist academics, the media - they all KNOW that fathers' have less rights than any stray dog on the street but they not only KNOWINGLY refuse to try to fix the problem, they also KNOWINGLY refuse to even admit it exists.


Because, clearly, they all benefit from the current adversarial system that declares, a priori, that all husbands and fathers are guilty of something even when proven innocent.

Because, by systemically enforcing socialist feminazi propaganda they can ensure that all fathers are viewed by the courts as nothing more than sperm donors and ATMs.

Because by systemically and perpetually destroying fathers emotionally, spiritually, and financially they can ensure that their grip on the justice system and the social system remains inviolate.

This is true in Germany, as noted herein, in Canada where I live, in the U.S., Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Japan, and many other countries. I mention these in particular because, as a father who works with and provides support to other divorced fathers, I have heard from fathers in each of those countries who is living through their own personal hell because of the blatantly misandrist family courts in all of these nations.

Fathers should not, can not, must not rely on the legislatures or the courts to in any way ameliorate the abuse and discrimination visited on them by the Divorce Industry. The legislatures and courts are not the solution. As they currently exist and function they are the problem.

Fathers need to organise on an international scale to achieve results. It is only when hundreds of thousands and even millions of fathers around the world band together and DEMAND change that we will begin to see any light at the end of the tunnel of dungeons that we are forced to live in and accept as normal and fair.
13:52 August 7, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Canadian Dad --

You make many valid points about the abuses in the various legal systems and the deck-stacking against fathers. You lose me, however, when you toss out meaningless terms like "socialist feminazi propaganda." What in the world is that supposed to mean, and what is "socialist" about it? The state has a compelling public policy interest in assuring that children are provided for by their parents because when parents shirk that responsibility it falls upon society at large (read: taxpayers) to foot the bill. There is a huge problem in America, for instance, within the inner city black communities where a large proportion of fathers tend not to stick around, leaving the mothers to bring up their children alone or with the help of an extended matriarchal family. That problem is exacerbated by dire economic circumstances suffered by the minority underclass. This is by no means a racist statement, merely a well-documented empirical fact. In the hispanic communities generally the opposite is true, despite similar economic circumstances. I don't know the sociological or cultural reason for this, but it illustrates some of the burdens that fall upon society at large when parents fail to provide for their children.

The Family Code in California draws no gender distinction when it comes to each parent's responsibility to support their child, but there is an ingrained and antiquated presumption in the law that the mother is better equipped to be the custodial parent, particularly of children of "tender years." This is a 19th century notion that is not easily overcome. I agree that fathers around the world must organize to effect change, but that change will only occur through legislative change, and that in turn will only occur when antiquated stereotypes are eliminated. That takes not only concerted action, but time and education.

In the meantime, these problems could be avoided altogether if more men acted responsibly and decided not to procreate in the first place -- particularly in non-marital situations. The decision to father a child is a lifetime commitment, and one should be cognizant of the potential pitfalls down the road before making such a commitment.
17:06 August 8, 2010 by ChildrenNeedParentsEqually
Attorney Prufrock, So it's the fathers' fault? huh? for procreating? for not committing? Why are the causes and solutions so difficult to see for some people?

I can assure you that if you gave African American children their humane rights of equal time with their fathers and didn't allow the fathers to be treated like slaves by the mothers, many of those fathers would be there. It's being abused that keeps them away.

EVERYONE - I tell young men to make a Relationship/Marriage CONTRACT with their partner. Some churches recommend these. There doesn't need to be anything stated regarding breaking up later or what happens then. State the things that you will do for each other in your relationship in a positive way. Include, "We will share and support our children equally for as long as we live" and "We will share decision making equally regarding our children for as long as we live." If she won't sign that and file it with the church and/or the court, RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN! FIND ANOTHER woman!

I believe that the main method in the United States has to be the CHILDREN SPEAKING up for their rights and needs. Men are usually ignored (including male lawyers). Children need to speak up and PROTEST. And any mothers who will support equal parenting need to protest. Change won't happen without large public demonstrations. Join up at acfc.org.

Don't trust divorce lawyers unless they are a friend or the very best in the county. Inciting conflict by treating people unequal is what makes over 50 Billion every year for US divorce lawyers. Divorce is one of the biggest US industries. The hotel/accomodation industry is 95 billion and Oil+Gas is 69 billion (Annual Industry Accounts 2008). You can "legally" abuse fathers and make lots of money doing it by getting a court related job.

TELL CHILDREN what is going on. READ the COMMENTS by dozens of CHILDREN in the book, "Adult Children of Parental Alienation." The CHILDREN said they NEEDED to KNOW the father's side of the story when they were kids. US judges and custody evaluators threaten fathers with the loss of parenting time if they don't maintain secrecy - which keeps the inequality, conflict and money making system going. Sole physical custody is the environment that creates the worst problems for children.

Today it's a massacre of children (52 million in the US) and of fathers and a massive plundering of fathers. There is little fear of God anymore. God will judge according to His law, not the US law. Abortion and shared custody have been on voter ballots in a few states, but there are more women voters and they are much more vocal.

And a response to earlier - "Grieving" is more positive than "agrieved" which is normally used in a derogatory manner to deny custody. What good father wouldn't be angry with governments TRAFFICKING CHILDREN into sole custody? and paying huge incentives to those stealing children?
17:19 August 9, 2010 by Prufrock2010
ChildrenNeedParentsEqually --

I never said it was the fathers' fault. Maybe you should re-read what I wrote.

As for children "speak[ing] up and protesting," how do you suggest that they do that when they are pawns in the breakup/divorce game and too young to know what's going on? One practical solution, which many courts employ upon the petition of one or both of the parents (and occasionally sua sponte), is to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child's interest. This person is a qualified neutral who can adequately speak up for the child and ensure the child's rights. Most courts do not consider the desires of the child prior to the age of 12, when the child's wishes are taken into consideration but are not dispositive. By the age of 14 the courts usually attach much more weight to the child's wishes. By that time, however, if the child has been in the sole custody of one of the parents for any length of time and has been exposed to a steady diet of parental alienation, the damage has usually been done.

Don't attack me for stating the obvious. You can enter into contracts with your lover or spouse until you run out of ink, but a contract (including a marriage contract) is only as good as the good faith of the contracting parties. With over 50% of marriage contracts ending up rescinded because of divorce, the actual efficacy of such contracts is nil. Hence my admonition to both men and women to think twice about procreating until you're absolutely sure that you have the right partner with whom to raise a child to adulthood. You are living proof of the wisdom of that advice.
19:37 August 9, 2010 by ChildrenNeedParentsEqually
The court will strictly enforce every contract created between any parties and give heavy penalties for breaking every contract, except the marriage contract. Then the OPPOSITE action is taken. Then the government showers the BREAKING party with endless money, house, children. It's completely abusive and bizarre. Basically if it's a woman killing babies or plundering fathers, then it's legal. But if a corporation or a man tried to do the same thing, there would be extreme punishments. Why don't you talk about that problem instead of promoting court workers? Attorney Prufock, Your words speak for themselves, "these problems could be avoided altogether if more men acted responsibly and decided not to procreate in the first place." The problem isn't procreating. The problem is stealing children, houses and livelihoods using lawyers. Eliminate the lawyers is a good solution. Almost everyone who works for the court, especially guardian ad litems have often selected that job because they can "legally" abuse men if they work for the court and make a lot of money.
00:30 August 10, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Well, pal, I don't know why you're attacking me since I'm basically on your side and have fought for your interests. If attorneys are the problem, most family courts are equipped these days to handle these case in pro per (or pro se, depending on your jurisdiction) without any lawyer involvement at all. The forms require checking the boxes and filling out financial declarations. There are family court clinics for pro per litigants that are eager to help. You don't need a lawyer. You need evidence, and you need the balls to stand up in every court proceeding and argue and you need the skills to write the briefs and obtain the discovery and experts to make your case, and you need how to learn to deal with courts that are prejudiced against you. So educate yourself, fight for yourself, learn the law and prosecute the case on your own. Learn how to propound and answer interrogatories, propound document demands, conduct depositions, file and oppose motions, argue in court and prevail. The rules have been changed in your favor. Take full advantage of them, and good luck to you.
11:19 August 31, 2010 by ChildrenNeedParentsEqually
"Joint custody" can mean very little if it doesn't include nearly equal parenting time. See comments in the link at the beginning to "Unmarried fathers to get automatic joint custody over children." Good Lawyer? Good luck. In the U.S., it is usually stupid to use a male attorney in divorce because the judges ignore most of what men say in court and do whatever women want, so get a woman attorney - it may be difficult to find one who will truly defend a father. In the U.S., if you are a male in divorce court, if the lawyer isn't one of the best in your city or a friend of yours or friend of a close friend, then they are working for their own gold box first, and you are somewhere lower on their priority list (below the feminist judge's demands and the opposing lawyer's gold box - they will work together to take all your money). Basically, if your lawyer or judge can walk away from the case after destroying you and they have no consequences to their reputation, then they likely will. If you aren't willing to be their slaves, then give up now and use your money for something good. Hopefully the German system is better, but lawyer corruption has been a serious problem for thousands of years.
08:54 November 19, 2010 by A-FATHER-IN-DISTRESS
My name is Daniel Priester a United States citizen, and my children that are also American citizens, were abducted to Germany by their mother on 8/16/2002. I have no contact with them at the moment and all my rights have been taken away by the German court without any reason. I have done everything in my power to convince my ex-wife to allow me to be part of my children lives ever since the abduction, but she refuses and lives her life like if I don¦#39;t even exist. When I realized that she took them I notified the police and filed a motion to return of the children in my courts. My courts couldn¦#39;t do anything at the time I filled back in 2002, because they did not have jurisdiction over my children, and they came to the conclusion that I would have to wait for the court hearing that would be held in Germany that was filed by their mother for full custody and our divorce. I did exactly what they asked me, but they did not care, they gave her sole custody. Their only reason for taking away my parental rights was because I was to emotional due to the abduction. I think any parent who has lost a child to abduction or in any manner would be emotional. I truly feel all my rights were violated. The court in Germany and my ex-wife caught me off guard because I don¦#39;t speak German and don¦#39;t have knowledge of the German law. My family and I have suffered the ultimate price. My heart is broken, and my mother, the children¦#39;s paternal grandmothers had an emotional down fall after the abduction, with severe diabetes, heart problems, and from the stress of seeing me going through such a nightmare, and her own personal thought of never seeing her grandchildren again, was to much for her to bare, she reserved all the pain inside until she couldn¦#39;t anymore and she had a heart attack and passed away on 2/15/2007. I don¦#39;t want to end up like my mother, to die from so much suffering and pain. She never got to see her grandchildren again and that was her only wish. Not only, I¦#39;m without my children, but I¦#39;m without a mother because of all this. Until this day I don't have any rights over my children, nor have I seen my children for the last six year¦#39;s. It¦#39;s sad to say, but I don't even know what my children look like. Recently I have done research on parental alienation and the Jugendamt. I recently filed a case with the United States Dept. of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Children Issues in Washington D.C., to help me with this matter. Loving and caring fathers like me do not deserve to be forgotten. Parental alienation is a hate crime, we have a voice, and we will not stand for this hate crime any longer. As long as my heart beats, I will never give up on the fight to be with my children. If you would like to join my journey to reunite with my children please send me a friend request to my face book page at facebook.com/dp033

Thank you.
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