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Adoption in Germany - requirements, procedures, costs & Co. at a glance
What are the requirements for adoptions? How do adoptions work? How long does an adoption take? What does an adoption cost? Who arranges adoptions? How do domestic adoptions differ from international adoptions?
For couples who want to have children and cannot have children of their own, adoptions are a way of fulfilling their dream of having their own family. However, since such an adoption fundamentally changes the life of both the adoptive child and the adoptive parents, adoptions are usually lengthy processes in which potential adoptive parents have to meet strict requirements. In 2019, a total of 3,744 children and young people were adopted in Germany. The fact that the number of annual adoptions is not higher in Germany is due, among other things, to precisely those strict requirements. In this article you will learn everything about the requirements, process, placement, duration and costs of adoptions.
Adoptions: What is the current legal situation?
German adoption law is regulated in the German Civil Code (BGB). A distinction is made between the adoption of minors (§§ 1741 ff. BGB) and the adoption of adults (§§ 1767 ff. BGB). In addition, the so-called Adoptionsvermittlungsgesetz (AdVermiG) has been in force since 1976, which contains specific regulations on the entire procedure as well as on adoption placement.
Adopted minors have the same rights and obligations as biological children
It should be noted in principle that adoptive minors are treated on an equal footing with biological children and therefore have the same rights and obligations. As a result of an adoption, the adopted child is no longer related to the biological family. Only the adoption of stepchildren is an exception. Here the relationship to only one biological parent is given up.
What types of adoptions are there?
There are various forms of adoptions in Germany. In addition to the distinction between underage and adult adoption, there are a number of other forms:
In the context of the adoption of minors, there are three different forms that differ in terms of the contact between the birth and the adoptive parents:
In this form of minor adoption, there is more or less no contact between birth parents and adoptive parents. In addition, once the adoption is complete, no pictures, personal concerns or other information will be shared with one another.
Since it has advantages for everyone involved, semi-open adoption is one of the most common forms of adoption. Here birth parents can get in touch with the adoptive parents through the appropriate adoption agency. In this way, pictures, letters or the like can be exchanged.
Open adoption goes one step further. Here, adoptive parents get to know their birth parents and stay in touch. In this way, biological parents can get an idea of the further development of the child, while adoptive parents can give the children a realistic picture of the biological parents. This form of adoption is rather uncommon and the effects of such open adoptions on children have not yet been investigated.
As part of the adoption of relatives, relatives adopt the child of another family member if the latter dies or is otherwise unable to care for the child. A distinction is made between stepchild adoption and the eased adoption of relatives. Kinship adoptions always require the consent of both parents, provided they are still alive.
The stepchild adoption can always be applied for if a spouse or registered partner would like to adopt the child of their partner from a previous marriage with all rights and obligations.
Facilitated adoption of relatives
With the facilitated adoption of relatives, the requirements for adopting relatives are reduced. There is no legal basis for this. The background is the best interests of the child in the event of the death of the parents of one or more minor children. Adoption should be made easier for relatives in such cases. Age limits, in particular, are to a certain extent ignored, for example to enable adoption by grandparents or siblings who are already of legal age. Other requirements are also checked less strictly.
In adult adoption, one adult is adopted by another adult. Such a process is only permissible if the assumption is morally justified. This means that there must be a parent-child relationship between the two adults. Adult adoptions do not constitute full adoption, and ties to biological families do not apply in accordance with Section 1770 of the German Civil Code (BGB).
Adult adoption under the law of minors
In the context of the adoption of adults, there is also a special form in Germany: the adult adoption under the law of minors (§ 1772 BGB). This form of adoption is mainly used when the birth parents have prevented the child from wanting to join another family until the child is of legal age. However, if the affected children of legal age still wish to equate the family relationship that has grown through the foster relationship with the physical relationship through adoption, they often want adult adoption under the law of minors. Adopters then have to take the name of the adopting person as their maiden name and the real maiden name no longer appears in the documents.
Another common form of adoptions is the so-called foreign adoption. A foreign adoption is the adoption of a previously unknown child who has been proposed by an adoption agency and judged to be suitable. This can either be a child from Germany or from abroad. The differences between domestic and international adoption are discussed in more detail in the section “Domestic vs. international adoption”.
What are the requirements for an adoption in Germany?
Which requirements must be met for an adoption depends, among other things, on whether it is a domestic or an international adoption. Anyone who wants to adopt a child in Germany, i.e. in Germany, must have full legal capacity and be at least 25 years old. Younger spouses must be at least 21 years old. There is no fixed maximum age for adoptive parents, but according to the Federal Working Group of State Youth Welfare Services, the age difference should correspond to a natural difference.
Adoption agencies are responsible for checking the suitability of applicants. The following criteria are primarily taken into account:
In the context of personality, among other things, the motivation for adoption is considered. In addition, the ability to get involved with the child and tolerance play an important role. Another important point is the willingness to inform the child about his or her parentage or to continuously deal openly with his or her previous history.
It is very important for children to grow up in a stable partnership. This can be a marriage, a registered partnership or a non-marital partnership. It is crucial that adoptive parents have a good common foundation in their partnership and are able to deal constructively with conflicts.
Childlessness should be processed
If the adoptive parents are childless couples who cannot have children of their own, youth welfare offices ensure that the dispute has already been concluded. Medical attempts to have a child should come to an end and not run parallel to the adoption process.
In addition, the adoption agency ensures that adoptive parents can look after the child for as long as possible. So there should be no psychological or psychosomatic restrictions or other illnesses that make it difficult to care for the child. Adopting parents must therefore submit a so-called health certificate from their general practitioner.
In addition to a health certificate, the adoptive parents' certificates of good conduct are also required. Only relevant previous convictions such as sexual or bodily harm offenses constitute an obstacle.
Adoptive parents should also deal carefully with their ideas of upbringing and not transfer the upbringing they have experienced themselves to the child without reflection.
The living conditions are also carefully examined. The rule here is that the living space should be large enough that the child has opportunities to retreat and that contact with other children in the vicinity is possible.
Of course, the economic situation must be appropriate. For this reason, adoptive parents have to prove that the child can grow up in an economically stable situation.
In addition to the economic circumstances, the adoption must of course also be compatible with the professional activities of the adoptive parents. The professional situation should offer enough time to take care of the child. Children who have been adopted should have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with their adoptive parents so that they can be raised mostly at home.
Consent of birth parents
If they are still alive, both birth parents must agree to an adoption. Guardianship is only transferred to the responsible youth welfare office, which takes care of the adoption, with their consent. In addition, of course, the child must also consent to its adoption. If the child is younger than 14 years of age at the time of adoption, the youth welfare office gives consent as a guardian.
Adoption by homosexuals, singles & unmarried couples
Section 1741 of the German Civil Code (BGB) stipulates that singles or non-married people may only adopt alone, while married couples can only adopt adoptive children together. This means that the adoption of unmarried couples can only be carried out by one of the future parents. In addition, since October 1, 2017, married same-sex couples have been treated equally with heterosexual married couples with regard to their domestic adoption rights. This means that same-sex spouses can also adopt children. According to a case law of the Federal Court of Justice, German authorities must also recognize corresponding adoptions abroad. Registered life partners may jointly take over the guardianship of a foster child, but not adopt them together.
Adoption procedure - how does an adoption work in Germany?
If a married couple or a single person decides to adopt a minor and non-biological child, an adoption agency of the youth welfare office is the next point of contact. As part of the application, the employees of the relevant position first conduct an information meeting. If there is still the wish to adopt, all necessary documents must be filled out or collected. The exchange then checks the documents and determines whether they are generally suitable. The following documents must be submitted:
- completed application
- Birth certificates
- Certificates of good conduct
- Health certificates
- marriage certificate
- Proof of citizenship, earnings, assets & debts
After the required documents have been submitted, discussions will take place again with the youth welfare office. Applicants then receive a questionnaire in which they have to explain, among other things, why they want to adopt a child and what changes they expect from the adoption. The next step is the aptitude test and further interviews will follow. Once the suitability has been finally determined, the employees of the youth welfare office write a social report and the applicants are added to the pool of potential adoptive parents. This is the beginning of the waiting period.
Selection of suitable applicants
If a child is given up for adoption, the adoption agency searches the applicant pool for suitable adoptive parents in accordance with Section 7 AdVermiG. Once this process has been completed and suitable adoptive parents have been found, the phase of adoptive care begins in accordance with Section 1744 of the German Civil Code (BGB).
Adoption care period
Here the child should get used to the family. The family will continue to be looked after by the youth welfare office during this time. The future adoptive parents do not yet have parental custody at this point, but are already obliged to provide maintenance in accordance with Section 1751 of the German Civil Code (BGB).
Adoption decision / exclusion from adoption
If the probationary period has expired, the expectant adoptive parents submit an application for admission to the notary to accept the child. The notary then sends the application to the guardianship court, which then asks the youth welfare office for an opinion. The youth welfare office then submits an expert opinion and the family court then decides on the adoption. If the overriding interests of the child conflict with those of the adopting adoptive parents or could endanger the child, the adoption may be refused in accordance with Section 1745 of the German Civil Code (BGB). If the adoption is successful, the child receives the legal status of a biological child (§ 1754 BGB).
How long does it take to adopt a child in Germany?
In the aptitude test procedure, as already mentioned, applicants are tested for their suitability as adoptive parents. For this purpose, individual and couple discussions are held with the employees of the youth welfare office. Among other things, questions are asked about your own childhood, your relationship with one another, your desire to have children and your ideas about the future. This is to determine what is important to the potential adoptive parents and, above all, what can be expected of them.
Couples applying to adopt a child should have regular contact with the youth welfare office.
The aptitude test takes about 4 to 9 months. Once the suitability of the potential adoptive parents has been determined, it is valid for two years. Not least because of this lengthy examination process and the suitability for only two years, couples should maintain regular contact with the youth welfare office. After all, there are around eight times more couples in Germany who want to adopt a child than there are children who can be adopted.
Age limit - until when are adoptions possible?
The age difference between the adopted child and the adoptive parents should not be more than 40 years.
Although Section 1743 of the German Civil Code (BGB) prescribes a minimum age for adoptions, the law does not provide for a maximum age limit for adoptions. Nevertheless, age plays an extremely important role in the aptitude test of adoption applicants, as a parent-child relationship should arise between the future parents and the adopted child and the child should still have resilient parents even in adolescence. For this reason, the maximum age difference between the adoptive child and the adoptive parents should not be more than 40 years. As a result, adoption applicants older than 45 should not expect to adopt an infant, but rather an adopted child aged five or older. In the case of adoptions abroad, the material law of the respective country may also be decisive. However, in most countries there is no upper age limit for adoption either.
How much does an adoption cost in Germany?
The adoption process is generally not associated with any costs in the context of domestic adoptions. However, there are still costs for the family court, the notary, certifications and declarations of consent. However, these are limited at a few hundred euros. If an adoption is carried out through private providers, higher fees may also apply under certain circumstances. In any case, international adoptions incur significantly higher costs, which are discussed in more detail in the section “Domestic vs. international adoption”.
Exemplary breakdown of costs for domestic adoptions:
What government benefits can adoptive parents receive?
Like birth parents, adoptive parents can also receive state benefits such as parental or child benefit. In addition, adoptive parents are entitled to the following family benefits:
Parental leave is a paid break from working life for parents who take on the care and upbringing of their child (s) themselves. Adoptive and foster parents can take up to three years of parental leave per child. This also applies if the adoption process is still ongoing. The right to parental leave exists as soon as the child has been accepted into the household, i.e. when the adoption care begins. Entitlements to parental leave end no later than the day before the child's eighth birthday.
Right to a midwife
Adoptive parents are entitled to midwife care provided their adoptive child is still an infant. The midwife is then financed by the health insurance company with which the baby is insured. Since the health insurers determine the scope of this claim differently, it is advisable to obtain a cost assumption in advance. These regulations also only apply to children with statutory health insurance. Parents of privately insured adoptive children should inquire with their health insurance company.
Further help and support
During the period of adoptive care, adoptive parents are supported in building a stable parent-child relationship. The adoption agencies are responsible for both support and advice. But even after this, the employees of the appropriate adoption agency are available. Especially for children with an increased need for care, specialists are available to provide support and provide information on further support and advice offers. In addition, placement agencies regularly hold themed evenings, seminars or discussion groups with therapists.
Domestic vs. international adoption
In the case of adoptions abroad, it does not matter whether the change of residence takes place before or after the adoption and whether the adoption is made in the country of origin or the host country.
An international adoption, which is often also referred to as international adoption, occurs when the child is linked to a change of residence from the home country to the host country. It does not matter whether the change of residence takes place before or after the adoption and whether the adoption is made in the country of origin or the host country. In the following, you will find out how international adoption differs from domestic adoption in terms of requirements, procedure and costs.
Requirements for international adoptions
The requirements for international adoptions differ only to a limited extent from those for domestic adoptions. The same rules apply in principle. There are only differences if foreign law presupposes other requirements, for example with regard to the age of the adoptive parents. Another important difference to domestic adoption is that the recognized placement agencies abroad usually only refer to married couples. The marriage should have existed for at least two years. However, exceptions are also possible if the couple has lived together for a long time.
Expiry of international adoptions
In the context of international adoptions, adoption applicants first turn to an international placement agency. They are then informed about the international adoption in an information meeting. If the adoption applicants then decide to specifically consider the adoption of a foreign child, they select a country of origin and contact so-called counseling parents. They then sift through all the necessary documents and hold further discussions with the applicants. Counseling parents are determined by the placement office and have usually made an international adoption themselves. You submit the documents required for the adoption together with a report to the responsible placement office, which then decides whether or not to be included in the application process. Only if this decision is positive is the youth welfare office called in. The employees of the youth welfare office then write the social report that is absolutely necessary for adoptions abroad. This report and the other documents required in the country of origin are then translated and sent to the government or private body responsible there. The foreign office then submits certain suggestions to the German placement office, which the adoption placement office opens up to the adoption applicants and discusses with them if the assessment is positive. If the applicants decide to adopt the child, they travel to the country of origin and pick it up. During the entire process, the employees of the placement offices are available to advise applicants.
International adoption costs
In contrast to domestic adoptions, international adoptions are relatively expensive endeavors. For example, the youth welfare office charges fees of around 800 euros. In addition, there are costs for the foreign placement agency and for trips to the child's country of origin. There may also be additional expenses in the country of origin such as administrative, court or legal costs. The procurement and translation of the required documents is also associated with costs. Overall, applicants for international adoptions should expect costs between 15,000 and 20,000 euros.
Contact points - who arranges adoptions?
Couples who want to adopt a child can turn to various contact points.
Anyone thinking about adoption can contact various contact points. The respective state youth welfare offices are primarily available for information meetings and counseling discussions. In the context of adoptions abroad, the approved foreign placement agencies are another point of contact. In addition, associations such as Caritas, Diakonie or other non-profit organizations are available to advise. The Evangelical Association for Adoption and Foster Child Aid is recognized nationwide and supports the placement of domestic and international adoptions.
We at Notar-Darmstadt.de wish you all the best, maximum success as well as a lot of patience and perseverance, should you aim for an adoption at home or abroad. Of course, we have no influence on the selection process, our specialist lawyer and notary Dr. Robert Beier LL.M. but still available. With us you will not only receive personal and competent advice, we will also make ourselves strong for you with specialist knowledge, many years of experience and cost-conscious structures. Simply contact us by phone on 06151/130 230 or using our contact form.
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