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Germany[1] [print]

Last edited: August 2005

 

Summary and Analysis

 

Germany's Grundgesetz (GG), or federal constitution, guarantees a hearing to anyone who appears before a court.[2]  This basic guarantee is overlaid with several more specific statutory provisions.

 

In Germany, child protective proceedings are governed by the Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit (FGG), or the Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings.  The FGG, rather than the Zivilprozessordnung (ZPO), or rules of civil procedure, establishes the procedures that courts must follow in such proceedings.  Germany is not alone in excluding child protective and other family law proceedings from the ordinary rules of civil procedure; several other European countries, including Austria and Liechtenstein, do likewise.

 

The FGG establishes the basic right of children to be heard in family law proceedings.  Under the FGG, in proceedings concerning a child's person or property, if the child's wishes are of significance to the court's decision, and if it appears advisable for the court to gain a first-hand impression of the child, the court hears the child personally.[3]  In a proceeding concerning the personal care of a child at least 14 years old, the court should always grant the child a personal hearing.[4]  At this hearing, the child is to be informed of the object and possible outcomes of the proceeding.[5]  The court may deny a child such a hearing only for “weighty reasons.”[6]  The statute specifically requires that these procedures apply in proceedings concerning the adoption of a child.[7] 

 

The FGG also empowers older children to act on their own behalf.  It provides that a child who has reached the age of 14 can act without the assistance of her legal representative in matters affecting her person.[8]  If a decision is reached against which a child at least 14 years old has the right of appeal, the decision must be made known to the child, unless this notification would endanger her development, upbringing, or health.[9]

 

The Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB), or Social Law, provides German children with a more sweeping right of participation.  The SGB requires that children be permitted to participate in all decisions of the public youth agencies that may affect them.[10]  Moreover, children must be informed of their rights in proceedings of the family court, the guardianship court, and the administrative court.[11] Finally, in all matters of upbringing and development, children have the right to appeal to the Jugendamt, or Youth Office.[12] 

 

The Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB), or civil code, guarantees certain rights of participation to children who are the subject of adoption proceedings.  A child who is at least 14 years old and legally competent cannot be adopted except with her consent.[13]  She may withdraw her consent at any time until the adoption takes effect, and she may do so without the agreement of her legal representative.[14]  Moreover, if the child's parents refuse to consent to the adoption, and have subjected the child to neglect or indifference, and if not permitting the adoption would create an unreasonable disadvantage for the child, the child can appeal to the guardianship court to substitute its consent for that of the parents.[15]

 

In its 1999 country report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child,[16] Germany described a new requirement that family courts appoint legal representatives for children in custody cases.[17]  Specifically:

 

In order to take up and assert the child's position and interests more effectively in court proceedings concerning the separation of a child from its parents against its will or its parents' will, the institution of a case guardian – a “counsel for the child” – has been established and developed in the new law of parent and child.  In this way, it is intended to ensure that the child's own interests are included in the proceedings and that the child thus does not become a mere object of the proceedings when serious conflicts of interest apply between parents and child.[18]

 

The German term for the “case guardian” described here is Verfahrenspfleger.[19]  A Verfahrenspfleger is a species of Pfleger, or trustee.  A Pfleger is a legal representative, appointed by a court on a child's behalf and empowered to address a determinate range of issues.[20]  A Pfleger is appointed in some circumstances in which, under U.S. law, a trustee would be appointed, as, for example, when a child inherits property with the stipulation that the property not be managed by her parents.[21]  The Verfahrenspfleger appears to be an especially limited form of trusteeship, however; the Verfahrenspfleger's mandate extends only to a single legal proceeding.  It is not required that the Verfahrenspfleger be a lawyer.[22]

 

The requirement for the appointment of a Verfahrenspfleger arises from the FGG.  Under the FGG, in family court proceedings, the court can appoint a Pfleger when doing so is necessary for the protection of a child's interests.[23]  The statute enumerates three situations in which the appointment of a Pfleger is usually required:  1) when the interests of the child and those of her legal representative are in conflict; 2) when the object of the proceeding is to take measures to protect the child's well-being, including separation of the child from her family; and 3) when the object of the proceeding is removal of the child from individuals with custody or with rights of contact.[24]  The appointment of a Pfleger is not necessary when the child's interests are already represented by a lawyer or another person competent to take part in the proceeding.[25] 

 

Another discussion of the appointment and role of the Verfahrenspfleger appears in Section 67 of the FGG.  This section appears to contemplate that courts may need to appoint special representatives of this type to represent adults, as well as childrenIt provides that, to the extent necessary to protect the interests of a party to a proceeding covered under the FGG, the court should appoint that party a Pfleger for the purposes of that proceeding.[26]  Again, specific circumstances are enumerated in which appointment of a Pfleger ordinarily is necessary; these include 1) when the party will not be heard personally, e.g., for medical reasons; and 2) when the object of the proceeding is to appoint a trustee to administer all the party's affairs.[27]

 

In practice, it appears, the German system of representing children through the institution of the Verfahrenspfleger is problematic.  One German lawyer who represents children suggests three practical problems:  1) that the courts too seldom appoint Verfahrenspfleger; 2) that the courts do not construe the role of the Verfahrenspfleger consistently, with the result that not all children receive adequate representation; and 3) that, in some cases, where a court disagrees with the position taken by a Verfahrenspfleger, it simply excludes the Pfleger from the proceeding.

 

In response to these difficulties, a bill has been introduced in the German federal legislature that would reform the current approach to representing children.  The proposed legislation would replace the Verfahrenspfleger with a Verfahrensbeistand.  Notable features of the proposed law include:  1) that it would require the appointment of a lawyer to represent a child, under certain conditions; 2) that it attempts a clear definition of the role of the lawyer for the child; and 3) that it stipulates that a Verfahrensbeistand must advocate both for the child's wishes and for the child's best interests.

 

 

Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

 

Original Text

 

Constitutional Law

 

Grundgesetz (GG) Art. 103[28]

(1) Vor Gericht hat jedermann Anspruch auf rechtliches Gehör.

 

Laws

 

Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit (FGG)[29]

§ 50

(1) Das Gericht kann dem minderjährigen Kind einen Pfleger für Wahrnehmung seiner Interessen erforderlich ist.

(2) Die Bestellung ist in der Regel erforderlich, wenn

1.  Das Interesse des Kindes zu dem seiner gesetzlichen Vertreter in erheblichem Gegensatz steht,

2.  Gegenstand des Verfahrens Maßnahmen wegen Gefährdung des Kindeswohls sind, mit denen die Trennung des Kindes von seiner Familie oder die Entziehung der gesamten Personensorge verbunden ist (§§ 1666, 1666a des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs), oder

3.  Gegenstand des Verfahrens die Wegnahme des Kindes von der Pflegeperson (§ 1632 Abs. 4 des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs) oder von dem Ehegatten, dem Lebenspartner oder Umgangsberechtigten (§ 1682 des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs) ist.

Sieht das Gericht in diesen Fällen von der Bestellung eines Pflegers für das Verfahren ab, so ist dies in der Entscheidung zu begründen, die Person des Kindes betrifft.

(3) Die Bestellung soll unterbleiben oder aufgehoben werden, wenn die Interessen des Kindes von einem Rechtsanwalt oder einem anderen geeigneten Verfahrensbevollmächtigten angemessen vertreten werden.

(4) Die Bestellung endet, sofern sie nicht vorher aufgehoben wird,

1.  mit der Rechtskraft der das Verfahren abschließenden Entscheidung oder

2.  mit dem sonstigen Abschluß des Verfahrens.

(5) Der Ersatz von Aufwendungen und die Vergütung des Pflegers bestimmen sich entsprechend § 67 Abs. 3.

 

§ 50b

 (1) Das Gericht hört in einem Verfahren, das die Personen- oder Vermögenssorge betrifft, das Kind persönlich an, wenn die Neigungen, Bindungen oder der Wille des Kindes für die Entscheidung von Bedeutung sind oder wenn es zur Feststellung des Sachverhalts angezeigt erscheint, daß sich das Gericht von dem Kind einen unmittelbaren Eindruck verschafft.

(2) Hat ein Kind das vierzehnte Lebensjahr vollendet und ist es nicht geschäftsunfähig, so hört das Gericht in einem Verfahren, das die Personensorge betrifft, das Kind stets persönlich an. In vermögensrechtlichen Angelegenheiten soll das Kind persönlich angehört werden, wenn dies nach der Art der Angelegenheit angezeigt erscheint. Bei der Anhörung soll das Kind, soweit nicht Nachteile für seine Entwicklung oder Erziehung zu befürchten sind, über den Gegenstand und möglichen Ausgang des Verfahrens in geeigneter Weise unterrichtet werden; ihm ist Gelegenheit zur Äußerung zu geben.

(3) In den Fällen des Absatzes 1 und des Absatzes 2 Satz 1 darf das Gericht von der Anhörung nur aus schwerwiegenden Gründen absehen. Unterbleibt die Anhörung allein wegen Gefahr im Verzug, so ist sie unverzüglich nachzuholen.

 

§ 59

(1) Ein Kind, für das die elterliche Sorge besteht, oder ein unter Vormundschaft stehender Mündel kann in allen seine Person betreffenden Angelegenheiten ohne Mitwirkung seines gesetzlichen Vertreters das Beschwerderecht ausüben. Das gleiche gilt in sonstigen Angelegenheiten, in denen das Kind oder der Mündel vor einer Entscheidung des Gerichts gehört werden soll.

(2) Die Entscheidung, gegen die das Kind oder der Mündel das Beschwerderecht ausüben kann, ist dem Kind oder Mündel auch selbst bekanntzumachen. Eine Begründung soll dem Kind oder Mündel nicht mitgeteilt werden, wenn Nachteile für dessen Entwicklung, Erziehung oder Gesundheitszustand zu befürchten sind; die Entscheidung hierüber ist nicht anfechtbar.

(3) Diese Vorschriften finden auf Personen, die geschäftsunfähig sind oder bei Verkündung der Entscheidung das vierzehnte Lebensjahr nicht vollendet haben, keine Anwendung. Wird die Entscheidung nicht verkündet, so tritt an die Stelle der Verkündung der Zeitpunkt, in dem die von dem Richter unterschriebene Entscheidung der Geschäftsstelle übergeben wird.

 

§ 67

(1) Soweit dies zur Wahrnehmung der Interessen des Betroffenen erforderlich ist, bestellt das Gericht dem Betroffenen einen Pfleger für das Verfahren. Die Bestellung ist in der Regel erforderlich, wenn

1. nach § 68 Abs. 2 von der persönlichen Anhörung des Betroffenen abgesehen werden soll,

2.  Gegenstand des Verfahrens die Bestellung eines Betreuers zur Besorgung aller Angelegenheiten des Betroffenen oder die Erweiterung des Aufgabenkreises hierauf ist; dies gilt auch, wenn der Gegenstand des Verfahrens die in § 1896 Abs. 4 und § 1905 des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs bezeichneten Angelegenheiten nicht erfaßt.

Von der Bestellung kann in den Fällen des Satzes 2 abgesehen werden, wenn ein Interesse des Betroffenen an der Bestellung des Verfahrenspflegers offensichtlich nicht besteht. Die Nichtbestellung ist zu begründen. Die Bestellung ist stets erforderlich, wenn Gegenstand des Verfahrens die Genehmigung einer Einwilligung des Betreuers in die Sterilisation (§ 1905 Abs. 2 des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs) ist. Die Bestellung soll unterbleiben oder aufgehoben werden, wenn der Betroffene von einem Rechtsanwalt oder von einem anderen geeigneten Verfahrensbevollmächtigten vertreten wird.

(2) Die Bestellung erfolgt für jeden Rechtszug gesondert, erfaßt jedoch auch die Einlegung und Begründung eines Rechtsmittels.

(3) Der Aufwendungsersatz und die Vergütung des Pflegers für das Verfahren sind aus der Staatskasse zu zahlen. Sie bestimmen sich in entsprechender Anwendung der §§ 1908e bis 1908i, mit Ausnahme der dort in Bezug genommenen § 1835 Abs. 3 und 4, §§ 1835a, 1836b Satz 1 Nr. 2, des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs; die Höhe der zu bewilligenden Vergütung ist stets nach Maßgabe des § 1 des Gesetzes über die Vergütung von Berufsvormündern zu bemessen. Im übrigen gilt § 56g Abs. 1 und 5 entsprechend.

 

Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB) 8 § 8[30]

Beteiligung von Kindern und Jugendlichen

(1) Kinder und Jugendliche sind entsprechend ihrem Entwicklungsstand an allen sie betreffenden Entscheidungen der öffentlichen Jugendhilfe zu beteiligen. Sie sind in geeigneter Weise auf ihre Rechte im Verwaltungsverfahren sowie im Verfahren vor dem Familiengericht, dem Vormundschaftsgericht und dem Verwaltungsgericht hinzuweisen.

(2) Kinder und Jugendliche haben das Recht, sich in allen Angelegenheiten der Erziehung und Entwicklung an das Jugendamt zu wenden.

(3) Kinder und Jugendliche können ohne Kenntnis des Personensorgeberechtigten beraten werden, wenn die Beratung aufgrund einer Not- und Konfliktlage erforderlich ist und solange durch die Mitteilung an den Personensorgeberechtigten der Beratungszweck vereitelt würde.

 

Translation[31]

 

Constitutional law

 

Basic Law Art. 103

(1) Everyone before a court is entitled to a hearing.

 

Laws

 

Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings

§ 50

(1) The court can appoint a guardian for a minor child when necessary for the protection of the child's interests.

(2) As a rule, appointment of a guardian is necessary when

1.  The interests of the child and those of his legal representative are in opposition,

2.  The object of the proceeding is to take measures against the endangerment of the child's welfare, including separation of the child from his family or the withdrawal of personal care, or

3.  The object of the proceedings is the removal of the child from his caretaker or from the spouse, life partner, or others with rights of contact.

If the court decides in these situations not to appoint a guardian, this decision must be justified in the decision affecting the child's person.

(3) The appointment should not occur or should be suspended, when the interests of the child are already represented by a lawyer or another person with capacity to act in this proceeding.

(4) The appointment ends, insofar as it has not already been suspended,

1.  When the decision takes effect which closes the proceeding, or

2.  When the proceeding ends otherwise.

(5) Reimbursement of expenses and the compensation of the guardian are determined according to § 67 ¶ 3.

 

§ 50b

(1) In proceedings that concern the care of person and property, the court hears the child personally, if the affections, ties, or wishes of the child are of significance for the decision or if it appears advisable, in the interests of determining the facts of the case, for the court to obtain a first-hand impression of the child.

(2) In a proceeding that concerns personal care, if the child has reached the age of fourteen and does not lack legal capacity, the court should hear the child personally.  In proceedings concerning property, the court should hear the child personally, when this is indicated by the nature of the proceeding.  At the hearing, so far as possible without danger of disadvantage to the child's development or upbringing, the child should be informed of the object and possible outcomes of the proceeding.

(3) In the cases of paragraph 1 and paragraph 2 sentence 1, the court may decline to hear the child only for weighty reasons.  If the hearing is declined only because of danger associated with delay, then it should be held without delay.

 

§ 59

 (1) A child for whom parental care exists, or who is the ward of a legal guardian, can act without the assistance of his legal representative in all affairs affecting his person.  The same applies to affairs in which the child or ward must be heard before a decision of the court.

(2) The decision against which the child or ward has the right of appeal must be made known to the child or ward himself.  A justification should not be made known to the child, when this would endanger the child's development, upbringing, or health; a decision about this is not contestable.

 (3) These rules do not apply to persons who are legally incompetent or who will not have reached the age of 14 by the time the decision is announced, or, if the decision will not be announced, the time at which the judge's signed decision will be transmitted to the court office.

 

§ 67

(1) To the extent necessary for the protection of the interests of a party, the court should appoint that party a guardian for the proceeding.  As a rule, such an appointment is necessary when –

1. Pursuant to § 68 ¶ 2, the party will not be heard personally,

2. The object of the proceedings is the appointment of a trustee to care for all affairs of the party, or the extension of the trustee's assignment; this also applies, when the object of the proceedings does not include the situations described in BGB § 1896 ¶ 4 and § 1905.

The appointment can be waived, when the interests of the party do not depend on the appointment of a guardian for the proceedings.  The decision not to appoint a guardian must be justified.  The appointment is always necessary, when the object of the proceedings is to secure the consent of the trustee to sterilization.  The appointment should be waived or suspended, when the party is represented by a lawyer or another person with capacity to act in these proceedings.

(2) Appointment should occur for each proceeding separately, this includes the filing and argument of an appeal.

(3) The expenses and fees of the guardian for the proceeding are to be paid by the state. . . .

 

Social Code VIII § 8

Participation of children and youth

 (1) Children and youths are, in accordance with their level of development, to participate in all decisions of the public youth administration which concern them.  They are to be informed in an appropriate manner of their rights in administrative proceedings as well as in proceedings of the family court, the guardianship court, and the administrative court.

(2) Children and youths have the right to appeal to the youth office in all matters of upbringing and development.

(3) Children and youth can be counseled without notification to their guardians, if counseling is necessary for reasons of emergency or conflict, and if informing the guardians would defeat the purpose of the counseling.

 

Local Contact Information

 

Holger Partikel

Verfahrenspfleger

Berlin, FRG

Email:  adk@snafu.de

Website:  http://www.Verfahrenspfleger.de

 



Endnotes

[1] This page is available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[2] Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland [GG] [Basic Law], May 23, 1949, Bundesgesetzblatt [BGBl] I at 1, art. 103, available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[3] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 50b(1), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[4] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 50b(2), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[5] Id.

[6] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 50b(3), availablehere, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document..

[7] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 55c, available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[8] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 59(1), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[9] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 59(2), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[10] Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch [SGB VIII] [Social Code Title VIII], June 26, 1990, Bundesgesetzblatt [BGBl] I at 1163, as amended, § 8(1), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[11] Id.

[12] Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch [SGB VIII] [Social Code Title VIII], June 26, 1990, Bundesgesetzblatt [BGBl] I at 1163, as amended, § 8(2), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[13] Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [BGB] [Civil Code], Aug. 18, 1896, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 195, as amended, § 1746(1), availablehere, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document..

[14] Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [BGB] [Civil Code], Aug. 18, 1896, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 195, as amended, § 1746(2), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[15] Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [BGB] [Civil Code], Aug. 18, 1896, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 195, as amended, § 1748(1), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[16] Though it was not actually submitted until 2003, the latest German country report covered only the period ending April 1999.

[17] 1999 CRC Country Report ¶ 438.

[18] Id. ¶ 440.

[19] This discussion will use the German term, rather than attempting a translation, in order to preserve a clear distinction between the Verfahrenspfleger and other types of legal representative provided for under German law (e.g., Beistand, Betreuer, Vormund, Pflegeperson).  Note that in other German-speaking jurisdictions, the roles these terms denote may differ.  In Liechtenstein, for example, the child's representative in child protective proceedings is the Vormund. 

[20] Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [BGB] [Civil Code], Aug. 18, 1896, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 195, as amended, § 1909, , available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[21] Id.

[22] 1999 CRC Country Report ¶ 440.

[23] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 50(1), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[24] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 50(2), availablehere, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document..

[25] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 50(3), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[26] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, § 67, availablehere, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document..

[27] Id.

[28] Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland [GG] [Basic Law], May 23, 1949, Bundesgesetzblatt [BGBl] I at 1, art. 103, available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[29] Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit [FGG] [Law of Non-Adversarial Proceedings], May 20, 1898, Reichsgesetzblatt [RGBl] 771, as amended, availablehere, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document..

[30] Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch [SGB VIII] [Social Code Title VIII], June 26, 1990, Bundesgesetzblatt [BGBl] I at 1163, as amended, § 8, available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[31] All translations are unofficial.

 

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