Germany – good news, or is it ?
by Robert Whiston FRSA (Aug 2010)
Der Spiegel, one of Germany’s most popular newspapers carried a hopeful headline in Aug 2010 “Children Need Both a Mother and a Father.”
- “A ruling by Germany’s highest court on Tuesday should make it easier for unmarried fathers to secure joint custody of their children, after it judged a mother’s veto to be unconstitutional. The German press welcomes the judgment, arguing it means the law will finally reflect social changes.”
The newspaper story continued:
- “Unmarried fathers in Germany are now much more likely to secure joint custody of their children — even against the wishes of the mothers. The country’s Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that mothers should not be allowed to veto an unmarried father’s bid for custody, as this discriminated against his parental rights.”
On the face of it this does seem ‘good news’ until one reflects for a moment. These fathers never married the mother of their child and perhaps never intended to do so. Certainly that presumptive epithet applies to a goodly minority if not a majority.
Yet they are being rewarded with the same fatherly status in law as a man who committed himself to a marriage to one woman for his entire life and the bringing up of children. When is Society going to ask which father has invested in his own future and the healthy future of others in society in general and which father has purely invested for his own profit and nothing for the general good ? [ for a 2013 update on custody see also http://sharedparenting.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/26/].
Germany in common with other EU countries, by failing to distinguish, rewards both the feckless and the committed father as if equals by the giving of “parental responsibility” to both.
Not only that but apparently in the case of the feckless or unmarried father this parental responsibility will be donated by the state to the father “even against the wishes of the mothers.” If this is the case then Germany’s post separation laws are more enlightened than British ones for in Britain it is by no means certain that a married father (or for that matter an unmarried one) claim to see his child will be received sympathetically. If the petition/claim is made where the backdrop is of a mother who is opposed to the father seeing his child then it will most probably not happen. The wishes of the mothers will win.
One has to question what is meant in Germany by joint custody. The suspicion is that this is not truly joint and equal but an Americanized version whereby legally they are joint and equal but where, in fact, the mother has sole custody and the father merely visits when the mother allows.
That said, what is significant is the ruling relating to a mother’s ‘veto’ or gatekeeping powers, i.e.:
- “ . . . that mothers should not be allowed to veto an unmarried father’s bid for custody, as this discriminated against his parental rights.”
Unmarried fathers are a small minority within society but the concessions society in the form of government is prepared to gives them is out of proportion to either the merit of their cause or their number.
Do politicians, who are always very keen to ‘send signals’ to various groups in society, even realise that in lauding and rewarding unmarried fathers they are damaging real fathers ? What example does it sent to married fathers or to young men thinking of committing to one woman for life ?
Ham-fisted politicians create the very atmosphere they abhor, namely one which encourages fecklessness among males and then they have the temerity to turn upon the creatures they have just created.
Twelve months have elapsed – plenty of time one would have thought for the beneficial impacts to make their presence felt. But there are no comments or messages out of Germany relaying how improved the situation is today compared with previous years. We must conclude that in pandering yet again to a minority the general situation for fathers has altered not one jot.