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Germany – good news, or is it ?

August 19, 2011

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].

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.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2011 3:22 am

    I always suggest that we approach this from the other side regarding rights. The rights of children to have a full and complete relationship with both parents.
    Children’s rights shouldn’t be denied them because the mothers doesn’t like the father or vice versa nor because the father is perceived as feckless. At the end of the day very few parents are either saints or axe murderers but to their children they are parents

  2. August 20, 2011 11:17 pm

    Ken, Thank you for your thoughtful comments.
    The right of children to have a full and complete relationship with both parents is fine and laudable (even essential) but even the UN declaration does not guarantee this ‘right’.
    It will, however, be a brave country that gives its children the full unfettered right to access both parents at any time.
    The whole topic has been crippled by woolly thinking and ‘good intentions’ since the 1970s. Woolly thinking and ‘good intentions’ inevitably erode strong principles.
    A mother’s ability to deprive the father of his parental heritage is, IMO, a direct consequence of this woolly thinking.
    Sharply defined and clearly set boundaries respected by all were incrementally abandoned through the 1980s across the whole of the English speaking world.
    This has allowed a political advantage to be put on items such as ‘visitation rights.’ Courts and politicians have felt compelled to respond to mothers fears.
    Fathers have been corralled into the feckless (i.e., worthless, weak, useless) category by political and legislative moves. To this number have been added society’s ne’er-do-wells, ie the irresponsible, or lazy person, the self-centred, the loafer.

    Parents are rarely saints or sinners but in the last 30 years one gender has been portrayed as more saintly than sinful and the other gender more sinful than saintly. There has been a witch hunt against men.
    As far as children are concerned, however, even the most below-average parent is the most wonderful thing in their world and it should trouble us that the state in its various guises should seek so easily to interfere in the normal order of things.

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