Grandparents have parental responsibility

Grandma and Grandpa must know that Right of access to the grandchild: What rights do grandparents have?

Do grandparents have the right to have contact with their grandchildren?

The right of access serves to maintain and strengthen the child's ties to those people who are particularly close to him through regular contact. In addition to the other parent, who has a right of contact with the child, grandparents, siblings, step-parents and other close caregivers also have the right to contact the child; However, this only applies if the contact is in the best interests of the child. If there is a loving relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, the parent who has custody must not prevent contact without a valid reason.

How does a grandparent's right of access differ from that of a parent?

Parents are entitled and obliged to deal with their child because it is assumed by law that such dealings serve the best interests of the child. The other parent may not restrict this contact on their own initiative, even if they alone have custody. Only the family court is authorized to make such a restriction; the restriction may not go further than is necessary for the best interests of the child. A temporary or even permanent exclusion of a parent's right of access is only permissible if the child's well-being would otherwise be endangered. With the grandparents' rights of contact, the opposite is true: they are only allowed to have contact with their grandchildren if they are in the best interests of the child.

Can grandparents enforce their rights of access in court?

Both parents and other caregivers of the child have the option of having the existence and the exact content of the rights of access they have asserted determined by a court. The family court is responsible for this; this is a special department of the district court. As a rule, the district court in whose district the child is habitually resident is responsible. As with all other conflicts between people, however, the arguing parents and grandparents - also and especially in the interests of the child, who should not be drawn into adult dealings in order to avoid developmental disorders - should first try to find an amicable solution out of court. The youth welfare office can be asked for support.

In which cases do grandparents fail with their desire to interact in court?

Dealing with his grandparents regularly does not serve the best interests of the child if parents are so at odds with the grandparents that the child would get into a loyalty conflict if they were dealt with. The same applies if it is to be feared that the grandparents disregard the parenting priority. According to these principles, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has in a current decision (from 07/12/2017 - Az. XII ZB 350/16) dealing with the grandparents is not considered to be beneficial to the child if they question the parenting skills by accusing the parents of mental abuse of the children in relation to the youth welfare office.

Under such circumstances, a conflict of loyalty among the children would inevitably be inevitable if they continued to deal with their grandparents. It does not matter whether this was caused by the parents or the grandparents. In the case ruled by the Federal Court of Justice, the parents had previously made further dealings dependent on their grandparents granting them an interest-free loan, which contributed significantly to the breakdown of the relationship. Such behavior on the part of parents may be morally reprehensible, but the grandparents cannot derive anything from it for a right of contact with the children.

Isn't it unfair that parents can prevent their child from interacting with their grandparents by throwing the child into a conflict of loyalty themselves?

The parenting priority is anchored in the Basic Law. It applies to all other people, even to the state. Among other things, this regulation is based on the consideration that it must be clear - also and especially from the child's point of view - which persons have "the last word" in their life and that this role naturally belongs to the parents. The priority of upbringing is of course not only a privilege, but sometimes also a burden for the parents. You are responsible for both the positive and negative developments of the child and cannot easily get rid of them.

Are there specific legal requirements for how often and for how long the grandparents can see the child?

The law does not make any provisions on the structure of the right of access in individual cases. The frequency and duration of visits have to take into account the age of the child, the closeness of the degree of attachment, the distance between the places of residence, the school demands of the child and his leisure activities as well as other circumstances that are relevant to the child's well-being in the specific family situation are important. Incidentally, part of the right of access are not only visits, but also all other forms of contact, i.e. telephone calls, correspondence, e-mail exchanges, etc. Telecommunications are particularly important when the grandparents live far away.

To what extent are the wishes of the child taken into account when the father or mother argue with the grandparents in court about access rights?

The family court has to hear the child personally when it has reached the age of 14. A younger child must be heard personally if the child's inclinations, attachments or will are important for the decision or if a personal hearing is indicated for other reasons. The court may only dispense with the hearing stipulated below for serious reasons. The older the child is, the greater the weight will usually be attached to its ideas. Nevertheless, the sole yardstick of the court decision is the best interests of the child, which does not have to coincide with the child's wishes in every case.

Do grandparents have to respect the parental guidelines for upbringing or are they allowed to deviate from them at their own discretion, e.g. B. let the child watch an age-appropriate cartoon despite the general TV ban?

The grandparents' educational discretion only exists within the limits set by the parents, because upbringing is part of custody. If the grandparents disregard the parental requirements for upbringing, this can affect their rights of access. An upbringing measure ordered by the parents or one of the parents can - and must - ignore grandparents if this measure clearly endangers the well-being of the child. A "beating" threatened by the parents for certain misconduct has to be avoided.

If the child in their care has an accident, are grandparents allowed to decide on the medical measures to be taken if the parents cannot be reached?

The grandparents - like all other people who observe the child's accident - are obliged to provide assistance. Therefore, in the event of a serious injury, you must call the emergency doctor. Only when emergency medical care is guaranteed does the responsibility (initially) pass to the specialist staff. This, too, may only decide on emergency care measures; the decision of the parents with custody must be obtained for all further medical interventions. If the parents cannot be reached, the doctors have to bring about a decision by the family court. The grandparents even have to expect that the doctors will refuse them information about the state of health of their grandchildren.

Can grandparents pick up the child from kindergarten?

Grandparents are not entitled to collect the goods because of the existing family relationship, but basically need a power of attorney from the legal guardian, usually the parents. If the collection is to be made once, it is advisable to give the grandparents a written power of attorney or to inform the kindergarten in advance of the measure. Almost all kindergartens keep a list of those authorized to collect the goods for regular collections by grandparents (or other people they trust). As a rule, parents are asked about relevant persons in the registration form.

Further information on the subject of access rights can be obtained from the youth welfare offices in particular and can be found in the brochures:

  • Parents remain parents, published by the German Association for Youth and Marriage Counseling, information at www.dajeb.de
  • Childhood law, published by the BMJV, information at www.bmjv.bund.de