Family Law in Germany since 1998: towards an autonomous child?
Sociology University of Wuppertal Berlin, Germany
The child has been in the focus of family law changes since 1998 in Germany. But is it thus getting more acting options or are the changes limited to a rhetorical view on children as objects of family trials? The Family Law Reform Act of 1998 in Germany was followed by several changes in various aspects of family and custody law. Since these changes in law were named like ?children?s rights improving law? it is interesting to know whether children?s rights have actually been improved and which international conventions could have led to and are referred to in this development.
The law changes I am focusing on are: ?small? custody for step parents (2001), law of proscription of violence and the change of child alimony law (2001), law of improving children?s rights (2002), change of custody law for non-married parents (temporary regulation) (2003), challenge of paternity for biological non-legal fathers (2003), visiting rights for biological fathers (2003), Alimony Reform Act (2007), right to test paternity (2008).
My main research deals with the right to test paternity which was established in Germany in 2008 as a reaction to a judgment of the German Federal Constitutional Court. This could be considered as the climax of a development of family law dealing with children?s rights on the surface but in fact limiting children?s range of action and consolidating the normative function of biologically related families based on a married, heterosexual (as heterosexuality being the condition for biologically related children), and monogamous couple. By basing citizenship on genealogy, the side effect of this legal focus is the increasingly excluding character of migration law.
I want to discuss whether these changes can be seen as a linear development justified by/based on similar lines of argumentation. In which ways are children debated as subject or object and what are the outcomes of the law changes for children and other family members, where family is seen as children and other persons having either a legal and/or biological and/or social relation to the child?