German minister calls for tax breaks for separated parents | News | DW | 17.03.2019
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German minister calls for tax breaks for separated parents

Some 200,000 children in Germany are affected by divorce every year. With more parents continuing to raise their children together after splitting up, they need more financial support, says Germany's justice minister.

With more and more parents choosing to raise and co-parent their children together after separating or getting divorced, Germany's laws need to be changed to reflect their needs, Justice Minister Katarina Barley said over the weekend.

"We must financially relieve separated parents," Barley told German newspaper, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, on Saturday.

The minister said that one way to help would be to relieve the tax burden on separated and divorced parents.

"Suddenly they have to finance two homes or pay high travel expenses. In conflict situations, this also acts as a fire accelerant," she told the paper.

According to Barley, there are some 200,000 children who are impacted by divorce every year.

Read more: Are family policy reforms to thank for Germany's rising birth rates?

Laws tend to benefit one parent

When two parents separate or get divorced in Germany, most of the time they are moved into different tax brackets — with only one parent receiving better tax benefits.

The laws governing child support, which stem from the 1950s, were particularly designed to support single mothers or fathers who are the primary caregivers for their children.

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In the event of a separation, the child is typically registered to one parent — the one they ostensibly spend the most time with and who is seen as the primary caregiver. The other parent is then required to pay child support, without taking into account custody agreements or how much time the child spends with them.

For couples who continue to co-parent more equally after the split, the system is particularly problematic.

On Sunday, Family Minister Franziska Giffey urged for better protections for fathers in divorced and separated families. She hopes to change child support laws to reflect the fact that there are more diverse parenting arrangements today than there were when the laws were written.

"More and more fathers are taking on more responsibility, opting for parental leave and want partnership. That doesn't necessarily end with a divorce," Giffey told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Read more: Germany's aging population: Births up, deaths down in 2016

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley (Imago/S. Minkoff)

Justice Minister Barley hopes that tax breaks will help relieve some of the pressure on parents undergoing a divorce

More rights for lesbian couples

Barley also defended her current efforts to improve the legal status of lesbian parents, giving them the same legal status as heterosexual couples after the birth of a child.

The minister argued that her draft law to change Germany's "law of descent", or parental right law, would not only benefit same-sex couples, but also divorced parents and people with fertility issues who are using sperm donors to conceive.

"The point is that the law of descent no longer sufficiently reflects current family constellations, and therefore does not always do justice to the interests of child and parents."

Under the current parental right law, a baby who is born in Germany is registered as having a "mother" and a "father."

The "father" of the baby is currently defined as the person who is married to the mother of the baby — regardless of paternity test, or if the mother of the baby is married to a woman.

This creates problems not only for same-sex parents, but also for couples undergoing a divorce who get pregnant with another partner before the lengthy divorce process is finished.

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A gay couple looks forward to parenthood responsibilities

rs/aw (AFP, KNA, epd)

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