Both parents have a duty to provide for their child until that child has completed their education or vocational training. A parent who lives with a child who is either under the age of 18 or still attending school provides for their child by caring for that child and is not obliged to provide for the child financially. Conversely, the parent who no longer lives with the child is obliged to provide for the child financially, even where the parents have joint custody of the child.
Where a child’s parents are not married, entitlement to maintenance requires either that the child's father has acknowledged paternity or that the identity of the child’s father has been determined by other means. If you wish to assert your entitlement to maintenance or establish paternity, it can often be helpful to obtain support and legal representation (‘freiwillige Beistandschaft’) from the Jugendamt.
The amount of maintenance to be paid depends on the income of the parent who is required to pay maintenance and the age of the child. Maintenance payments are calculated on the basis of a table of legally defined minimum maintenance amounts (see ‘Düsseldorf table’). If a maintenance entitlement cannot be asserted simply and amicably, legal proceedings will need to be taken to obtain a legal ruling on the amount of maintenance due. People on low incomes can apply for legal aid (Verfahrenskostenhilfe) to cover lawyer’s fees and court costs.
If a parent who is required to make maintenance payments fails to do so or fails to make payment in full, parents can apply to the Jugendamt for a maintenance advance (Unterhaltsvorschuss). In general, maintenance advance will be paid until the child for whom it is paid reaches the age of 12. A change in the law was agreed in December 2016. As a result, with effect from July 1, 2017 the age limit of 12 is abolished, and maintenance advance can continue be paid until a child is 18 – with the proviso that the recipient is not in receipt of benefits pursuant to SGB II or, if they are in receipt of benefits pursuant to SGB II, is earning at least €600 per month.
Starting January 2021 the maintenance advance rate is € 174 per month for children up to the age of 6 and € 232 per month for children aged from 6 to 11. The rate for children between the ages of 12 and 18 is € 309 per month.
The maintenance advance rate corresponds to the statutory minimum maintenance set out in the Düsseldorf table minus the amount of Kindergeld payable for a first child.
Maintenance advance payments will be reclaimed from the parent who is obliged to make maintenance payments. Maintenance payments and maintenance advances are offset in full against any social welfare entitlement accruing to the child.
If you were married and the child/children live with you following separation or divorce, under certain circumstances you may be entitled to spousal support (Ehegattenunterhalt). Unmarried mothers and fathers who are unable to work because they are caring for a child are entitled to ‘childcare support’ (Betreuungsunterhalt) from the other parent until the child reaches the age of three.
Your best point of contact for questions relating to child support is:
Amt für Kinder, Jugendliche und Familien
Tel: 02 51 / 4 92 - 0 (Zentrale)
The Düsseldorf table sets out the amount of maintenance a child is entitled to depending on the income of the parent responsible for paying maintenance. The table below is correct as of January 2021.
Payment amounts for salary levels 1–3