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If the parents of a child are still married to each other, they automatically have joint custody of the child. This is also the case if the marriage takes place after the child is born. If they are not married, the mother, provided that she is not a minor (see Amtsvormundschaften (def: official guardianships)) has sole custody of the child. In this case, regardless of whether the parents live together, they can apply for joint custody.

For unmarried parents to able to have join custody, they will have to submit a so-called custody declaration, which states that they both want to share legal custody of the child.

The declaration of parental custody can be authenticated before or after childbirth free of charge at the Youth Welfare Office. The only requirement is that the paternity has already been established (see Acknowledgement of Paternity). For certification, both parents must be present in person and have to bring their ID cards or passports, the child’s birth certificate (must contain the father’s name) or a certified copy of acknowledgement of paternity, along with a certified copy of declaration of consent of the mother.

Because a custody declaration cannot be revoked and causes a few legal consequences for those involved in it, counselling from community service should be sought out in advance (see below). Moreover, if the parents decide to get a divorce, joint custody can be lifted through family court.