Earlier this week, G and I sat down with a lawyer to discuss the adoption process post-birth, and our woes with the 1993 German law that states that double-barrelled last names are permitted for married couples, but their children will never be able to inherit said double-barrelled last name (Kirchner, 2009). Ergh. Why is Germany so damn regimented? More on this later.
Choosing the legal practice to get our initial advice from was very straightforward. We wanted a practice that specialised in family law, and we wanted a lawyer who could speak English. Some vocabulary simply isn’t used on a day-to-day basis, and understanding legal jargon is hard enough as it is! I did a lot of research on the Lesben- und Schwulenverband in Deutschland (LSVD) website, particularly looking for LGBT friendly legal practices because we wanted to feel safe and secure knowing that our family wouldn’t be judged. We ended up choosing Elmar Hörnig, in Charlottenburg, whose fee for initial advice was €100 paid in cash.
When we arrived at his office, the receptionist was very friendly and upon looking us up in the appointments book, immediately switched to English. I found this to be very promising, as I can’t tell you how many times I have requested something to be done specifically in English when it is offered, and then found out that it really wasn’t an option at all. This happened at the dentist all too often. At 2pm, we were greeted by Elmar Hörnig and invited into his office. As we entered, his poodle, who was sitting under the desk, came to say hi. This was another check on my mental list of things to like about the legal practice. Something about having a pet at work just makes everything appear less threatening.
I got out my super subtle rainbow covered journal and pen, ready to take notes. We immediately started by asking Elmar about the adoption process. He was thorough enough in explaining what needed to be done, but didn’t go into too much detail as the process can’t officially be done by him, and can only start eight weeks after the birth of our child. Once our little one is eight weeks old, we submit our application along with all the required documents to a notary public. Elmar was helpful and provided the name of a notary public he has referred clients to before, in addition to the list of documents required. As I will be the parent who is adopting, I need to provide the following documents with my application:
- My birth certificate
- Baby’s birth certificate
- Our civil partnership certificate
- My passport
- My registration certificate that shows my registered address in Germany
- A full health certificate to prove that I’m healthy
- A police check
- Proof of income in the form of at least three of my most recent payslips
- Proof from the sperm bank that we do not personally know the sperm donor
Most of the documents I need to provide make total sense, but to provide a health certificate to prove that I’m healthy seems crazy. There are so many parents out there who are not healthy for reasons out of their control, and they are still parents all the same. I’m sure there is a simple explanation for it, but I still don’t see the need for it.
This part of our consultation was the easiest. The second half of our consultation was frustrating and made us want to be in a different country for the birth of our child. Ergh, Germany, you make us so mad sometimes! Basically, we asked the complicated question of how the heck can our child have our double-barrelled last name. We didn’t get the simple answer we were hoping for.
To begin, Germany flat out refuses to allow double-barrelled last names for any offspring. As stated earlier, married parents can have a double-barrelled last name, but their children cannot inherit this last name. Parents in Germany have to choose one last name only. How does this even make sense? I understand that having a chain of four names for a last name is ridiculous, but why isn’t a double-barrelled last name an option? Why give married couples the right to have two last names, but not allow their children to have the same name? Why not simply make it a law that there can never be more than two last names in a chain? This isn’t even discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, this is a meaningless and ridiculous law that has been in place since 1993, condemning the personal right to choose a double-barrelled last name. You can read more about this in an article published by The Guardian here.
So, a double-barrelled last name is out of the question here in Germany. It was time I turned to my trusty Australian citizenship to provide the answer we were looking for. Unfortunately, this was also not as simple as we had initially hoped.
Elmar couldn’t give us an answer on the spot about using my Australian citizenship to veto the German law for our baby’s last name. He had to look this up, but promised to call us back as soon as he knew more. This didn’t sound very convincing.
We left the legal practice feeling completely dejected, knowing that our options were limited. Our baby would bear only half of our combined identity. G and I strongly identify with our double-barrelled last name now, and it feels unfair to have to split us up in this way. Slicing a brain in half doesn’t make sense, so neither should this!
On our 20-minute bus journey home, we vented, debated, lent on one another, and ultimately came to terms with the fact that the most important thing at the end of the day, is that our baby is healthy and happy.
When we got home, Elmar had already left a voicemail message on my phone. I called him back immediately and he informed us that our best option would be to seek legal advice in Australia to confirm that Australia recognises the adoption in Germany, and to make sure our baby can get Australian citizenship once I am the legal parent. After our revelatory bus journey home, G and I were thrilled that there was still some hope left.
Australian visas and residency are hard to come by, let alone requesting citizenship! This is a topic for another post, as there are so many complexities to the issue. Stay tuned for more information in this area, and thank you for continuing to support us in this journey!