LGBTQ+ stuff · Pregnancy

Our chat with a lawyer

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.

P-G Journal
My trusty journal goes everywhere* with me. *Everywhere does not include the bathroom.

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.

Ergh.

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!

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LGBTQ+ stuff · Pregnancy

Last names and adoption

With “G” 20 weeks pregnant, a million things are running through our minds. We have so many things to sort out before the birth of our little one in August, and it feels like time is just flying. We’re slowly buying things and preparing things around the house, but our to-do list just keeps growing bigger and bigger every day.

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Our marriage certificate is concealed in this super subtle book.

During all of this, a few things have popped up that make us feel uneasy. We feel discriminated against as a two-mum family. I don’t even know if that really is how we feel, because discrimination is too strong of a word here, but we certainly feel like we’re being treated unfairly in this situation. Even though we are married (technically it’s a civil union or a Lebenspartnerschaft in German), and pay taxes as a married couple, currently, “G” is the only legal parent of our baby. I currently have no legal rights when it comes to the little one growing in “G’s” uterus, and this infuriates us!

Once our baby is born, then the process of adoption can start. Yes, you read correctly, I have to adopt “G’s” baby. What’s even more degrading, is that it’s not even a simple adoption… it’s called a step-child only adoption. If you’re interested, you can read about LGBT rights in Germany here and here. Additionally, there is more information on how gay adoption is strengthening in Germany in a DW article here, however our opinion is that Germany is still far from providing equal rights to all.

After “G” gives birth, we have to go to the Jugendamt (Youth Welfare Office)  in our local area in Berlin, and apply for adoption. It sounds simple, but it is much more complex than this, and involves a notary, a written letter from “G” about her childhood, home visits, phone calls to “G’s” parents, and much more. This process could potentially take up to a year before I am the legal parent.

At the end of the day, we want what is best for our child, and this isn’t about personal gains or pride in any way. We want our child (and future children) to feel secure in their family, and know that if something were to happen to one of us, that they will be protected.

If this wasn’t enough for us take, we recently re-discovered that Germany isn’t a fan of double-barrelled names. When we got married in February 2015, we weren’t able to change our last names to a double-barrelled name because Germany wouldn’t allow it. It was a recent change in the law that couldn’t really be explained to us by the Standesamt (Registry Office). The woman who collected our paperwork said it was because they didn’t want children with double-barrelled names to grow up and marry someone with a double-barrelled name, and then just end up with a double-double-barrelled name. Who the hell cares?! What we could do though, was add my last name onto the beginning of “G’s” last name to create a double-barrelled name, but my last name had to stay the same. We agreed to this, because it is possible for me to change my last name in Australia, and it is simply not possible to change last names here in Germany. Again, I don’t know why this is the case.

Anyway, enough back story, it’s confusing. Basically, the reason I’m telling you all of this is because when our baby is born in August, he or she cannot have a double barrelled name. When we re-discovered this, our hearts sank. We wanted our children to have the same names as us.

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Until Brexit officially happens, this UK passport still means something here in the EU.

Upon doing some further research and speaking with colleagues at work, there was a glimmer of hope. If one of the parents is a national from another country, the parents can choose to use the laws of said country. As I am a dual citizen of Australia and the United Kingdom, we had two countries up our sleeves with laws that allowed double-barrelled names. I recently legally changed my last-name in Australia to ensure that we all had the same last name. “Horray”, you might think. “Congratulations!” But unfortunately, the story doesn’t have a happy ending (just yet we hope). You know that whole business of me not being the legal parent until the adoption goes through after the birth of our child? Yes, you’ve probably put two and two together… it’s going to have an impact on us being able to use the Australian or UK laws for our children… at least here in Germany.

This post seems ranty, and upon reflection, I can see that it is. We genuinely don’t know what to do though. We’re hoping to reach out to others in similar situations to us, and others who know more about this. We all know that members of the LGBTQ+ community face discrimination on a daily basis, but this journey to parenthood has certainly opened our eyes to some of the administrative struggles that same-sex parents have to face to simply get on par. It is still so apparent that equality is far, far, far away from being achieved.

LGBTQ+ stuff

Orlando

Textured rainbow

For the most part, I am a strong person. Not in a physical sense, but in an emotional sense. In the most difficult situations, I push past heartbreak and pain in order to move forward.

Everyday, for the past couple of weeks, I wanted to write about the Orlando shooting that took place on June 12, 2016, but I kept putting it off. It was and still is a deadly and violent incident that leaves me lost for words every time it becomes the topic of conversation. For a while, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was rendered speechless and unable to process my thoughts about the topic, but now I think I know why.

I’m scared. For the first time in my life, as a lesbian and a member of the queer community, I actually feel afraid. I don’t mean to sound arrogant or conceited, because I know how difficult it can be, but throughout my entire life and up until this point, I have never once felt discriminated against, or hated for who I am as a person.

For as long as I can remember, LGBTQ+ rights have been progressing in the right direction; countries are legalizing same-sex marriage, people in powerful positions are coming out, media representation of the queer community is becoming normalized and the list goes on. As this was happening, I became comfortable, complacent even, almost to the point of truly thinking that positive change was making a difference; that I was safe.

Despite all of this though, when the Orlando shooting happened, it felt like we as a society took a giant step backwards.

This shooting made me realise that I’ve become too complacent about the queer community and LGBTQ+ rights. Those rights are not going to happen overnight, and they definitely won’t happen if I sit back and wait for others to fight for those rights for me. I can’t become comfortable. I don’t want to be comfortable.

The Orlando shooting was in my opinion, a hate crime. As a member of the queer community, I have a responsibility to fight for the safety of all members of that community, and in memory of those who lost their life that night.