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Divorce and Separation in Germany: Causes and Consequences

Endeavour of Explanation, Part 3 of 3


Presentation by Karin Jäckel, Dr. Phil.

Washington, D.C., June 7-9, 2001, at the Parental Abduction Conference;
Organized by P.A.R.E.N.T. International, at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Part 3/3

…continued from Part 2

No wonder that mothers feel somehow guilty and ashamed without a job and don’t put any trust in the qualities of fathers.

No wonder, too, that more and more women plan on becoming single parents without father or prefer to live in an open partnership with the father of their children, so that at any time they'll be perfectly within their rights to leave him without either respecting his love of the children or his right to be their father forever.

Last, but not least, no wonder that every second to third marriage ends in divorce.

Since 1977, when we were ruled by a government formed by the Socialistic Democratic Party just as now, the family law bestowed on us the "benefit" of divorce in the sense of Friedrich Engels, without any responsibilities.

In combination with the German Constitutional Law, which enshrines special protection by society for mothers and children, but not the same protection to fathers, the new divorce law somehow transmuted to a letter of free passage for those mothers who don’t respect the rights of their children and their fathers.

It is therefore that feminist lawyers often advise their clients with bi-national children to sue for divorce according to German law, if possible.

The very best definition of what German families are was given by Ulla Schmidt, the new SPD-health-minister in Berlin, when she proclaimed: "Family is, if all eat out of the same refrigerator."

With that explanation things become perfectly clear: families in Germany are mixed together and change at random, with only the need of a fridge and something to eat from.

Friedrich Engels must be joyfully dancing around in his grave.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the very important points at which the life experiences of binational and national parents sorrowfully meet.

As I told you at the beginning of my speech, many of those responsible, as politicians, law-givers and professionals, working as lawyers, judges or in social services, don’ t have children or aren't interested in children. Many of them are far away from loving children in general. And many of them have never realized that children need more than randomly mixed-together families and something to eat.

Labouring under the delusion of Friedrich Engels and his dreams of parenthood without personal responsibility and explaining families as modern as our health-minister Ulla Schmidt does, or being embarrassed by the Christian ideal of motherhood and indoctrinated to some kind of gallantry, many of those responsible may think one half of parents as being enough. In a society that will raise children as a public effort there is no need for the whole of two of them. One of them can certainly do it. And the one who can do family things best will usually be the mother. Especially because of the violence of fathers, those responsible are convinced they are right.

In that sense, they seem to think it to be the best of all possible arrangements to let children be with their mother. Logically she must be and has the right to conceive children from whomever she wants to, whether she is married or not. She is legalized to be secretive about the natural father, even if that isn't her husband. She has the legal right to let her husband pay and toil for the child of another man. She has the right to abduct the children from their father, merely by speaking out against him. And it is up to her to get money from the chosen father, to fill the fridge. And isn't all child-raising assistance the mother could need a social affair?

The federal minister of family office, Christine Bergmann, already proclaimed a solution for all the no longer beloved fathers: she has them going back to their mothers.

What can be done?

Since ex-president Clinton and Mrs. Albright talked in June 2000 to federal Chancellor Schröder about the role of Germany in cases of kidnapping and in the Hague Convention, the SPD had to develop a draft bill to correct and optimize the cases of custody, care and control by bi-national parents.

Margot von Renesse, SPD-member of the Bundestag and well known as the mother of the new law for child and parent in Germany, declared the aim of the law-giver and the legal practice. It is the wish now that the judges must overcome the German provinciality. Therefore those sentiments need to be extended to create a court of law with international competence.

The court is to consist of three experts who decide in all bi-national cases. They are to be comprised of a family court judge plus two lay judges. They all must be German and are to be elected every four years.

One of the lay judges must be member of the German embassy in the foreign nation from where one of the parents originates. The other lay judge must be member of a service-organization dedicated to the protection of children.

To be able to produce his decision, the judge is allowed to order the youth welfare office to check the life situation of the children from the view point of the "welfare of children". Depending on what results the experts will produce, the court must return the kidnapped children to the country they lived in before being kidnapped, or it must decide what to do if the children have to stay in Germany.

Only the future will tell how successfully this new constellation will work.

So far there has not been a single comment in response to my questions to the Federal Ministry of Justice about the new binational courts.

But in days to come, namely in July 2001, there will be seven currently bi-national parents of both sexes starting a hunger strike in the city of Berlin, near the new palace of the federal government, to protest against the German family law, to save their kidnapped children and bring them back home again. All of them used every legal avenue under the Hague Convention to see their children. All of them were thwarted by the courts and the refusal of the other parents. And none of them ever did something bad that might legalize the child abduction they are forced to accept.

An action like this, risking starving by hunger, is no funny trip of some crazy pompous ass. I personally know some of the parents, met them here in Washington D.C. They are people I would be honoured to be friends with. And my heart will be with them in Berlin, especially my hope.

My son Yannic, who is still sitting in the audience, made friends in these days of the congress with Maurice, a father from France, who has two boys in Germany, kidnapped by their mother. When Yannic heard about the plan of the hungerstrike, the very first he said to me, was: "Mama, if Maurice were my Dad I would not want him to do that, because he is a super father, I' m sure, and I as his son never would stand to lose him. What kind of mother must that be, that she can do such a torture to him and the children? A mother who can do that doesn't love the children. The children are not just her own. They are real persons. They must have a father, too, not only a mother. And I think, that there'll be a day when they'll hate their mother, because she pushed their father to this hunger strike or even into death."

Yannic is 14. In his age children in Germany are legally responsible for criminal acts they may commit. They are allowed to decide now where they want to live in case of divorce of their parents. One day the children of Maurice will be 14, too. They have an intelligent father. Probably they are intelligent as well. They are able to make their mind of what happened to them. "The mother then should get warm clothes", Yannic said.

But back to the adults.

When ex-president Clinton came to Berlin in the summer of 2000 and talked to Federal Chancellor Schröder about the problem of that kidnapping under the Hague Convention, the print- and TV-media were full with reports of the worst possible cruelties against children. But their discarded fathers or mothers mostly were ignored and nothing more than their lost position in the rights for their children’s to have contact with them received any attention. All the same, the problems of native German parents in divorce and fights for custody and child-care received some new attention and comprehension in the press and publish, too.

But since then there has been silence in the press.

The only information I receive comes directly from parents fighting for their rights and leads me to assume that the old methods of holding back kidnapped children in Germany are still operational as usual.

With a view to the daily life experiences of parents, it is not enough to provide a half-hearted new law or some new legal paragraphs and programs. It is decisive for success that the aim of the law-giver is to create a law that definitely works, either by bringing it about with the sharpened sword of punishment or with the blunt sword of warnings.

The new German law for child and parents, dated July 1998, declares the right of all children to be with their mother and father. But it also declares the right of the parents to denounce one another and to expel one of them from the life of their children.

Instead of creating a law that establishes the absolute right of children to be with their mother and their father and to bring that about with the sharpened sword of punishment, the law-givers hesitated to reduce the rights of mothers they want to protect and to widen the law for fathers whose rights they want to abrogate.

That is why this new law was created only half-heartedly as a so-called appeal-law and not to bring about change by the use of the sharpened sword of justice. If the conscience of parents contains nothing to base an appeal on, the judges have the last word about the "welfare of the children".

Decisions like that require the highest degree of competence. It requires a very profound knowledge in the family law and solid knowledge in psychology, especially that of children. It needs to be said: success with bringing about a law like that depends directly on the extent of knowledge by those responsible to administer it.

The fact is that the vast majority of judges in Germany don’t meet that standard, because they don’t have the required knowledge and capabilities and don’t want, or are unable, to gain them.

The reason for that lack of expert knowledge is a consequence of the education jurists and judges received. Elmar Bergmann, a well known judge in family law in Germany and father of several children, called this education "miserable, to the highest degree."

German family law has not ever been a matter of great concern with respect to study programs. Young jurists have to learn it by doing it, if they are sufficiently interested. Graduating in the courts, they may choose a two months’ practice in family cases. After those two months, their study program takes them to deal with other cases.

To become a family court judge, you already must have been a judge for a long time on other courts and have earned the position of a judge for life.

Therefore the one who becomes a family court judge is no specialist in family law with a huge body of expert knowledge but must learn the work by doing it.

An interested judge will continue his studies to update his qualifications. But as Margot von Renesse, SPD-member of the Bundestag, said, judges must show more energy and engagement to optimize their job performance. (Focus Nr. 25, 19-06-200, p. 72/73)

But unfortunately, neither the administration of justice nor the ministries pay for that. Who wants to learn has to do it on his own and will have to spend his private holidays doing it. There are few judges who want to.

As if the consequences of this grievance are not bad enough, it must be added that judges usually know nothing about psychology.

Jurists are drilled to judge cases with their roots planted firmly in the past and to address present wrongs, while creating some cautionary effects for the future. In general, they don’ t learn more than that.

But in family-law cases the knowledge of legal paragraphs is insufficient, because people, characters and emotions cannot be defined by legal clauses — especially because important concepts, such as the "welfare of children," have not been defined.

In consequence of this second aspect of the huge lack of knowledge, family judges usually aren't qualified to test matters of life in families, to assess them and to find solutions.

As the Ministry of Justice declared in public, too much is asked of judges in family courts in binational family-cases.

As thousands of parents, especially fathers, who lost their children through a decision by a family judge know, the judges are asked too much in national family-cases, too.

The crux of the matter is that the experts from the youth welfare offices and the psychological advisers whom the judges have to order to perform work are biased in favour of mothers.

All of these experts are more or less educated in so-called social consciousness and gender studies, informed and supplied by a huge number of feminist groups all over Germany, by a flood of literature about female problems and by regular trainees and supervisors, so that they nearly automatically shut their heart to the problems of fathers by attending to the "bigger" ones of the mothers.

To top all these mistakes, there is no controlling office, no one in charge of checks and balances for the Youth Welfare Services. In fact, the professionals act by relying only on their personal preferences, their own best knowledge and conscience. That means that they are acting in a kind of "legal vacuum" and are not ever punished for any wrong decisions, unless you should be able to prove to them that they did so with bad intentions or against their better knowledge.

There are less than a handful of lawyers who are succeeding in Straßburg, at the European Courts of Human Rights, to punish Germany for having the primary responsibility for the "welfare of children," plus a professional social service worker who administers the payment of compensation for the pain and suffering of a father who was not allowed to see his children.

One of these cases, known as the Elzholz-case, was very useful in teaching judges to know fear — so I came to hear during the last few months with respect to some very interesting information about professionals who didn't allow fathers and mothers to meet their children for years and now suddenly changed their minds.

The end of my speech I dedicate to psychologists in their capacity as bad-advisers.

If they only had to cry one tear for every child, father and mother whom they separated at random and on account of their lack of professional qualifications, they would have to swim in a see of tears, like Alice in Wonderland.

I don’ t want to allege that bad adviser/experts are bad characters. Some of them I met, and have found them as charming and kind as anybody else can be.

The reasons why they fail vary but are easily identified. Bad advisers are badly educated and at the same time highly respected in their profession, in spite of their insufficient expertise.

But in fact, the bad work of an inadequate expert is not worth the paper it is written on.

Searching for explanations of why the large number of bad-advisers as professional experts is possible, I found out:

  1. The special education of a consultant or adviser is not governed by obligatory rules. The affiliated professional associations of psychologists have persistently refused to create precise standards for how to design and perform study programs and examinations for the very special work as a consultant at the courts. Neither did they establish a bottom line for the educational qualifications and academic achievement a professional adviser must have acquired to be allowed to provide expertise in family-law cases.
  2. Because of that, you only must have a certificate of your education as psychologist, - even if only narrow-gauged and without any special certificate to prove your competence in dealing with divorce and the expert-knowledge about the manipulation parents practice on their children - to be accepted as psychological adviser and to be awarded the business by the courts to write expert opinions on which the fortunes and future of children and their parents are hinged.

  3. Therefore, any brand-new professional with a yet somewhat wet examination certificate in the pocket or any no longer up-to-par old one is allowed to produce an expert opinion.

  4. The work of a psychological adviser must be paid for, whether done well or badly. Therefor there is no risk for the professional but a very great risk for the one who must pay the costs. The costs of bad service run to thousands of dollars of good money.

  5. Judges are free to choose the adviser they want. In most cases they are an established team that goes back a long time. But that is no standard of measure for the quality of the experts’ opinions. It is only the proof that the judge and the adviser like to work together and understand each other.

  6. Most of the judges will refuse an adviser that the parent without the right of custody and care, who is fighting against the other parent, who tries to get rid of that nasty, no longer beloved ex-partner, wants. They are inclined to allege that the nomination of a special expert depends on a pre-arrangement.

  7. If the parent fighting for his rights orders an expert of his or her own, to prove that the expert opinion of the adviser the court had ordered is a bad-advise, it is the court's duty to accept and to mention the results of it. But in fact a lot of the judges don't because they suspect a false game and to be advised badly. If they basically had an education in psychology they would be able to distinguish between the good and the bad one. But they haven't. And so the mighty judges remain the blind chicken that finds sometimes finds a grain by a lucky chance.

  8. In nearly no case will a judge ever refuse the expert's opinion of his champion adviser. The German Federal Supreme Court decided that the courts must follow the opinion of an expert. A judge is allowed to deviate from an expert's opinion only when he is able to explain precisely why he deviated. That would be possible only if the judge would be educated in psychology – he normally isn't.

All these judges and bad advisers the national parents have to fight with in the very same way as bi-national parents do. It is a lucky hit to live in a region where a competent judge is ordering competent advisers and will find competent decisions in the primary interest of children instead of in the interest of one of the parents.

Bi-national parents are confronted with only one special danger that usually doesn't menace national parents. I mean the provincialism and small-mindedness of a great number of the judges.

As Margot von Renesse, SPD-member of the Bundestag, exclaimed, the majority of judges lack international competence, objectivity, understanding of foreign legal-systems and motivation. (Focus Nr. 25, 19-06-2000, p. 72/73)

On the basis of these deficiencies, they often underestimate the importance of child abduction and kidnapping and hand down no or insufficient punishment. Most often the law of the cudgel of the kidnapper or child-abuser is gaining the victory.

In this very hour in which I’ m talking to you, ladies and gentlemen, in Germany a lot of the expunged fathers and mothers I met over the years set all their hope – and often their last hope – in my message, that German family law and -politics are devouring Germany's children – the nationals as well as bi-nationals. And we all agree: Only a strong alliance of parents all over the world will bring change.

How much effect such an alliance can have we see by remembering the debates of Clinton and Schröder. Even if the success is not satisfying yet, it has moved something. As I picked up some days before coming to Washington, D.C., the education of German jurists will finally be optimized now to improve the practice and also the quality of the advice. That should give us reason to hope for more.

So, please, let us build networks. Let us return to some more old-fashioned values. Let us insist on the right of our children not only to have their brains educated but their spirits and souls as well. Let us effect the knowledge that the real grace of life is not to be young forever but to get wise, and that only children can hold us young and at the same time can make us wiser.

The "benefits" of divorce and the abolition of the sovereignty of families that Friedrich Engels dreamed of may satisfy a short desire. But the price we must pay for it is the tears of millions of children.

Thank you for your attention.

Dr. Karin Jäckel

Washington DC, on 9-6-2001


Contact information:

Dr. Phil. Karin Jäckel

Hansjakobstr.5
D-77704 Oberkirch
e-mail: karin.jaeckel@t-online
Fax: 07802-7307

Please don't try calling me by telephone. Thank you for respecting that.

By the autumn of 2001 I hope to finish my Web site under my prename.name, so that you may look at my work, chats and guest book, and some other interesting information.

If you want to read my books you can find many, and order them, at >>www.amazon.de<< or at >>libri.de<<

They are, unfortunately, not yet translated into English, because I'm still looking for a chance to awake the interest of an Anglo-American publisher who wants to produce new books with me or to secure licences on the already published ones.

Karin


Index to Karin Jaeckel's Web pages at Fathers for Life (English)

Karin Jaeckel's Website (German)


_____________
Posted June 2001
Updates:
2001 06 24 (inserted link to information on hunger strike in Berlin)
2002 02 28 (inserted link to Karin Jaeckel's website)
2007 12 23 (reformated)