The maintenance law stipulates that family members must provide for one another when one of them needs support. Such support is called "maintenance" or "Unterhalt"- and when it is paid for children, child maintenance or "Kindesunterhalt".
Child maintenance can be paid for in several ways:
- Cash: When a family member gives money to another family member to buy food or clothing for themselves, it is called "Barunterhalt".
- Material: When parents give their children, for example, food or clothing directly, this is what is known as "Naturunterhalt".
- Support for providing care: A child (or a family member in need of care) requires food and clothing but also a lot of supervision and attention. When another family member takes care of these needs, support for providing care and looking after children ("Betreuungsunterhalt") becomes relevant. The family member in question also needs money to support themselves. So the amount of money they need to support themselves while looking after the child is also part of "Betreuungsunterhalt".
In most cases, maintenance rights concern parents and their children. However, married couples, registered civil partners, parents and grandparents may also be entitled to maintenance.