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Germany: Court Rules Day Care Assignments More than 30 Minutes from Home Unreasonable

(Nov. 20, 2019) In a decision published on August 2, 2019, the Higher Administrative Court of Rhineland-Palatinate held that the city of Mainz, Germany, cannot fulfill its legal obligation to provide children three years and older with day care that is a reasonable distance from their home by assigning them a place in a center that takes 40 minutes to reach by public transportation. The Court opined that anything over 30 minutes is unreasonable, and stated that the obligation does not depend on the financial capacity of the city.

Applicable Law

Section 5 of the Day Care Act in Rhineland-Palatinate provides that “[c]hildren two years and older have a legal right to upbringing, education, and care in kindergarten until they reach school age. Youth Welfare Offices must guarantee that there is a kindergarten place for every child within a reasonable distance.” In addition, Social Code Book VIII states that children three years and older have a legal right to a day care place until they reach school age.

Facts of the Case

On December 3, 2018, the father of a three-year-old child registered his child with the city of Mainz for a place in a day care center. The father works full-time, while the mother of the child started a part-time job on July 1, 2019. The city of Mainz advised the parents that a place would be available on October 1, 2019, in a center in Mainz-Hechtsheim. It takes 40 minutes by public transportation to reach the day care from the parents’ home. The court of first instance denied the father’s claim to obligate the city to provide a place in a center within a reasonable distance. He appealed the decision to the Higher Administrative Court of Rhineland-Palatinate which reversed the decision. Because both parents work, it also obligated the city of Mainz to make a place available by August 12, 2019, at the latest. (Press Release of the Higher Administrative Court of Rhineland-Palatinate (in German).)