It is best to contact your local parental allowance office (Elterngeldstelle) to get advice about parental allowance (Elterngeld) and parental leave (Elternzeit) before your baby is born. The parental allowance office advisers can tell you what information you need to clarify now and what you can decide later. You can also get information about how to get the highest parental allowance. After all, there are a few stumbling blocks that can cost parents real money. If you want, the advisers at the parental allowance office will fill in the application form with you. On the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs (Bundesfamilienministerium) website, there is also an Elterngeld parental allowance calculator which you can use to find out how much parental allowance you will receive: https://familienportal.de/familienportal/rechner-antraege/elterngeldrechner
You can only apply for parental allowance (Elterngeld) after your child is born. It's good to take care of it early. Parental allowance is given for up to three months in backpay, but it can take four to six weeks to process applications. Mothers who were gainfully employed before the birth have some time. That's because they get maternity pay (Mutterschaftsgeld) for the first few weeks after the birth. If you are a father who wants to claim parental allowance during your child’s first month of life, you must bridge the first period yourself and put the money for this aside ahead of time. It takes a few weeks until the parental allowance is transferred and during this time you will not receive a salary. If you are an unmarried father and want to receive parental allowance immediately after your baby is born, you should submit the paternity recognition (Vaterschaftsanerkennung) before the birth if possible.
You need several documents for the application. One of these documents is an official copy of your child's official birth certificate (Geburtsurkunde) specifically for this purpose. You will receive this automatically when you pick up the birth certificate at the registration office (Standesamt). You will also need evidence of your income up to this point, such as payslips or your most recent tax assessment. If you are entitled to maternity pay (Mutterschaftsgeld), you must also submit a certificate from your health insurance company confirming your maternity pay for the period after the birth and a certificate from your place of work confirming the employer's maternity pay supplement. This can be, for example, a pay slip from your maternity leave period (Mutterschutzfrist). You can obtain the application forms from your local parental allowance office (Elterngeldstelle). While you’re there, you should also find out if any other documents are required.
One of the most common stumbling blocks happens when you take parental leave (Elternzeit). This is because parental allowance (Elterngeld) is paid according to your baby’s age in months. Because your baby’s age isn’t synonymous with calendar months, it's easy to miscalculate and accidentally put yourself at a financial disadvantage. This is best illustrated by example. Let's say your baby was born on 25 May. The period from 25 May to 24 June counts as their first month of life. Also, let's say you are the father of the child and you want to be there with the mother and child from the beginning. So, you're taking parental leave from your company starting 1 June. This means that you will still receive your full salary for the entire month of May. At the same time, however, you'll start getting parental allowance on 25 May. This means that for the last six days of May, your normal income and parental allowance overlap. The result is that you unnecessarily lose money. This is because your income from 25 May to 31 May is offset against your parental allowance. Meaning that a portion will be deducted from your parental allowance. This stumbling block most often affects fathers because they do not receive maternity benefits (Mutterschaftsleistungen). Therefore, it is usually better for them to take parental leave starting when their child turns two months old. If you as a father also want to have time off during the first month of your child's life, it is better to use up part of your holidays for this purpose. The same applies to same-sex civil partners if the partnership is recorded as a registered civil partnership.