Elterngeld: The Basics

Elterngeld: The Basics

Now that I’ve finished my e-book, I (Lorna) have been working on answering various ‘frequently asked questions’, asked by my clients and by new parents or those expecting a new baby on web forums. Elterngeld is a very big topic here so I hope that I can give a short, concise overview.

Elterngeld is a bit of a minefield. There are lots of rules (it wouldn’t be Germany if there weren’t) and even when you think you might be on top of things, a letter from the Elterngeldstelle scuppers your plans for a relaxed post-birth year at home with your baby.

Let’s start with the basics:

What is Elterngeld?

Elterngeld is an income replacement benefit for parents with young children who are reducing their weekly working hours to between 30 and 0 in order to take care of their child(ren) at home.

Who can claim Elterngeld?

Biological parents, adoptive parents, foster parents and in some cases, grandparents can claim Elterngeld. The prerequisites are that they are caring for the child(ren) in their household and working fewer than 30 hours per week (in any capacity, including freelance and minijob) For the non-German citizens, there are further eligibility criteria such as having the passport of a country in the European Economic Area or if not, having a residence permit that entitles you to work in Germany in any job (you should check in advance with the Elterngeldstelle whether or not you are eligible). Of course, your place of residence needs to be in Germany so an Anmeldung is required. Even if you’re a stay-at-home spouse or partner living in Germany, if you are entitled to work in Germany, you can claim Elterngeld.

How much is Elterngeld?

If you’re employed, Elterngeld is based on your nett individual income, taxed in a country of the European Economic Area, averaged over the last 12 months before your baby is born. Of course, it’s not a straight forward calculation but generally it amounts to around 65%* of the aforementioned amount. Income taxed outside of the EEA doesn’t count for the Elterngeld calculation.

If you’re self-employed or freelance (even if that’s in addition to an employment contract), Elterngeld is calculated based on your profit from the previous tax year. Again, the calculation is aroiund 65% of your average profit over the 12 months of the previous tax year.

Elterngeld is capped at 1,800 Euro. Elterngeld is capped at 1,800 Euro. This means that those earning more than 2770 Euro per month will receive the maximum. The minimum is 300 Euro.

Elterngeld plus is half the amount of Elterngeld, therefore 900 Euro maximum and 150 Euro minimum.

Here is a handy Elterngeld calculator, which gives an indication of how much Elterngeld you might receive.

*The percentage rises, the lower the income.

When/for how long do you get Elterngeld?

Generally, you can claim a minimum of 2 and maximum of 12 months of Elterngeld as an individual and if both of you want to reduce your working hours (i.e. take ‘Elternzeit’- paternity or maternity leave), you can have 14 months in total to share between you. Those with single parent tax status can have 14 months for themselves.

Both parents can claim Elterngeld in parallel.

There are several models, which are customisable to your personal circumstances:

Basis Elterngeld:

Can be claimed within your child’s first 14 months of life. After the 14th month, you can no longer claim Basis Elterngeld.

Elterngeld Plus:

Half of the Basis Elterngeld amount, paid over double the time period of Basis Elterngeld, i.e. up to 24/28 months. Once you surpass your child’s 14th month of life, you cannot have any gaps in your Elterngeld Plus claim, in other words the months have to be consecutive.


An additional 4 Elterngeld Plus months if both parents are working between 25 and 30 hours per week. Those with single parent tax status can claim these months for themselves.


Are the two additional months awarded when both parents take time off or reduce their working hours to take care of their child(ren), meaning you get 14/28 months, rather than 12/24 (Basis Elterngeld/Elterngeld Plus).

Anything else?

If as a mother you are claiming Mutterschaftsgeld -maternity money (co-paid by your health insurance and employer) it’s important to know that for the 8 weeks after the birth, you may effectively lose 2 months of Basis Elterngeld, since the Mutterschaftsgeld usually amounts to 100% of your salary, thus overriding Elterngeld.

Elterngeld is paid out in ‘life months’ of your child e.g. if your baby is born on 15th April, the first ‘life month’ is 15.04-14.05, LM2 is 15.05-14.06 etc.

Elterngeld is paid only 3 months retroactively (so make sure you apply promptly)

Your application may take a while to process so it’s important to save a little money before your baby is born, if possible.

If you give birth to multiples, you receive a 300 Euro bonus for each additional baby.

If you have a child under 3 living in your household, you receive a sibling bonus of 10% of your Elterngeld, minimum 75 Euro per month.

If you have any questions about Elterngeld, get in touch! Maternita offers guidance and support for all your baby-related  paperwork needs.

  1. Hello,
    I am a Canadian expat living in Frankfurt. I am pregnant and i would like to understand how to apply in writting to the Elterngeld. Should I just send my request via email….any supporting documents? What exactly should be writted in that email?
    Kindly advise. Thank you

    • Hi Denise,

      Thanks for reaching out. Your local Elterngeldstelle (part of the town’s Jugendamt) has application forms to download, as well as the list of supporting documents to send. Unfortunately, the request cannot be done by email but by post, and the forms and documents are all in German, and unavailable in English.

      We offer the service for a fee to support you in enquiring for Elterngeld and filling in the forms, as well as preparing the supporting documents. If you would like a quote, please do not hesitate to get in touch via email:

      All the best

  2. Hello, I have a baby and receiving the 12 month Elterngeld. My questions:
    1) To confirm, if I took a job less than 30 hours a month I can still receive the elterngeld money?
    2) If I were pregnant again within the period and was unable to return to work, would I be able to apply directly again for the next child with results based on my previous salary? (e.g. have another 12 months following the first 12 months) OR would the elterngeld stop after 12 months with me receiving nothing after that period?

    • Hi,
      Thanks for your comment.
      1) Yes but the Elterngeld amount will be reduced accordingly (because you will be earning a salary and Elterngeld is an earning replacement)
      2) The Elterngeld for the second child will be based on your earnings 12 months prior to the birth of the second child (if employed) or based on the financial year prior to the birth of the second child (if self-employed). As Elterngeld does not count as “earnings”, if you have not had any income apart from the Elterngeld during the calculation period for your second child, then the calculation basis will be 0€ and you will receive the minimum Elterngeld of 300€.

  3. Hi Roux,

    I am an Indian citizen and studing Masters in Germany in Stuttgart. I am pregnant now and I would like to know if i am eligible for Elterngeld or Kindergeld.


    • Hi Safnaz,
      It depends on your residency permit, some do not allow to claim Elterngeld. Kindergeld on the other hand should be fine (depending on some circumstances like at least one parent living in Germany, and not claiming child benefit anywhere etc).
      As with every situation, difficult to say without knowing exactly your circumstances. We offer skype consultations for clients outside of Berlin, maybe you could benefit from one to clarify these questions for sure?
      All the best

  4. Hi,

    I’m considering taking one month of Elternzeit directly after the birth of my baby, and then another month later during the first year. Is it possible to claim Elterngeld for these two months? Or do the two months have to be consecutive in order to claim Elterngeld?


  5. Hello

    My wife and I are employed in India, but in Germany on an expatriate posting for nearly 4 years now. We have just been blessed with twins, and my wife is currently on maternity leave.

    Under extant Indian laws, she continues to receive the component of her salary that she would have received had she been in India, but does nit receive the expat benefits at the moment. Can she apply for Elterngeld?

    • Hi and congratulations!
      Depending on your wife’s residence permit, she can apply for Elterngeld. However, the amount of Elterngeld will be reduced according to what she keeps earning. And the Elterngeld amount will be calculated based on the income earned within the 12 months before the baby’s birth – and only the income taxable in Germany counts. In most cases, your wife could apply for 600€ (as you have twins) per month for 12 months. If you need further help with your application, just send us an email:

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