(European Court of Human Rights, 16 July 2015)
Private law children – Parental rights – Termination – Non-biological father raised child for several years – Whether the domestic court’s termination of the father’s parental rights constituted a breach of Art 8 of the European Convention
Please see attached file below for the full judgment. The ECHR ruled that the Russian court's termination of the non-biological father's parental rights constituted a breach of Art 8 of the European Convention.
After the parents of the 8-year-old child divorced it was arranged for residence to be shared. However, when the father discovered bruises on the child's body he suspected she had been beaten and sexually abused by the mother's new partner and refused to return her to her mother's care.
Both parents applied for residence orders. The father's allegations were investigated but the court held they were unfounded. Both parents were suitable carers for the child but given the child's age and sex the court found it was preferable for her to live with the mother despite the child's wish to live with the father. The Supreme Court upheld that decision but the father refused to hand the child over. The mother abducted the child and had thereafter refused to permit the father to see her.
When a DNA test disclosed that the child was not the father's biological child his paternity was terminated. His name was removed from her birth certificate and her name was changed. Court proceedings were ceased and it was found that the father had no standing to bring civil actions concerning parental authority over the child. The Supreme Court refused to hear the father's appeal. He applied to the European Court of Human Rights claiming a breach of his Art 8 rights.
As a result of the operation of domestic law the father was entirely and automatically excluded from the child's life after the termination of his paternity. A person who had brought up a child for some time as his own should not be completely excluded that the child's life after it had been revealed that he was not the biological father unless there were reasons relating to the child's best interests to do so. There was no suggestion in this case that contact would be detrimental to the child's welfare. The authorities had failed in their obligation to permit the maintenance of family ties between the father and child. There had, accordingly, been a breach of Art 8 of the European Convention.
CASE OF NAZARENKO v. RUSSIA
(Application no. 39438/13)
16 July 2015
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Nazarenko v. Russia,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section),sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Isabelle Berro, President,
Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska,
Dmitry Dedov, judges,
and Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 23 June 2015,
Nazarenko v Russia (Application No. 39438/13)
Delivers the following JUDGMENT, which was adopted on that date: