The unfavorable treatment regarding the inheritance of a child born out of wedlock in relation to children born in marriage constitutes a prohibitive discrimination and also violates the right to property
Quilichini v. France 14.03.2019 (no. 38299/15)
Child outside marriage and inheritance rights. Discrimination against the applicant as a child born outside marriage in relation to children born in marriage. The inheritance share of each of the children born in marriage was set at 5/12, whereas the applicant, who was born out of wedlock and was later recognized, was 2/12. She complaint that she was treated differently from the other heirs following the amendment to the French Civil Code, which enshrines the principle of equality among all children in heritage affairs. According to the European Court of Human Rights, the legitimate aim of protecting the inheritance rights of the applicant’s two siblings did not override the applicant’s claim to an equal share of her inheritance rights. Her unfavorable treatment violated Article 14 (non-discrimination) in conjunction with the right to property (Article 1 of the First Additional Protocol)
Article 1 of the First Additional Protocol
The applicant, Séverine Quilichini, is a French national who was born in 1964 and lives in Paris. Born
out of wedlock, her paternity was acknowledged by G.Q. in 1972. The case concerned the division of
property between the two legitimate children of G.Q. and Ms Quilichini, who submitted that she was
the victim of discrimination on grounds of birth in respect of the succession.
Following the death of G.Q. the division of the estate was given effect by a notary in a record of
1992. The entitlements of the legitimate children were fixed at 5/12ths each and those of
Ms Quilichini at 2/12ths pursuant to the former Article 760 of the Civil Code. The notarial record
stipulated that the entitlements were final, regardless of any future changes to the legislation. In
spite of the additional bequest of a flat in Marseilles, the share of the estate inherited by
Ms Quilichini remained less than that received by her siblings. France changed its legislation in 2001,
abolishing discrimination against children born out of wedlock in matters of succession.
A notarial record of 2005 provided for the division of a plot of land in Corsica which had belonged to
Ms Quilichini’s paternal grandfather. The heirs included Ms Quilichini, her half-brother and her
half-sister, representing their deceased father. The entitlements of the heirs were again established
in accordance with the former Article 760 of the Civil Code, such that the applicant was to receive
one half of the share that she would have received as a legitimate child. The tribunal de grande
instance upheld Ms Quilichini’s claim in 2011 for the amendment of the record. That judgment was,
however, overturned by the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the record of 1992 had settled the
succession with final effect, including in respect of the property covered by the 2005 record. An
appeal on points of law was dismissed in 2015.
Relying on Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, in
conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention, the applicant
argued that she had been treated differently from the other heirs in a disproportionate manner, as regards the division of property in 2005, after the change in the French law enshrining the principle of equality between all children for inheritance purposes.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
Infringement of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 of the First Additional Protocol
The European Court of Human Rights held that the legitimate aim of protecting the heritage rights of the applicant’s sibling was not so great as to override the applicant’s claim to an equal share in the distribution of land.
The Court concluded that there was no reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means in use and the legitimate aim pursued. The difference in treatment suffered by the applicant is therefore not objectively and reasonably justified. There is therefore a violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 of the First Additional Protocol.
Just compensation: 11,434 euros (EUR) (pecuniary damage), EUR 3,000 (non-pecuniary damage) and
EUR 34,500 (costs and expenses)(echrcaselaw.com editing).