The cycle of paternity recognition and the right to respect for family life
R.L.and others v. Denmark 07-03-2017 (no. 52629/11)
Family life. Paternity recognition. The case concerns the recognition of the paternity of the second applicant, who was married to the first applicant. During their marriage, they had a child, and then, when they no longer had contacts, the woman brought her second child to the world, whose custody and upbringing were jointly signed with her husband. Thus, the applicant appeared as the father of both children. Later, the applicant revealed that both children had another biological father with whom she had a relationship. Thus, the two applicants initiated proceedings to reopen the paternity file and register the children under the name of their biological father. However, on one hand, the authorities rejected the request for a review of the case and E., who was the biological father, said he did not want to take on the role of the father. Referring to Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, the applicants complained that the evidence before the national courts showed that E was the biological father of the two children and that, therefore, the paternity cases had to be reopened as the city court found. The ECtHR did not find any violation of Article 8.
The applicants, M (the first applicant), F (the second applicant), L, and S, are Danish nationals who were born in 1965, 1951, 2004, and 2006 respectively and live in Copenhagen. The case concerned the paternity of the second applicant in relation to L and S.
The first and second applicants married in 2001. In 2004, the first applicant gave birth to a boy, L. As the second applicant was married to the first applicant, he was registered as L’s father. In 2005 the first and second applicants legally separated. However, they continued to legally cohabit until June 2006.
In October 2006 the first applicant gave birth to another boy, S. Although the second applicant no longer lived with the first applicant, and had had no sexual contact with her since 2004, he submitted a signed declaration to the State Administration for Greater Copenhagen, co-signed by the first applicant, which stated that together they would take care of and be responsible for S.
Consequently, the second applicant was registered as the father of S.
Without the knowledge of the second applicant, between 2003 and 2008 the first applicant had been having a relationship with another man, E. When that relationship ended in October 2008, the first applicant told the second applicant that E was the biological father of S and probably also of L.
The applicants then submitted a formal request that both paternity cases be reopened in order to formally establish E’s fatherhood of the children. The request was refused by the State Administration. The applicants then brought their request before the City Court. The reopening was opposed before the court by E. The children L and S were represented by counsel, who also opposed the reopening. The first and second applicants submitted that E’s fatherhood and responsibility for the children should be recognised. E stated that he did not wish to take on the role of being the children’s father.
In February 2010, the City Court in Copenhagen decided to reopen the paternity cases in relation to both children, finding that this would be in the overall interests of the children and the union of the family. E appealed to the High Court of Eastern Denmark. In November 2010 the High Court refused to reopen the paternity cases. Subsequently, the second applicant took a DNA test, which established that he was not the father of either L or S.
The first and second applicants requested leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, but this was refused in January 2011.
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
Relying on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, the applicants complained that the evidence submitted before the domestic courts had shown that E. had been the biological father of L and S, and that therefore the paternity cases should have been reopened, as found by the City Court.
No violation of Article 8