DIVORCE/HUMAN RIGHTS: Charalambous v Cyprus

28 AUG 2007

(European Court of Human Rights; 19 July 2007)

The Cypriot husband filed for a divorce from the Romanian wife, in Cyprus. The wife raised preliminary points of law. The main divorce and the interim proceedings were adjourned eight times in 9 months, six times by the parties, and twice by the courts. In the meantime, the Cypriot immigration authorities issued a deportation order against the wife, who resisted on the basis that she needed to be able to attend the divorce proceedings. After the wife's deportation the divorce was granted, but the wife's appeal was eventually allowed, on the basis that she should have been permitted to remain in Cyprus for the trial. After over 5 years, the divorce was finally granted. The husband complained that the length of proceedings had been unreasonable, in breach of Art 6(1) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950.

Although there had been no breach of the Art 8 right to respect for family life, and no breach of the Art 12 right to marry, the length of proceedings had been excessive and failed to meet the 'reasonable time' requirement, in breach of Art 6(1). The nature of the case had not been complex. On the whole there had been no major delays attributable to the husband, although there had been considerable delays at the first instance and appeal stages. Special diligence had been required because of the possible consequences which delay might have, notably on enjoyment of the right to respect for family life.

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