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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

23 DEC 2008

CONTACT/HUMAN RIGHTS: Kaleta v Poland (Case No 11375/02)

(European Court of Human Rights; 16 December 2008)

The mother was awarded custody rights, while the father was limited to visiting rights, supervised, and only once a month. For some time the father failed to attend, although the mother attended as required with the child. The father applied to court seeking unsupervised contact in the holidays instead, but was refused. The father then questioned paternity, but DNA tests confirmed that he was the child's father. Contact was then reduced to three times a year, still supervised. Subsequently the mother was convicted of an assault on the father. The situation shifted, and the father began to attend regularly for contact but the mother now failed to attend with the child. However, eventually there were four successful contact meetings, after which the father applied for unsupervised contact. The court dismissed this application, to limit stress to the child. Subsequently the child, by now 15 years old, refused to attend the contact sessions, saying that she did not want to see the father again. The court fined the mother fined and the contact arrangements were left as they were. The father claimed that the state's failure to enforce the contact arrangements had violated his rights under Art 8.

The key consideration in each case was whether the authorities had taken all necessary steps to facilitate contact such as could reasonably be demanded in the special circumstances of each case. The difficulties in enforcing contact arose in large measure from animosity between the parents. Noting that the father had himself failed to take effective steps to improve his contact with the child, and that the nature of contact with the child became dependent on the child's wishes as she grew older, the court held that there had been no violation of Art 8.

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