HUMAN RIGHTS/PATERNITY: Rozanski v Poland (Application no 55339/00)

18 MAY 2006

(European Court of Human Rights; 18 May 2006)

The child was born while the mother was cohabiting with the applicant. For a period the child was left in the sole care of the applicant, but after the child became ill and was taken into hospital the mother removed the child and went into hiding. The applicant had had no further contact with the child. The mother's new partner recognised paternity of the child and was acknowledged by the authorities as the legal father. The applicant could not assert paternity without the co-operation of the authorities in instituting paternity proceedings and this had been refused him.

There had been a violation of Art 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950. There were no directly accessible procedures by which the applicant could attempt to establish his legal paternity, as the launching of paternity procedures was completely at the discretion of authorities. The absence of any guidance as to the authorities' exercise of their discretionary powers concerning paternity was also a concern. No steps had been taken by the authorities to investigate the facts of case and the mere fact that the child had been legally recognised by another man had been sufficient to justify refusing the applicant's requests to have his biological paternity recognised.

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