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International Family Law

The leading authority on international family law

25 OCT 2013

Mariage pour tous? Marriage and relationships of affinity in France

A French couple, Elisabeth Lorentz and Eric Holder wish to marry. Elisabeth is Eric's stepmother and Art 161 of the French Civil Code prohibits marriage between ascendants and descendants in the direct bloodline and between affines in the same line. The couple is now contemplating making an application to the European Court of Human Rights on the ground that France is in breach of Art 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, the right to marry and found a family. 

The couple's situation is compared to that of the couple in B and L v United Kingdom (App No 36536/02) [2006] 1 FLR 35, in which the Court found that the UK was in breach of Art 12 because of the restriction it placed on marriage between parents-in-law and children-in-law in spite of the discretionary waiver available to a couple by way of a private Act of Parliament or the absolute waiver on the death of their former spouses. Marriages between those in step-parent relationships and those in sibling-in-law relationships had been permissible since 1984.  As a consequence of the Court's decision, the law was changed in 2007. The decision in B and L v UK may provide encouragement for Elisabeth Lorentz and Eric Holder to make an application to the European Court of Human Rights and succeed in their determination to marry.    

By Mary WelsteadCAP Fellow, Harvard Law School and Visiting Professor of Family Law, University of Buckingham                    

The full version of this article appears in the October 2013 issue of International Family Law. 

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