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Child unable to discover identity of her father for 5 years – and reforms to protect children’s rights

Mikulić v. Croatia  | 2002

Child unable to discover identity of her father for 5 years – and reforms to protect children’s rights

In the court's opinion, persons in the applicant's situation have a vital interest, protected by the convention, in receiving the information necessary to uncover the truth about an important aspect of their personal identity.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, February 2002

Background

A child was born outside of marriage. The mother applied to the courts to establish that a particular man was the father. However, due to legal delays and the father’s refusals to have a DNA test, the proceedings took over five years.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Strasbourg court found that Croatian law had not required the father to have a DNA test. Furthermore, the Croatian courts had not been required to take that refusal into account when assessing paternity in other ways. This left the child unable to find out who her father was for a long time, denying her parental support, causing her uncertainty as to her personal identity and breaching her right to family life.

Follow-up

Legislative changes in 2003 obliged people to take a maternity or paternity test within three months when ordered to do so. Refusing to take a test will be taken as evidence in favour of the other side in a dispute over parenthood.