22.03.2019 | Автор: Зеров Костянтин
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«М.Т. проти України»: Під час вирішення справ, які стосуються дітей, суди повинні уважно вивчити всі обставини та забезпечити належний баланс між інтересами дитини та інтересами інших осіб (ст. 8 Конвенції, заява № 950/17, від 20.03.2019 р.)

Фабула судового акта: Заявник, громадянин Сполучених Штатів Америка, M.T. (далі - Заявник) стверджував, що національні суди не змогли встановити його батьківство, і тим самим обмежили його право на доступ до суду.

На час подій Заявник викладав англійську мову в одній з київських шкіл. Він мав стосунки із заміжньою жінкою, яка через деякий час народила дитину; у свідоцтві про народження батьком дитини було вказано чоловіка партнерки Заявника. Проведений згодом тест ДНК встановив, що біологічним батьком дитини є Заявник.  Заявник регулярно надавав дитині та матері фінансову підтримку, а у випадку смерті заповів усе своє майно дитині.

Через декілька років мати дитини розлучилася, і повідомила Заявнику, що вирішила вийти заміж за громадянина Німеччини та переїхати разом з дитиною до Німеччини. Заявник висловив незгоду на виїзд дитини, після чого мати дитини не надавала Заявнику змогу бачитися з дитиною.

Заявник звернувся до суду з метою визнання свого батьківства та внесення відповідних змін у свідоцтво про народження дитини. Суд першої інстанції задовольнив вимоги Заявника, визнавши причини пропуску строків для оспорювання батьківства, передбачених Сімейним кодексом України, поважними. Суд апеляційної інстанції скасував вказане рішення з мотивів пропущення встановленого законодавством строку для оспорювання батьківства, який почав перебіг з дати отримання результатів тесту ДНК. Суд касаційної інстанції відхилив скаргу Заявника

ЄСПЛ підкреслив, що у всіх справах, що стосуються дітей, саме їхні інтереси повинні мати першочергове значення під час прийняття рішення. ЄСПЛ наголосив, що у справі Заявника за відсутності відповідних інтересів дитини не було об’єктивних підстав для заборони на спілкування з дитиною.

ЄСПЛ звернув увагу на те, що національні суди прийшли до висновку про пропущення Заявником відповідних строків без аналізу конкретних обставин справи. Відповідно до національного законодавства суди мали повноваження поновити строк за наявності для цього поважних причин. Апеляційний суд відхилив пояснення Заявника рішення першої інстанції без належного обґрунтування. Незважаючи на складну фактичну ситуацію дитини, в житті якої брали участь біологічний батько, законний батько і вітчим, фактичні відносини дитини з цими людьми залишалися недослідженими судами. У зв'язку із зазначеним ЄСПЛ констатував, що не було проведено належного аналізу обставин справи для збалансування інтересів дитини та інтересів Заявника. Незважаючи на скарги Заявника з питань права під час оскарження рішення апеляційного суду, суд касаційної інстанції залишив такі скарги без уваги.

З огляду на вищевикладене, ЄСПЛ встановив порушення статті 8 Конвенції, оскільки національні суди не забезпечили повагу до приватного життя Заявника.

Скаргу Заявника за пунктом 1 статті 6 Конвенції щодо порушення права на доступ до суду внаслідок невирішення по суті питання щодо батьківства окремо розглянуто не було.

Аналізуйте судовий акт: «А.Л. проти Польщі» (A.L. v. Poland), заява № 28609/0

«Нойлінгер і Шурук проти Швейцарії» [ВП] (Neulinger and Shuruk v. Switzerland [GC]), заява № 41615/07

«Фон Ганновер проти Німеччини» [ВП] (Von Hannover v. Germany (no. 2) [GC]), заяви № 40660/08 та № 60641/08

«Крістіан Барнабаш Тот проти Угорщини» (Krisztián Barnabás Tóth v. Hungary), заява № 48494/06

«Ружанський проти Польщі» (Różański v. Poland), заява № 55339/00

 

FOURTH SECTION

CASE OF M.T. v. UKRAINE 

(Application no. 950/17)

JUDGMENT

STRASBOURG

19 March 2019

This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of M.T. v. Ukraine,

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:

Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque, President,
Faris Vehabović,
Carlo Ranzoni, judges,
and Andrea Tamietti, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 26 February 2019,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE

1. The case originated in an application (no. 950/17) against Ukraine lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a national of the United States of America, Mr M.T. (“the applicant”), on 20 December 2016. The Vice-President of the Section decided that the applicant’s name should not be disclosed (Rule 47 § 4 of the Rules of Court).

2. The applicant was represented by Mr L. Drozdovskyy, a lawyer practising in Kyiv. The Ukrainian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr I. Lishchyna.

3. The applicant complained under Articles 6 and 8 of the Convention that the domestic courts had failed to establish his paternity restricting thereby his right of access to a court.

4. On 20 March 2017 notice of the application was given to the Government.

THE FACTS

I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

5. The applicant was born in 1946 and currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

6. In 2005 he was an English teacher in a school in Kyiv, Ukraine. At that time he entered into private relations with a married woman living in Kyiv. In 2006 the woman gave birth to a child. Her husband was indicated as the father in the child’s birth certificate. In 2007 a DNA test was performed proving that the applicant was in fact the father of the child. The applicant was not prevented from having access to the child by her mother, who accepted financial support from him on a monthly basis. The applicant bought a car for the child’s mother. In 2011 he wrote a will bequeathing all his property to the child.

7. The applicant had regular contact with the child until 2015 when the mother informed the applicant that she had divorced her husband and that she had decided to marry a German national and move with the child to Germany. As the applicant opposed the decision to emigrate to Germany, the mother denied him access to the child and prevented him from communicating with the child.

8. In June 2015 the applicant initiated proceedings before the Darnytskyy District Court of Kyiv (“the District Court”) seeking recognition of his paternity and to have the child’s birth certificate amended accordingly.

9. During the hearing the mother of the child admitted that the applicant had provided regular financial support and had taken part in the upbringing and education of the child. However, she submitted that the applicant’s claims were time-barred under Article 129 § 2 of the Family Code, which provided a one-year time-limit for such claims (see paragraph 15 below). The applicant contended that he had delayed his lawsuit because he had not wished to disturb the child’s family situation and he had not been prevented from communicating with the child on a regular basis until 2015. Only when the child’s mother had decided to emigrate to another country with the child had he decided to seek formal recognition of his paternity.

10. On 17 November 2015 the District Court allowed the applicant’s claims, declaring him the father of the child and ordering the amendment of the child’s birth certificate. The District Court considered that the applicant had missed the time-limit for valid reasons. It took into account the applicant’s argument that he had not wished to disturb the family and cause any harm to the child with a lawsuit during the long period when the mother had in fact assisted him in having regular access to the child.

11. On 3 February 2016 the Kyiv Court of Appeal overturned the District Court’s decision and dismissed the applicant’s claim as time-barred. The appellate court stated that Article 129 § 2 of the Family Code provided a one-year time-limit, which had started to run from the moment the applicant had found out or should have found out about his paternity. The applicant had become aware of his paternity in 2007 when the DNA test had been performed (see paragraph 6 above); however he had applied to the court in 2015 (see paragraph 8 above), which had been too late.

12. The applicant appealed on points of law, arguing that the Court of Appeal had applied the statute of limitations without duly taking into account the reasons for which he had delayed his action and without examining the child’s interests.

13. On 13 July 2016 the Higher Specialised Civil and Criminal Court dismissed the applicant’s appeal on points of law, without examining whether the applicant had provided valid reasons which could justify his non-compliance with the time-limit set out in Article 129 § 2 of the Family Code.

II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW

A. Family Code of 10 January 2002

14. Under Article 129 § 1 of the Family Code, an individual, who considers that he has fathered a child with a woman who is married to another man, is entitled to submit a claim against the woman’s husband to have his paternity recognised if the latter has been registered as the child’s father.

15. Article 129 § 2 of the Family Code provides that the limitation period of one year applies to the claims for establishing paternity of a child and starts to run from the day when the claimant found out or should have found out about his paternity.

B. Civil Code of 16 January 2003

16. Article 267 § 5 of the Civil Code provides that if a court finds that the limitation period has been missed for a valid reason, the right violated should be subject to protection.

THE LAW

I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 8 OF THE CONVENTION

17. The applicant complained under Article 8 of the Convention that the domestic courts had failed to establish his paternity of the minor child.

This provision reads as follows:

“1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

A. Admissibility

18. The Court has found on numerous occasions that proceedings concerning the establishment of, or a challenge against, paternity concerned that man’s “private life” under Article 8, which encompasses important aspects of one’s personal identity (see A.L. v. Poland, no.28609/08, § 59, 18 February 2014, with further references).

19. Accordingly, Article 8 is applicable to the facts of the present case.

20. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.

B. Merits

1. Arguments of the parties

21. The applicant submitted that the domestic courts had rigidly applied the statute of limitations when refusing his paternity claim without examining whether there had been valid grounds for renewing the time‑limit. In that regard no analysis of the interests of the child and those of the involved adults had been provided. The applicant insisted that, while he had delayed the lawsuit precisely to preserve the family situation and well-being of the child, the legal father had demonstrated a lack of interest in his legal daughter when her mother decided to emigrate with the child to Germany. The applicant further contended that the child’s mother’s decision to emigrate had also destabilised the family situation of the child. Therefore it had been essential that the courts examine all the facts and the interests at issue when determining whether the renewal of the time-limit and examination of the case on the merits had been justified. The applicant then informed the Court that he had settled down in Germany in order to be able to see his daughter.

22. The Government submitted that the statute of limitations applied by the domestic courts pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the stability of the child’s family situation. In the present case the child had regarded another man as her father for a long period of time, while treating the applicant as a friend of the family. The disclosure of the new information as to the applicant’s status might have been detrimental to the child.

2. The Court’s assessment

23. The Court notes that in the present case what is in issue is not an act by the State but the alleged inadequacy of the protection afforded by the domestic courts to the applicants’ private life in a dispute between private parties. In the cases of this type regard must be had to the fair balance that has to be struck between the relevant competing interests (see, for example, Von Hannover v. Germany (no. 2) [GC], nos.40660/08 and 60641/08, §§ 98-99, ECHR 2012). Moreover, in all decisions concerning children their best interests should be of paramount importance (see Neulinger and Shuruk v. Switzerland [GC], no. 41615/07, § 135, ECHR 2010).

24. As regards the paternity disputes initiated by the putative biological fathers, the Court reiterates that despite the margin of appreciation afforded to the domestic authorities in this field, the biological father must not be completely excluded from his child’s life unless there are relevant reasons relating to the child’s best interests to do so (see, in that regard, Kautzor v. Germany, no. 23338/09, § 77, 22 March 2012, and Ahrens v. Germany, no. 45071/09, § 74, 22 March 2012). The Court has found a violation of Article 8 of the Convention where the domestic authorities refused to deal with the putative biological father’s request to establish his paternity by mere reference to the recognition of paternity by another man, without, however, examining the factual background of the case (see, in that regard, Różański v. Poland, no.55339/00, § 78, 18 May 2006). By way of contrast, Article 8 was not violated where the domestic authorities refused to deal with such a request after they had carried out a thorough scrutiny of the interests of the involved individuals, attaching particular weight to the interests of the child, while not ignoring those of the putative biological father (see, in that regard, Krisztián Barnabás Tóth v. Hungary, no. 48494/06, §§ 33-38, 12 February 2013).

25. In the present case the domestic courts found that the applicant submitted his paternity claim outside the time-limit established by law. Under domestic law the courts had had powers to renew the time-limit provided that there had been a valid reason for doing so (see paragraph 16 above). When asking to renew the time-limit, the applicant insisted that he had missed it for good reasons – essentially because he had not wished to disturb the family situation of the child who had a legal father, as long as he had not been prevented from communicating with the child on a regular basis. Only when the applicant found out that the mother had decided to leave the country with the child, did he interfere (see paragraph 9 above). While these reasons were accepted as valid for renewing the time-limit and examining the claim on the merits by the first-instance court (see paragraph 10 above), the court of appeal dismissed those arguments without providing any alternative reasons explaining its decision (see paragraph 11 above). Despite the child’s complex factual situation, which involved the putative biological father, the legal father and the stepfather, the actual relationship of the child with those three men remained completely unexamined and no consideration was given to the question of whether or not the renovation of the time-limit for the applicant’s claim and its examination on the merits would be in the best interests of the child. In that regard, no analysis was carried out to balance the child’s interests with that of the applicant to have his paternity established in such circumstances. Despite the applicant’s appeal on points of law (see paragraph 12 above), the Supreme Court did not address those issues in the course of its review of the case (see paragraph 13 above).

26. The above procedural failings in the domestic proceedings lead the Court to conclude that the domestic appeal courts, in the factual and legal circumstances of the instant case, did not ensure the respect for the applicant’s private life to which he was entitled under the Convention.

27. There has therefore been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION

28. The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that the courts violated his right of access to court by having failed to address the substance of the issues in respect of his paternity claim.

This provision reads, in so far as relevant, as follows:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ... everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ... tribunal ...”

29. The Court notes that this complaint is linked to the one examined above and must therefore likewise be declared admissible. Having regard to the above findings and conclusion under Article 8, the Court considers that no separate issue arises concerning the alleged breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention (see, mutatis mutandis, Phinikaridou v. Cyprus, no. 23890/02, § 71, 20 December 2007, and Novotný v. the Czech Republic, no. 16314/13, § 53, 7 June 2018, with further references).

III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION

30. Article 41 of the Convention provides:

“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”

A. Damage

31. The applicant claimed 30,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non‑pecuniary damage.

32. The Government contended that the claim was groundless.

33. The Court considers that the applicant must have suffered anguish and distress on account of the facts giving rise to the finding of a violation in the present case. Ruling on an equitable basis, the Court awards the applicant EUR 4,500 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

B. Costs and expenses

34. The applicant also claimed EUR 24,522.65 in respect of costs and expenses.

35. The Government contended that the claim was exorbitant and unsubstantiated.

36. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case‑law, the Court considers it reasonable to award the sum of EUR 1,500 for costs and expenses.

C. Default interest

37. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.

FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,

1. Declares the application admissible;

2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention;

3. Holds that there is no need to examine the complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;

4. Holds

(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:

(i) EUR 4,500 (four thousand five hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;

(ii) EUR 1,500 (one thousand five hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, in respect of costs and expenses;

(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;

5. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.

Done in English, and notified in writing on 19 March 2019, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.

Andrea Tamietti                          Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque
Deputy Registrar                        President

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