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European Court of Human Rights strengthens the rights of biological fathers

In a highly anticipated decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on December 21, 2010 that biological fathers have a right to see their children even if they had not established a relationship with them but had “shown a serious interest in the children” and expressed the wish to build a familial relationship with them.

The ECHR, based in Strasbourg, France, was ruling on a case in which successive German courts had denied the man the right to see his twin daughters, who were born after he had a relationship with a married German woman. The ruling further establishes a precedent that unmarried fathers in Germany have a right to see their children even after a relationship ends.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland are generally considered to be conservative when it comes to granting unmarried fathers custody or access to their children after separation. However, the German government is presently reviewing the laws on this issue, and the Secretary of Justice, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, announced today, that she wishes to move swiftly in the wake of this decision that comes just four month after the Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that a law denying unwed fathers custody rights to their children without the mother’s permission is unconstitutional.

The judgment is available through the database at the ECHR.

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