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ECHR Gives Decision in Challenging Paternity Case

The European Court of Human Rights has recently given its ruling in an interesting case concerning a man’s right to contest the paternity of a child. 

The applicant in the case was a Bulgarian national, Tsanko Todorov Doktorov. He and his wife obtained a divorce in 2006, and shortly afterwards Mr Doktorov discovered that one of their two children, who was born in 2003, had been conceived with another man. In January 2007 he arranged for a DNA test to be carried out, which revealed that he was not the biological father of the child. He therefore brought a civil claim the following month to contest paternity.

However, his claim was dismissed by the Bulgarian court as time-barred, because under Bulgarian law any challenge to paternity had to be brought within one year from learning of the child’s birth. This decision was confirmed by two higher courts in Bulgaria.

Mr Doktorov then took his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), claiming that his rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to respect for private and family life) had been breached because he had been unable to challenge in court his paternity of one of his children. He had been prevented from doing so because the one-year time-limit began from the point he knew about the child’s birth. However, he had not discovered that he was not the child’s father until after this time-limit.

The ECHR has now ruled in Mr Doktorov’s favour, finding that his Convention rights had been breached.

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