(CN) — French courts did not violate the rights of a lesbian who is barred from seeing the child she and her ex-partner had raised together, Europe's human rights court ruled Thursday.
The seven-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights unanimously ruled that Rachel Honner's rights had not been violated because French courts properly followed French law in barring her from seeing the child. French appellate judges said the relationship between the Honner and her ex-partner was so toxic that the boy's well-being would be hurt if Honner was allowed to have contact with him.
Honner, a Paris woman in her 50s, and her ex-partner, identified only with the initial C., lived together between 2000 and 2012 in Belgium. During that time, they decided to start a family and entered a civil union. C. became pregnant using assisted reproductive methods and gave birth to a boy in 2007. After the couple broke up, however, C. refused to let Honner see the boy she had helped raise from birth.
A French lower court judge ordered C. to grant Honner visiting and contact rights, ruling that the child’s birth was the result of a decision by the two women to start a family, according to a summary of the case provided by the human rights court in Strasbourg, France. The ruling was available only in French.
C. appealed, winning a reversal from the Paris Court of Appeal. The appellate court ruled that giving Honner contact rights was “excessively traumatic for the child” and “therefore contrary to his best interests,” according to the Strasbourg court summary.
When France's highest court of appeals, the Court of Cassation, affirmed that finding, Honner took her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Honner charged that the Court of Appeal decision was based on biased evidence against her provided by her ex-partner and a doctor.
In its ruling, the Strasbourg court said that the four and a half years the two women and the child lived together constituted a family life, as defined by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Under that article, an individual's privacy and family life are to be protected.
But the Strasbourg court said the French judges were right to consider both the rights of Honner and the well-being of the child. Under French law, the court noted, family judges are allowed to consider whether it's in a child's interest to allow people who are not the biological parents or relatives to maintain relations with a child.
“The court noted that the Paris Court of Appeal had held that the child’s meetings with the applicant had been too traumatic for him and that it was therefore not in his interest to pursue them,” the Strasbourg court said in the case summary. “Its decision had therefore been based on the child’s best interests.”
The Strasbourg court said the boy, described as fragile, was at the center of a traumatizing and guilt-ridden situation between Honner and his biological mother, who were unable to speak with one another without being aggressive. It also noted the boy was reluctant to visit Honner's home.
Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.
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