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ECtHR judgment on parental contact with children still not enforced

In the judgment entered in Z. v. Poland the European Court of Human Rights held that it is the state’s duty to take all necessary steps to ensure the exercise of a person’s right to family life, including the right of parental contact with a child. The ECtHR decided the case four years ago. Since that time Poland has taken a number of actions in order to enforce the judgment. However, in the Foundation’s assessment, these actions fell short of the objective of the full implementation of the decision.

In the Government’s report presented to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, Poland noted that the Code of Civil Procedure had been amended in order to enforce the judgment. Under a new Section added to the Code, entitled “Matters concerning the execution of parental contact rights”, proceedings in matters of parental contacts is initiated only at a party’s request.

The new regulations also introduce a possibility to oblige a party hindering contact to pay to the other party a designated sum of money for each violation of a judicial parental contact order. The government also reported that the judgment had been translated into Polish, disseminated among judges and published on the website of the Ministry of Justice. Moreover, the applicant was paid compensation of EUR 5,000.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights brought this issue to the attention of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. The HFHR noted that the government failed to collect any statistics which enable a review of the practical effectiveness of the newly introduced amendment of the Code of Civil Procedure. The Foundation also pointed out that the new regulation is not fully compatible with other legal remedies which courts may use in cases involving parental contacts.

According to the HFHR, a potential or even actual obligation to pay a certain sum of money is not a remedy that can sufficiently influence the conduct of the parent who permanently restricts the other parent’s contact with the child. Furthermore, the court is not obliged to advise parties of the available legal remedies. In consequence of the above, there is a risk that a party who is not represented by professional counsel may be unable to exercise all their rights of parental contact.

The Foundation’s submission to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers was drafted together with Radosław Rudnik, Anna Olczak-Agacka and Ewa Don-Siemion, lawyers of Chajec Don-Siemion & Żyto sp.k.

To view the submission, click here.

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