The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that a delay of more than five years in concluding divorce proceedings violated a Croatian man’s man right to remarry.
In VK v Croatia, the man and his wife had been married for 11 years and had a child. When the marriage came to an end, the former couple sought to make the usual arrangements regarding contact and maintenance, but the man also requested a DNA test in order to confirm that he really was the father of the child. In total the proceedings took more than five years.
The man complained to the ECHR that this delay had violated his rights under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers both the right to a fair trial and the right to public hearings “within a reasonable time”. During the prolonged delay he had been unable to remarry and had also had to endure uncertainty over his paternity of the child.
The ECHR ruled that there were no exceptional circumstances in the case which could justify the delay. Issues could arise, it said, when countries which allow divorce fail to conduct them within a reasonable period of time.
The five year delay in this case had amounted to a unreasonable restriction on VK’ right to marry. The Court ruled that VK’s right under Article 6 had been breached, as well as his rights under Articles 12 (the right to marry) and Article 13 (the right to an effective remedy). The latter finding related to the fact that the Croatian authorities had not met their own time limits for legal proceedings.
VK was awarded €4000.