The applicants were Mr and Ms Mennesson and their children - twins who were born in the USA to a surrogate mother using the gametes of the first applicant and an egg from a donor. When they returned to France, the French authorities refused to register Mr and Ms Mennesson as the parents of the child, because they had a suspicion of surrogacy which in their view was contrary to the public order.
The applicants complained that, to the detriment of the children’s best interests, they were unable to obtain a legal recognition of the parent-child relationship in France . That has violated the right to respect for their private and family life guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention.
The Court found it obvious that the right to private and family life of the applicants has been interfered with. As the national law expressly provided that surrogacy agreements were considered null and void, the interference was prescribed by law. It was aimed to protect the children and the surrogate mothers themselves, therefore the limitation had a legitimate aim.
As the Court observed, respect for private life requires that everyone should be able to establish details of their identity as individual human beings, which includes the legal parent-child relationship. Further, whenever the situation of a child is in issue, the best interests of that child are paramount.
The Court stated that:
The right to family life of the first two applicants, the intended parents, was not violated as they could still live together with their children and no particular hardships were created to them because of the refusal to be registered as children’s parents.
The refusal to register first and second applicants as the parents of the third and fourth applicant undermined the children’s identity within French society. The refusal created uncertainty as to whether the children could obtain French citizenship and limits their right to inherit from their intended parents. In this case the intended father was also the biological father of the children and the refusal to register therefore came into conflict with the biological reality.
The Court found that the right to respect for family life of the third and fourth applicant (children) had been violated.