Odievre v. France

European Court of Human Rights
13 February 2003


The applicant, Ms Odievre, was adopted, as her natural mother refused to take care of her after giving the birth. As adult Ms Odievre tried to find out the identity of her natural parents and brothers. Her request was rejected because she had been born under a special procedure which allowed mothers to remain anonymous.


The applicant complained that she was unable to obtain identifying information about her natural family and had thereby been prevented from reconstituting her personal history. Thus, her right to private life had been violated.

Court's ruling

First the Court emphasized that birth, and in particular the circumstances in which a child is born, forms part of a child\'s, and subsequently the adult's, private life guaranteed by Article 8.

In order to analyze whether the fair balance was struck between the applicant’s right to private life and the legitimate interests of her mother, the Court weighted as follows:

Ms Odievre was adopted when she was still child and was trying to trace another person, her natural mother, by whom she was abandoned at birth and who has expressly requested that information about the birth remain confidential. Not only child's right to know his or her origins, but also the mothers right to remain anonymous in order to protect herself and her health must be taken into account.

The applicant was 38 years old, having been adopted at the age of four, and that non-consensual disclosure could entail substantial risks also for the adoptive family which brought up the applicant, and her natural father and siblings, each of whom also has a right to respect for his or her private and family life.

It must be taken into account that by allowing to access to the particular information, the general interest - to protect the mother\'s and child's health during pregnancy and birth and to avoid abortions, in particular illegal abortions, and children being abandoned other than under the proper procedure - could be impeded.

The Court observed that the applicant was given access to non-identifying information about her mother and natural family that enabled her to trace some of her roots, while ensuring the protection of third-party interests. Thus, the authorities had struck a fair balance between the competing interests and no violation of Article 8 of the Convention was found.

Learn more

Last updated 08/11/2023