X, Y, Z v. the United Kingdom

European Court of Human Rights
22 April 1997


The first applicant, Mr X, was born as a woman, but had undergone medical treatment and lived as a man. He was in a long term relationship with the second applicant, Ms Y. They decided to have a child and Ms Y was impregnated through artificial insemination by donor (AID) treatment with sperm from an anonymous donor. After the child Z (the third applicant) was born, Mr X wanted to be legally recognised as his father. However, he was not permitted to be registered as the child's father and that part of the register was left blank.


The applicants submitted that the lack of legal recognition of the relationship between Mr X and the child Z amounted to a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

Court's ruling

The Court reminded that the notion of "family life" in Article 8 is not confined solely to families based on marriage and may encompass other de facto relationships. When deciding whether a relationship can be said to amount to "family life", a number of factors may be relevant, including whether the couple live together, the length of their relationship and whether they have demonstrated their commitment to each other by having children together or by any other means. Finding that Mr X has lived with Ms Y together as her partner and has taken care of the child, the Court concluded that de facto family ties link the three applicants.

The Court noted that:

  • The applicants, including the child, have not suffered any legal or real-life hardships because of the fact that Mr X was not registered as the child's father.
  • It was impossible to predict the extent to which the absence of a legal connection between Mr X and the child would affect the latter's development.
  • Mr X was in no way precluded to act as the child\'s father socially.

The Court observed that there is no common European standard with regard to the granting of parental rights to transsexuals or regarding the manner in which the legal relationship between a child conceived by AID and the person who performs the role of father should be regulated. Therefore, the states have wide margin of appreciation in determining how to regulate these issues. In the particular case, the Court ruled that the state has acted within this margin and has not violated the right to private life of the applicants.

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Last updated 08/11/2023