ADF International

S v UK

S v. United Kingdom

Date of most recent action: 13 Dec 2015

What’s at Stake

  • The right of mothers to family life
  • Promoting the best interests of the child


The European Convention on Human Rights is clear in its protection of family life: children have a right to know their parents, and parents have a right to a relationship with their children. But for S, a Romanian woman living in the UK, her right to a relationship with her 15-month-old daughter has been severely restricted by the UK Courts.

She had arranged to have a child with her male friend of 25 years and agreed that, after a successful process of artificial insemination, she would raise the child and he would only have a secondary role. But after the girl was born, the man and his male partner filed a claim for parental responsibility in the UK Courts. Contrary to the mother’s version of the events, the same-sex couple claimed that S had essentially volunteered to be a surrogate mother for their child, insisting the agreement was that the child would live with them and the mother would play only a minor role in the child’s upbringing.

The case went to the High Court, where judgment was handed down removing the child from the mother and awarding full parental responsibility and custody to the same-sex couple. The High Court judge was highly critical of the mother in the judgment, granting her just two hours of supervised contact with her child every two weeks, arguing that anything more than this would confuse the child as to who her main carers were. Furthermore, the judge imposed a ‘gagging’ order which prevented the mother from speaking out for months about what had happened.

In view of the Convention’s protection of a mother’s right to have a relationship with her child, the court’s decision amounts to an extreme interference with her right to family life and a violation of the Convention. ADF International therefore brought the case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in an effort to reverse the decision of the High Court.

Our Role in the Case

ADF International filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights arguing a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of S v. United Kingdom.

Legal Documents

ECHR Application – 13 Dec 2015

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