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Constitutionality of article 127(1)(10) of the Family Code of Russian Federation on account of the complaint lodged by the citizen S. A. Anikiev

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Constitutionality of article 127(1)(10) of the Family Code of Russian Federation on account of the complaint lodged by the citizen S. A. Anikiev

Constitutional Court of Russian Federation

31 January 2014

CRC Provisions
Article 3: Best interests of the child
Article 4: Implementation of rights
Article 27: Standard of living

Other International Provisions:
UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child 1959
UN Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with Special Reference to Foster Placement and Adoption Nationally and Internationally
European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life

Domestic Provisions:
Constitution of Russian Federation, Articles 7 and 38: State support for the family, maternity, paternity and childhood
Constitution of Russian Federation, Article 19: Equality before the law and the courts
Constitution of Russian Federation, Article 49: Presumption of innocence
Family Code of Russian Federation, Article 127.1: persons who have the right to adopt
Family Code of Russian Federation, Article 123, 124: children left without parental care
Federal Law on the guarantees of the rights of the child in Russian Federation, Article 4(1): protection of children from the factors negatively affecting their development

Case Summary:

The complainant’s application to adopt his step-child was rejected on the grounds that he had a criminal record for the infliction of medium damage to health, even though the criminal prosecution was terminated upon reconciliation of the parties. According to Article 127(1)(10) of the Family Code, persons with a criminal record for certain types of crimes cannot qualify as adoptive parents. The complainant alleged that this unconditional and indefinite ban on adoption, excluding any possibility of considering the personality of the potential adoptive parent and the actual circumstances significant to the case, violated his constitutional rights.

Issue and resolution:
Adoption. The Court considered the legality of a prohibition to adopt for persons with a criminal record. It held that an unconditional bar on adoption by persons with a record including crimes other than the most serious is illegal and there must be an opportunity to ask a court to grant the adoption.

Court reasoning:
In reaching its decision, the Court observed that the provisions of Russian law aimed at guaranteeing the rights and legitimate interests of the child are in accordance with the international standards, in particular with the CRC, according to which the States are required to take all appropriate administrative and legislative measures to ensure the child’s protection and well-being and to recognise the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for child’s physical, mental, spirit, moral and social development.

According to the Court, legislative restrictions applicable to the adoption procedure are exclusively aimed at protecting the rights and interests of child, who are the most vulnerable participant in family relationships. Article 127(1)(10) of the Family Code in particular is aimed at guaranteeing the safety of the child. However, such restriction should not be allowed to have a negative effect on the proper realisation of the best interests of the child to be adopted and raised in a family environment. Unconditional restriction such as that in Article 127(1)(10) was held, therefore, to be disproportionate to the very aim of protection the child’s best interests.

Consequently, it was ruled ruled that even if a person has a criminal record for certain crimes (except grave crimes, especially grave crimes and crimes against sexual inviolability and sexual freedom), this should not preclude the court from considering the possibility of granting the adoption, taking into account the nature of the committed crime, the relations between the applicant and the child and the applicant’s capability to guarantee proper physical, spiritual and moral development of the adopted child without putting the child at risk of inflicting damage on their health or moral condition.

Excerpts citing CRC and other relevant human rights instruments:
As translated by CRIN:
“While determining the legislative measures that guarantee the realisation of rights and legitimate interests of the child as the most important constitutional and socially significant value, the requirements of international legal acts, which form part of the national legal order according to art. 15(4) of the Constitution, must be observed. For example, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989), recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding, obliges the States that ratified the Convention to take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures to ensure child’s protection and to recognize the right of the child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development (preamble, art. 3(2), art. 4(1), art. 27).”

“According to the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child (Resolution 13/86(IV) of 20 November 1959) and UN Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with Special Reference to Foster Placement and Adoption Nationally and Internationally (Resolution 41/85 of 3 December 1986), a child, due to his/her physical and mental immaturity, requires special protection and care, including the best possible legal protection, while observing the best interests of the child and his/her need of love and the right for continuous care must be of utmost importance when considering questions of placing the child with the persons that are not his biological parents”.

“Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights establishing the right to respect for family and private life, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, also requires that national authorities observe a just balance between competing interests and, while determining such balance, especially consider best interest of the child, which, depending on its nature and importance, can be prioritised over the similar interests of the parents (as follows from the ECtHR judgments Pini & Bertani, Manera & Atripaldi v. Romania of 22 June 2004 and Vladimir Lazarev & Pavel Lazarev v. Russian Federation of 24 November 2005)”.

In Russian language:
При определении законодательных мер, гарантирующих реализацию прав и законных интересов ребенка как важнейшей конституционно значимой и социальной ценности, подлежат учету и требования международно-правовых актов, которые в силу статьи 15 (часть 4) Конституции Российской Федерации являются составной частью правовой системы Российской Федерации. Так, Конвенция о правах ребенка (одобрена Генеральной Ассамблеей ООН 20 ноября 1989 года), признавая, что ребенку для полного и гармоничного развития его личности необходимо расти в семейном окружении, в атмосфере счастья, любви и понимания, обязывает подписавшие ее государства обеспечивать детям необходимые для их благополучия защиту и заботу, принимать все надлежащие законодательные, административные и другие меры для осуществления прав, признанных в Конвенции, признавать право каждого ребенка на уровень жизни, необходимый для его физического, умственного, духовного, нравственного и социального развития (преамбулапункт 2 статьи 3статья 4 и пункт 1 статьи 27).

Согласно ранее принятым Генеральной Ассамблеей ООН Декларации прав ребенка (Резолюция 1386 (XIV) от 20 ноября 1959 года) и Декларации о социальных и правовых принципах, касающихся защиты и благополучия детей, особенно при передаче детей на воспитание и их усыновлении на национальном и международном уровнях (Резолюция 41/95 от 3 декабря 1986 года), ребенок ввиду его физической и умственной незрелости нуждается в специальной охране и заботе, включая надлежащую правовую защиту, а наилучшее обеспечение интересов ребенка и его потребность в любви и право на обеспеченность и постоянную заботу должны являться главным соображением при рассмотрении всех вопросов, связанных с передачей ребенка для заботы о нем не его собственными родителями.

Закрепляющая право на уважение частной и семейной жизни статья 8 Конвенции о защите прав человека и основных свобод в ее истолковании Европейским Судом по правам человека также обязывает национальные власти обеспечивать соблюдение справедливого баланса между конкурирующими интересами и при определении такого баланса особое значение придавать интересам ребенка, которые в зависимости от их характера и важности могут иметь приоритет над аналогичными интересами родителей (постановление от 22 июня 2004 года по делу “Пини и Бертани, Манера и Атрипальди (Pini & Bertani, Manera & Atripaldi) против Румынии”, решение от 24 ноября 2005 года по вопросу приемлемости жалобы “Владимир Лазарев и Павел Лазарев против России”).

Article 127(1)(10) of the Family Code was amended according to the judgment. According to the amended provision, the court, when deciding the adoption cases in relation to the persons who previously had criminal charges or were under criminal prosecution for committing certain crimes, should consider the nature of the crime, the time passed from the date of the commission of the crime, type of mens rea, circumstances characterising the personality, including the behaviour of the applicant after commission of the crime, and other circumstances allowing to determine his/her capability to provide proper physical, psychical, spiritual and moral development of the child without putting at risk the child and his/her health.

CRIN Comments
CRIN believes this decision is consistent with the CRC. Under Article 21 of the Convention States must ensure that the best interests of the child are a paramount consideration in all adoption procedures. However, the best interests of each child will differ according to their particular needs. Therefore, whether allowing a person to adopt a child is consistent with the child’s best interests must be decided individually in each case.

Постановление КС РФ от 31 января 2014 года № 1-П

Link to Full Judgment:

This case summary is provided by the Child Rights International Network for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.