The ECHR judgment of 27 April 2017 in the case "Schmidt v. Latvia" (application No. 22493/05).
In 2005, the applicant was assisted in the preparation of the application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to Latvia.
In the case, a complaint was successfully considered regarding the evasion of the court for divorce cases from the proper provision of the defendant's notification. In the case of violation of the requirements of Art. 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The circumstances of the case
The applicant divorced her husband, with whom she lived in the city of Riga (Latvia), and moved to the former residence of the couple in the city of Hamburg (Germany). Without notification of the applicant, her husband subsequently initiated a divorce proceedings in Latvia. He told the court on divorce cases that he did not know her address. After the initial unsuccessful attempt to give the applicant documents on the divorce at her address in Riga, the divorce court delivered the delivery in two notices in a Latvian official newspaper. Without information on the proceedings, the applicant did not participate in the hearing, and the divorce was announced in her absence. In the Convention proceedings, she complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that she was refused a fair trial of the case.
Concerning compliance with article 6, paragraph 1, of the Convention. A comparative legal study on the procedures for the delivery of documents in 31 member states of the Council of Europe has shown that the plaintiffs are required to indicate the defendant's address. If the address is not known, reasonable efforts should be made to establish it in some States by the courts of the country, and in others - by the plaintiff or other party, such as the prosecutor, bailiff or special representative. However, the Court emphasized that, regardless of which approach was chosen, the authorities had to act with due diligence to ensure that the defendants were notified of the proceedings and had the opportunity to appear before the courts and defend themselves.
The legislation of Latvia did not require the courts of the country to take reasonable measures to establish the defendant's residence on their own initiative. There was also no other person obliged to verify whether the plaintiff had taken any measures, not to mention sufficient, to establish the defendant's address, or to provide guarantees in a situation in which the plaintiff is not interested in locating the defendant's residence or hiding this information from the court. The Court emphasized that the important task of notifying respondents about the proceedings instituted against them could not be attributed to the plaintiff. In addition, the courts of States parties to the Convention must verify the truthfulness of the information submitted to them by the plaintiff. However, in the present case, despite several indications that the husband was notified of the applicant's place of residence, the divorce court did not attempt to establish the truthfulness of the information he had communicated. Thus, the divorce proceedings were incompatible with the requirements of a fair trial.
The violation of the requirements of Article 6 of the Convention (unanimously) was committed.
In the application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court awarded the applicant EUR 5,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.