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Law denying fathers birth registration of extramarital children ruled unconstitutional

March 30, 2023 - 09:49 By Yonhap
South Korea's Constitutional Court in Seoul (Yonhap)

The Constitutional Court has ruled against a family registration law that practically bars biological fathers from registering the birth of children they have in extramarital relations with married women, legal sources said Thursday.

The court recently delivered the ruling in a unanimous decision on a petition filed against Articles 46 and 57 of the Act on Registration of Family Relations, saying they breach the basic rights of children born out of wedlock.

Under the articles, the duty of birth registration for an extramarital child lies with the biological mother.

The child's extramarital biological father is exceptionally allowed to register the child's birth only when the whereabouts of the biological mother is unknown.

A group of men who have children from extramarital relations with married women and children born in that manner filed the petition, saying the current law presumes the children to be the offspring of the women's legal husbands and makes it practically difficult for biological fathers to register their birth.

Following yearlong deliberations, the Constitutional Court recently ruled that the family registration law violates constitutionally guaranteed basic rights of extramarital children, including rights to dignity, happiness and family life.

"Birth registration helps provide the very minimum protections children need to grow up healthy through protections from the parents and the family," the court said.

The court said that under the current law, women who gave birth to a child out of wedlock are not likely to register the child's birth out of fear that their affairs would be found out. Such children therefore often get deprived of the right to be registered immediately after their birth, it pointed out.

The court decision, however, does not immediately lead to the invalidation of the act's articles in question.

The court gave the National Assembly until May 31, 2025, to enact an alternative act, a ruling that aims to prevent any possible social chaos if the law was invalidated immediately.

The court also dismissed the biological fathers' petition, saying the Act does not infringe upon their rights. (Yonhap)