The High Court has today made a landmark ruling, allowing two civilly partnered sperm donors the right to ask for contact with their biological children (against the wishes of the children’s respective lesbian mothers), but also warning that it will consider the need to protect the lesbian families carefully before a final decision is made. NGA is representing the mothers in the case.
The ruling has significant implications for same sex parents and families created through donor conception. It is the first case to test rights for same sex parents introduced by Parliament in 2008, which give lesbian mothers the same legal protection following sperm donation as opposite sex parents. Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, the mothers in this case, as civil partners, are the legal parents of their children. The biological fathers, like sperm donors through clinics, are expressly excluded from being treated as the legal fathers ‘for any purpose’. Relationships broke down after the men each sought more involvement than the mothers agreed. They applied to court, and the court has now ruled that they can have their cases heard.
The court’s decision opens the door to legal claims from sperm donors who want involvement but have no legal parental status. But the judgment also makes it clear that every case will be considered carefully. Donors will not simply be treated as other fathers are, and protecting the primary family is also a material consideration.
Donors will only be able to seek redress on the basis of the the particular facts, where this is justified. In Re G and Re Z, the fact that the donors had had early contact with the children was what persuaded the court that they should at least be allowed to have their cases heard. However, although the court has given the donors ‘leave’ to apply, it does not necessarily follow that they will actually be given any rights of contact, and the court has warned that the underlying legal framework will be a significant consideration, and that the level of contact originally being sought may be considered ‘wholly unrealistic’.
Mr Justice Baker suggested that there was no principle being created of automatic rights for donors to lesbian couples: “I endorse the submissions that the policy underpinning these reforms is an acknowledgement that alternative family forms without fathers are sufficient to meet a child’s need… Thousands of children in this country are being brought up happily and successfully by same-sex couples.”
Going forward, there are some significant lessons for same sex parents (and anyone conceiving through known donation):
You can read the judgment in full: Re G (a minor) and Re Z (a minor)  EWHC 143 (Fam).
Daily Mail (front page national headline) – Donor Dads win rights to see their children
Tags: dispute, father, gay dads, High Court, known donor, lesbian mums, lesbian parent, lesbian parenting law, Mr Justice Baker, Natalie Gamble, Re G, Re G (a minor) and Re Z (a minor)  EWHC 134 (Fam), Re Z, same sex parent, same sex parenting law, sperm donor