The High Court has decided that a lesbian (non birth) mother does not have to financially support the ten year old child she conceived together with her partner. In a landmark decision, the court has ruled that even though the mother was awarded ‘parental responsibility’ for her child and the right to full involvement in her child’s care, she cannot be held financially responsible because, at law, she is not a ‘parent’.
The decision highlights the complexity of concepts of parenthood as they apply to same sex parenting, and the problems that arise when relationships break down.
It is not the first time that there have been difficulties over maintenance and financial responsibility. Sperm donor Andy Bathie (represented by Natalie Gamble) was pursued for maintenance by the CSA after the lesbian couple he donated to split up, because (as a biological father who had donated outside a licensed clinic) the law treated him, rather than the lesbian non-birth mother, as the children’s other ‘parent’.
The case also highlights why it is so important for lesbian couples who have children together to ensure that they secure their legal position fully as parents. Lesbian non birth mothers are now automatically treated as the second ‘parent’ of any child they conceive with their partner, if the couple are civil partners at conception and/or the couple conceives at a UK licensed fertility clinic. The new rules apply to children conceived after 6 April 2009 but are not retrospective. For couples who have children together who were conceived before 2009, they will need to go through an adoption process to ensure that both partners (and no one else) are share responsibility fully, both legally and financially.
For more information about how the law applies to disputes between lesbian parents, see the parenting and children section on our website, and our pages for lesbian couples who conceive a family together
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