Some interesting news this morning of a landmark ruling made in the High Court where permission, or leave as it is referred to in legal language, was given to two sperm donors to apply for contact with children they had helped bring into being with two (different) lesbian mother families. All the adults involved in the case are civially partnered, thus giving the lesbian mothers legal parenthood of the children with both names on the birth certificate, despite the fact that inseminations took place outside of an HFEA licensed clinic.
Natalie Gamble, one of the solicitors involved in the case has blogged about the ruling and her commentary is here http://www.nataliegambleassociates.co.uk/blog/2013/01/31/landmark-same-sex-parenting-ruling-by-the-high-court/
The blog also contains a link to the full judgement, which is worth reading for it’s understanding of this very complex situation and the humanity with which Mr Justice Baker, whilst recognising the vulnerability felt by the mothers, suggests to all parties that they settle their differences without further resort to court proceedings.
The bottom line in this case, as in so many involving known donors, is that if you wish to have a known donor for your child then it is VITAL that you spend a long time before any action takes place, listening to and communicating clearly with all parties. This includes the partners of both donor and recipient. An agreement, showing intention into the future should be drawn up, but in the recognition that this may not carry any weight in court proceedings where the best interests of the child will prevail.
The factor that swayed the judge in this case was that the donors had been invited to be involved in the births of the children (or at least in one case had) and had had considerable involvement with the children when they were small. In one family the donor was responsible for the creation of two children, thus having had a good enough relationship at the time to be invited to donate again. It is unsurprising, given this level of contact, that the donors developed paternal feelings for the children and wished to continue to be in their lives.
As Natalie Gamble says –
“Everyone going into known donation or co-parenting arrangements should be crystal clear about their expectations from the outset. Setting the strongest possible foundations at the start is the best way of avoiding later problems. One way to do that is to put an agreement in place, but the real key is good communication – an agreement is a means to that rather than an end in itself. There is more from our blog on How to Avoid a Known Donor Dispute.”
Postscript: Excellent commentary on this case and the issues it raises in BioNews 12.2.13 http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_252971.asp?dinfo=2uL952VlWahLy5RT8ZNOYW3g&PPID=253303