Alternative family structure – test case in Court of Appeal

19 Jun 2012

A three year old boy with “three parents” is at the centre of an Appeal Court test case on the status of “alternative families”.

The mother of the boy, along with her partner who are in a same sex relationship are currently attempting to stop the father of the boy having any paternal rights. They claim that he is relinquishing on an informal agreement which was originally made before they went ahead with the pregnancy.

The mother says she made a pact with the father during a restaurant meeting where it was agreed that she and her partner would fill the role of primary parents and that the father would not enforce any parental rights.

The couple are now claiming that the father has “betrayed” them and the original agreement as he is now demanding more contact  with his son in order to develop a closer relationship with his son.

The father is claiming that he was always more than just a “sperm donor” and that no clear agreement that his involvement with his son would be limited was ever made.

The court heard that the father currently has contact with his son for five hours each fortnight, but would like this gradually increased to the point where his son can stay with him overnight and travel abroad with him on holidays.

Counsel for the father emphasised that the father has no desire to undermine the role of the mother or her partner as the boy’s primary carers, but wants the opportunity to enable a “developing relationship” with his only child. The father described in court how he attended the birth and had held his new born baby in his arms.

Counsel for the mother and her partner argue however that they had planned parenthood together as a couple and if they had known that the father would later make such demands they would have opted to use an anonymous sperm donor, rather than a close friend, which the father was before the birth.

Counsel further argued that they had no objection to the father visiting the boy at Christmas and sharing in their company during other activities and family events. The couple argue that they would not have chosen to bring a child into anything other than a traditional two-parent family and that they cannot conceive of their son being shuttled to two different home, which they argue would cause significant emotional damage to their son.

Counsel continued that their son was now spending further time away from home than they had anticipated and that their choice of family life should be respected..

Recognising the importance of the case, the Appeal Court judges have now reserved their decision until a later date, which at this time is undisclosed.

If you are considering having a family through surrogacy or adoption contact Naomi Angell who can talk you through the process and what it will entail.

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