What is a family? A question in donor conception
A recent decision in an English case (Re G (a child), 28 February 2018) illustrates dilemmas which may arise in donor conception cases. A child was conceived by a woman in a same sex couple by artificial insemination. This followed upon an agreement with a sperm donor, the child’s biological father. The necessary steps in law were followed and the same sex couple became the legal parents of the child. Thereafter, the couple were the only ones to have parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the child. The couple had agreed with the sperm donor that he would have a relationship with the child. At first he saw the child regularly, but then relations between the child’s parents and the biological father broke down and for a period of about eighteen months the biological father did not see the child at all. Court proceedings were raised. A guardian was appointed to the child. The Judge was guided substantially by the views and recommendations of the guardian. As a result, the Judge not only decided that the biological father should start seeing the child again, but also ordered the parents of the biological father should see the child on two occasions every year.
The Judge stated the child should have an opportunity to have “meaningful contact” with the donor, to give him an understanding of his background and identity. It was stated that the purpose of contact was not for the donor to be regarded as a parent. It is interesting that the donor’s parents had not applied to the Court to have contact with the child, but the Judge granted such contact on her own initiative following the guardian’s recommendations. The Judge stated with regard to the donor’s parents that, once again, they should not be seen as grandparents, but as the parents of the donor, commenting that knowing the donor’s parents, and seeing them regularly although infrequently would help the child have “a fuller understanding of his background”.
Following upon the decision, the child’s parents accepted the decision with regard to the donor’s contact but objected to, and appealed, the involvement of the donor’s parents. The Judge’s decision was upheld on appeal and therefore the child, now four years of age, will see the donor on seven occasions every year, and the donor’s parents on two occasions.
Reading all of this indicates that the Judge did not wish the donor to be regarded as a parent, or his parents as grandparents, but simply wished the child to understand his identity and parental lineage – a child-centred decision.
It’s imperative to seek legal advice if you are considering entering into a surrogacy arrangement or investigating donor conception. The family team at Morisons are experts in this niche area. For more information please contact a member of our expert team on 0131 226 6541 or 0141 332 5666.
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