A recently reported case, RE SAB (A Child), demonstrates the complications which can arise when addressing parenting roles in non-traditional family units, and the importance of having discussions about the role each person will play, and the expectations of all those involved in advance.
The case centred on a same-sex couple who had a child using the sperm of a friend, with whom one of them was said to have had an on/off historical physical relationship. Following the birth of the child, there was disagreement between the couple on the one hand, and the biological Father on the other, as to the extent he should have in the child’s life, and particular, in respect of contact and decision making.
The Court had to look at the expectation of all the parties at the time of the agreement, and what they had intended would be the case, as well as the circumstances at the time matter went before the Court. After hearing evidence, the Court felt that at the time they had entered into the arrangement and for a time afterwards, it was accepted by all 3 that the father was more than a sperm donor and would have some involvement with the child, and that it was in the best interests of the child for that to continue to be the case moving forward.
The case demonstrates the way strict legal definitions of “parent” do not always sit easily in the many new variations of family unit made possible by new scientific techniques, and families which do not sit in the old-fashioned definition of a family. Until such time as the law is changed, people in such situations must do the best they can to secure their position within the legal framework as it stands. Whilst no one can ever legislate for all future eventualities, especially where children are concerned, a good way to try and minimise problems is to ensure that in-depth discussions are had at the earliest possible stage and make sure that everyone is on the same page about what the future will hold. It's always advisable for an agreement to be drawn up to evidence those discussions and any matters which are agreed.
I am increasingly being instructed to represent people who are involved in a wide variation of family structures, be it through surrogacy, adoption, gamete donation and the like and there is no doubt that these complications are affecting more and more people.
Having a child should be a wonderful time in any couples’ life and in their relationship and whilst consulting a lawyer may seem an unnatural step at such a time, it can often be a valuable hour spent to get an idea of the trips and traps and how to avoid them. The law is complex and difficult and anyone involved in this kind of arrangement is advised to make sure they do their research before embarking on any agreement; whether commercial, official or informal.
Slater and Gordon offer both fixed fees and flexible pricing for family and children law services. For a free initial consultation call freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help.