23 July 2007
ByAppeared in BioNews 417
A sperm donor from the Republic of Ireland is fighting for joint custody of his biological son, following the break-down of his relationship with the lesbian couple he donated his sperm to. On 19 July he won a Supreme Court battle, preventing the couple from taking the child to Australia for a year, pending the custody hearing. The case is unprecedented in the Republic of Ireland, where neither the parental rights of sperm donors nor lesbian couples are defined in law.
When the sperm was donated in 2006, the parties (who cannot be named due to Irish law which grants anonymity to family law litigants) made a contractual agreement allowing visiting rights to the biological father. The child also carries his father's name. The relationship between the couple and donor reportedly broke down shortly after the birth of the child, who is now 14 months old.
The couple, one of whom is Irish and the other Australian, had a civil partnership ceremony in England before the birth of the child. They now wish to take him to Australia for a year so he can get to know his extended family. The injunction prevents them from leaving the country for more than six weeks at a time, until the custody case is resolved.
The decision was reportedly made on the basis of the best interests of the child, who was deemed to benefit from close contact with his biological father. The decision was not unanimous and the dissenting Judge, Justice Fennelly, argued that there was no evidence that the boy's interests would be harmed through leaving the country.