The High Court has refused a man's application for direct contact with a child born to a same-sex couple using his sperm. Mrs Justice Theis said that an order for direct contact would put the child at an unacceptable risk of emotional harm from the disruption it might cause to her existing arrangements.
The child, now four months old, was born following an arrangement between a same-sex couple and the applicant, under which he agreed to supply his sperm. According to the judgment, the man contended that he was seeking to become a co-parent, but the couple denied this, claiming they were simply seeking a known sperm donor with 'limited' involvement. The parties met through a website, and years later underwent an artificial insemination procedure at home.
After having limited contact with the child following her birth, the relationship between the man and the couple broke down, and the contact was stopped all together. As the birth mother was in a civil partnership at the time of insemination, the man was not recognised in law as the child's legal parent. However, he sought fortnightly weekend contact with the child, including staying contact in the school holidays and special occasions. The extent of the requested contact was consistent with that of a 'separated partner', the judge said.
The man argued that the child 'deserved to have a male role model' in her life and that, as her biological father, she should have a relationship with him. Mrs Justice Theis was not persuaded, however, saying there was no difference in outcomes between children brought up in same-sex and heterosexual families.
'The critical welfare considerations are the stability and security of the relationships within the family,' she said, concluding that direct contact in this case would 'put at risk the security of her placement, both in the short and long term.'
Mrs Justice Theis, who had given leave for the man to make the application in March, said she was also concerned with the applicant's 'lack of insight' into the child's welfare considerations, which she said were 'not fixed'. '[The child's] welfare has to be looked at in the context of what her needs are now, not what the parties might have intended prior to her birth,' she said.
The court did, however, allow indirect contact once a year in the form of written communication between the man and the child. This would also give the child the option to meet or seek information about her biological father in the future, the Mrs Justice Theis acknowledged. In October, the High Court also permitted indirect contact between a sperm donor and two teenage girls in a different case (see BioNews 824).
Meanwhile, the High Court has said that applications for parental orders following international surrogacy arrangements must be allocated to a High Court judge. The guidance, which has been approved by the President of the Family Division, came in a case concerning a surrogacy arrangement made in India, where the parents encountered difficulties obtaining travel documents and the child was not able to leave the country until one year after the birth. The parents argued that a failure to allocate the case properly had contributed to the delay.