Australia’s High Court has been tasked with hearing a case that could have significant ramifications for a same-sex couple who conceived their eldest daughter in 2006 with the help of a friend, and for the child. The arrangement between long-time friends was an informal one, but each side has a different take on what the biological father’s role in the child’s life has been, and should be.
The mother and her partner want to move to New Zealand and have referred to the man in court filings as a sperm donor. The man, who is asking the court to block the request, is named as the father on the girl’s birth certificate. He claims his role is and has always been that of a father, and that the role of “daddy” was one he and the child’s mother agreed to privately in 2006. In fact, he stated that he has played an active role in the little girl’s growth and development.
This case highlights friction between the laws in New South Wales and Australian Commonwealth laws, which treat sperm donors differently. Neither law addresses situations like this current case, where a same-sex couple conceives with the help of donor sperm or donor eggs, using a friend or relative. This has left some families and donors with uncertainty about when someone is considered a parent under Australian law.
The court that first heard this case determined that the man was the child’s biological father; an appellate court overturned that decision, finding that he could not be considered her parent. How the High Court will rule remains to be seen.
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