The child, his mother, his father, their donor.
AN Irish sperm donor has secured an injunction against a lesbian couple to prevent them from moving to Australia with his biological son.
Two years ago, the man agreed to father the baby boy, who is now 14 months old. After the birth he had frequent contact with the infant, posing as his "favourite uncle".
But the relationship between the couple and the man soured when the two women complained that he had become "too close" to the child, known as HL.
They demanded a greater distance between the two, and the man only had two further visits with the child.
But when he heard they were about to go on holiday to Australia with the boy and were thinking of moving there, he brought a High Court action restraining them from travelling.
The case, the first of its kind to deal with the parental rights of sperm donors, is set to reignite a bitter debate about fathers' rights and the lack of regulation of the burgeoning artificial insemination industry.
In countries including Scotland, England and Australia, judges have ordered contact between sperm-donor fathers and their children. In Ireland, fathers have little or no legal rights to their children unless they are married or awarded guardianship or custody.
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the lesbian couple could not take the boy to Australia for a year, pending the outcome of guardianship proceedings here which will determine the man's rights. But in a stinging dissent, Judge Nial Fennelly rejected that the sperm donor had any rights to parent the child.
Earlier this year, the man secured the injunction from Justice Henry Abbott in the High Court, pending the outcome of his proceedings seeking guardianship and joint custody of the boy.
By a 2-1 majority, the Supreme Court yesterday dismissed the lesbian couple's appeal against that injunction.
Giving the majority judgment, Justice Susan Denham agreed with the High Court that the paramount issue was the boy's welfare; that a year was a long time in the life of an infant and the balance of convenience lay in his remaining here pending the determination of the man's rights.
The judge insisted that her decision could not be inferred as presuming rights for the father as those issues had yet to be decided. However, Justice Fennelly said the man's only relationship with the child "is as a sperm donor" and the injunction would inevitably alter the status quo in favour of the man.
This case was "utterly unique", but the course adopted by the High Court so far meant the man's right to have access would be established as a "fait accompli" before there was a full hearing. In his view, the High Court had mistakenly found there was a fair issue over whether the man had a right to guardianship.
In her judgment, Justice Denham said the lesbian couple, who have undergone a civil union ceremony in England, had wished to have a child. The man agreed to have a child with one of them by means of artificial insemination.
Details emerged yesterday of the relationship between father and son. The man and the lesbian couple visited each other regularly after the boy's birth. The man took the boy for walks in his buggy, provided items to assist with the child and offered financial assistance, which was declined.
He had even opened a trust for the baby, but some months after the birth, the couple told the man that the parties were too close. The couple had made arrangements to visit a long-haul destination for a year from spring this year. The boy's mother was from Australia and wished her son to have an opportunity to get to know her family. The man secured an interim order under which the couple were allowed take the boy on holiday for six weeks and were restrained from taking him out of Ireland without the court's leave."
This is a huge quagmire. The ladies in question are in a stable relationship and have a right to travel with their son. The man in this case has clearly fallen for his biological son and wishes to keep him close. But at the end of the day-while I feel for his plight- this man willingly donated-and that should be the key word here- his sperm to another couple.
There is not doubt in my mind that the rights of fathers in this country is trampled on regularly. It is almost written that when couples break up the children stay with their mother, regardless of whether she is the best person to mind them or not. Access can be limited to weekends for fathers, and unless both the parents can be mature enough to genuinely put their differences aside and the children first, the outcome of family breakdown can be very grim indeed.
But that is another case.
In this case the biological father donated his sperm, knowing full well that his donation was accepted and used in the hope that a lesbian couple might have a child of their own. Of-their-own.
If he had donated a kidney to one of the women would he have a right to dictate to them where they could and could not travel with his donation? That's very glib of me, a child is not a kidney, but a donation is a donation.
The women also made a mistake-in my view- of allowing a relationship develop between the child and his natural father. There is a reason adoptive families do not keep biological parents in the picture as they rear their children. I do no see how it would be possible NOT to form a bond with your own flesh and blood.
No, this case is a mess. A horrible mess. If you want children without a father use a sperm bank. And if you are a man and you want children, don't donate your sperm to another couple and then demand to be included in their family.
It will be very interesting to see the outcome of this case.
Labels: a mess of epic proportions.