Three-Way Parenting and the Law

The New Year seems an appropriate time to blog about an area of law that’s very new, but which is sure to become increasingly important.

The scientific advancements made in assisted reproductive technologies have lead to significant challenges for family solicitors and the courts in recent years. The well being of genetically engineered children is now being balanced against the competing interests of parents and donors, revealing grey areas in the law that will need to be addressed.

The ambiguity in this area of family law was exposed recently in a case involving two lesbian mothers, one of which was the child’s biological mother, and the child’s biological father, a gay sperm donor. All three had agreed prior to any fertility treatment, that the father would play a minimal role in he child’s upbringing and that the child would be raised by the two lesbian mothers in line with an orthodox two-parent family model.

Despite the existence of this prior agreement, the Court of Appeal expresses doubts about the worth of such pacts when it came to family planning, stressing instead that the child’s welfare was of paramount concern. Crucially, as the Court noted, the case highlighted the need for legal recognition of the changing nature of family life. The physical and emotional well being of the children born out of such family planning must not be forgotten in disputes between the adults involved.

UK family law currently stipulates that a child only has one legal mother – the birth mother. Therefore, in the aforementioned case, the role of the lesbian partner, or second mother, earned no formal recognition from the Courts, and this is an area of family law that requires clarification. Many points of contention remain:

• Under what circumstances will courts discount agreements between two or more consenting adults who wish to engage in family planning?

• Will all adults involved in the process receive equal recognition under the eyes of the law?

• Under what circumstances is it acceptable to award consenting adults unequal footing legally?

Does this apply to you? Given the complications involved with this transitional area of family planning, our family law and divorce solicitors suggest that our clients seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible.