Lesbian mother refused parental rights

Posted: 4th June 2013

RCJIn a ruling that underlines in stark terms that legal formalities really matter, a lesbian woman has been denied parental rights in respect of twin boys that she considers her sons after a fertility clinic failed to match up to the strict procedural requirements contained within the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (HFEA).

The woman and her then partner had decided to have a child by sperm donation and underwent the procedure successfully at a reputable clinic. The woman was named as the boys’ ‘parent’ on their birth certificates but, after the couple separated, a dispute developed in respect of her contact with the twins.

Refusing to grant the woman parental responsibility in respect of the boys, the High Court noted that it was a serious matter to confer the status of parent upon a person who is not genetically related to a child and the range of strict legal requirements and duties laid down by the HFEA were a recognition of that fact.

Noting that the dispute would almost certainly never have arisen had the fertility clinic met those requirements, the court found that consent forms were neither submitted nor signed by the parties before treatment commenced. There had also been a failure to counsel the women on the nature and effect of parental rights and they had not been given sufficient information on which to give informed consent.

Although both women had intended prior to the treatment that each of them should have parental responsibility for any children born, the court ruled that the clinic’s failure to comply with the statutory requirements had frustrated that purpose. The court’s decision represents a major setback to the woman’s hopes of being granted contact with the boys, for whom she cared during the first 17 months of their lives.