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Court decision raises questions over donor contact

The case concerned a child born of two lesbian parents, whose gay friend had agreed to be a donor to enable them to have a child. The relationship between the adults broke down after the birth of the child because of a difference of opinion about the role the donor would play in the child’s life.

Although the lesbian couple and their child have the same legal status as any other parent and child, it is still open to the Court, after considering the facts, to grant another person, in this case the donor, permission to apply to the Court for contact.

This is not to say that the Court will ultimately grant contact and of course, the case can be distinguished from one where there is no relationship between the donor and the parents, where the donor is effectively anonymous. It nevertheless raises the possibility of applications in similar circumstances in the future.

It is of course possible for other parties in the child’s life, such as grandparents, step-parents and the other partner in a same-sex couple, to apply to court to ask for permission to make such an application but this is the first time that a sperm donor has successfully been given permission by the court to proceed.

Each case is determined on its own specific facts. This case does not give rise to any presumption that sperm donors will be granted leave of the court to apply – but the door has undeniably been pushed ajar. Certainly any couple considering using a sperm donor to aid fertility in future will need to consider carefully the potential for on-going involvement of that donor in the child’s life.