The UK court of appeal has upheld the right of the parents of a sperm donor to spend time with their biological grandson.
The child was born to a lesbian couple via artificial insemination using the sperm of a friend. Although the sperm donor is not a legal parent, there is no dispute that he is the biological father and he had regular contact with the now five-year-old boy for the first three years of his life.
However, a dispute over the contact developed after the couple split in 2013. The women continued to co-parent the boy, but they claimed that the presence of the sperm donor in their child's life was becoming increasingly 'burdensome and troubling' to them.
In 2015, they placed boundaries on his contact and he did not see the child for 18 months. The women have stated that it was common ground that they alone would be the boy's parents and the man's involvement was never explicitly agreed.
Although contact was resumed in May of last year, the man's parents were excluded despite his objections that they had come to know and love their grandson.
In June 2017, family court judge Jessica Pemberton agreed that the sperm donor could see the child seven times a year for two hours at a time.
In the landmark case, Judge Pemberton ruled that his parents should be able to join in on two occasions per year and be able to send birthday and Christmas cards. She stated that the child had a lifelong link with his paternal family and contact was vital to sustain his 'sense of identity'.
The mothers have since appealed the decision stating that contact with his grandparents was not essential for their child. Although they did not criticise the donor's parents, they argued that the family court decision was an unwarranted interference in their parental autonomy.
However, Lord Justice Peter Jackson last week dismissed their case, stating that the judge's initial ruling is 'admirable'. He added that while he had 'some sympathy' with the couple's stance, he said contact with his grandparents would foster the boy's welfare.
He concluded that: 'Whatever the state of the relationship between the adults, they once cooperated to create this boy, a much-loved child. They owe it to him to try to recapture something of that spirit…both sides must now make the contact order work for the boy's benefit.'
Article: 5th March 2018 Bionews 940