Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sydney Morning Herald - “Court upholds parenting orders for lesbian partner” by Kim Arlington

TIMING is crucial when it comes to artificial insemination - at least as far as family law is concerned.

The issue was highlighted when an estranged lesbian couple went to the Federal Magistrates Court in a dispute over parenting orders relating to a three-year-old girl.

The women - given the court-ordered pseudonyms of Ms Aldridge and Ms Keaton - were living together when Ms Aldridge gave birth to the girl in 2006.

They had begun an intimate relationship in 2001 and three years later started attending a fertility clinic together. Before the child was conceived by artificial insemination with donated sperm, Ms Keaton signed consent forms for Ms Aldridge to undergo the procedure. Ms Keaton stayed with her in hospital after the baby's birth and they shared her home in Sydney's inner west for nine months afterwards. But after arguments about parenting, Ms Aldridge moved out with the child late in 2006.

Ms Keaton sought court orders that she be declared a parent of the child and given equal shared parental responsibility for her.

The court found in February that she was not a parent as defined in the relevant legislation, which hinged on the timing of conception. To qualify under the Family Law Act, Ms Keaton had to be the mother's de facto partner at the time of the artificial conception, and the court heard the women only moved in together the month before the child's birth.

The Chief Federal Magistrate, John Pascoe, found Ms Keaton was not the mother's de facto partner at the key time. However, he found she was concerned with the girl's care, welfare and development. He ordered Ms Aldridge have sole parental responsibility for the girl but that she also spend time with Ms Keaton.

Ms Aldridge appealed to the full court of the Family Court, arguing the orders were unnecessary because she was the child's only parent.

The appeal was dismissed last week. The full court found that the original decision recognised Ms Keaton played ''an important role, akin to a parent, in the child's life for a significant period of months after her birth''. The three appeal judges, including the Chief Justice, Diana Bryant, were satisfied the child's best interests had been taken into account.


[Source: Original Article]

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