A Cautionary Tale From Australia?

There’s a recent story from an Australian newspaper that raises (for me anyway) some interesting questions.  There’s a slightly expanded version of the story here, too.  But still, I feel like the facts are pretty threadbare.    Some of these are simply questions about Australian law–which maybe someone from Australia could answer.   But there are also larger issues here.

A lesbian couple wanted to have a child.   An identified man provided sperm so that they could do that.  I cannot quite tell whether he was someone they knew in passing or someone they knew well or someone they didn’t know at all.

In any event, the three people entered into some form of agreement about the roles each would play.  Alas, it does seem clear that they are not (and perhaps never were) clear about exactly what those roles were to be.  But in any event, when the child was born, the two women gave the child the man’s last name and listed him as “father” on the birth certificate.

The problem is not, apparently, that the women object to having the man play a role in their child’s life.   The devil is, as is often the case, in the details.  How much time does he get to spend with the child?   Overnight or not?   And the women’s contention is that he isn’t mature enough to assume major responsibilities for the child.   The court, apparently, disagreed and so there’s a schedule in place which provides for gradually increasing visitation.

First let me ponder the Australian law stuff.   It seems that the women are the legal parents of the child.   The man is not a legal parent, although he is acknowledged to be the genetic father.   Now in the US, we have a pretty strong version of parental rights.  If you had a unified pair of legal parents objecting to visitation by a third party, there’s almost no doubt that the legal parents would prevail.   That, indeed, is one of the reasons why having the status of legal parent is so very very important.   From an US perspective, saying that 1) he is not a legal parent but 2) he has rights to visit the child over the objections of the legal parents is really quite remarkable.

But it appears that Australian law is different.   The determinations of legal parents–legal parents who are unified in their views–can be overridden by a judge–as the judge has done here.   The non-parent (and by that I mean non-legal parent) can be granted visitation.      Does this in fact mean that Australian law has a weaker version of parental rights?    Or is this particular third-party in a unique position, because even if he isn’t a legal parent, he is a genetic parent.   In any event, what factors is the judge supposed to consider in deciding what sort of visitation the third-party can have?    And what does it mean to say that the two women have sole parental responsibility for the child?  Where are the lines ultimately drawn?

Since I don’t know the answers to the Australian law questions, I cannot really address my broader question:  Does this case offer some sort of possible model for how a child can have legal parents and also a legally significant-non-parent-but-recognized-sperm donor?   It’s hard to say, because I cannot tell exactly what distinguishes the rights of the sperm donor here from the rights legal parents have.   He has a right to see the child.  He has a right to attend school events.   But he does not have parental responsibility–whatever that is.

Finally, let me talk about why this is a cautionary tale.   Consider the position that the women here are left it.   They are legal parents and yet they must share custody with another person–someone who they do not think a suitable overnight custodian.   Their autonomy as parents is clearly and significantly diminished.   And that is because they used a known individual as sperm donor.  Had they instead chosen an anonymous (at least for the early part of the child’s life donor) they wouldn’t be in this position.

Now I’m in no position to second guess them.  I don’t know what went into their decision and I don’t know where things got off track (as far as they are concerned.)   But think about how this story shapes advice you might give to friends or, if you are a lawyer, clients.  Suppose a lesbian couple you knew said they were considering using a known donor?  With this case in mind, what would you tell them?   It seems to me I’d say “be very careful about that.   You’ll run the risk that some judge will substitute her/his judgment for yours about what the appropriate role of that person is.”   Now maybe you can make a better–a more clear–agreement than these people did.   Maybe you could choose a more responsible person as your donor.   But if you wanted to be really safe, you’d choose and unknown or anonymous donor.

Now I understand that this choice has costs.  Indeed, to me that is the heart of the matter.   I am increasingly persuaded that there are good reasons why we should encourage people to use known/knowable donors.  But to do that, we need to be offer people safety and predictability.   If we cannot ensure those two things, than many people will not elect the known donor option.   And this case–whatever else is it–is hardly a example of a safe/predictable outcome.  Indeed, it is a cautionary tale.

 

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38 responses to “A Cautionary Tale From Australia?

  1. Some differences between donor and parent:

    1. Australian law had (and may still have) special provisions about equal shared care between parents who are not a couple. In contrast, the donor does not get this presumption – he is likely (as I understand the reports) to get alternate weekends.

    2. Also, a “parenting order” of this kind terminates at age 18 and does not make the donor a “legal father” on an ongoing basis (relevant, for example, to inheritance).

    Interestingly, the agreement between the three adults was at least clear enough that the donor was listed on the birth certificate as the father (perhaps an unwise step in the circumstances). In any event, even a clear agreement won’t stop the court from making a parenting order if it thinks that is in the best interests of the child.

    Notably, in this case the judge is/was a lesbian.

    Finally, these kinds of “parenting orders” were used by lesbian mums to obtain legal recognition for the non-bio-mum before Australian law changed to recognise two mothers. So they were very beneficial for many years. But they have also enabled known donors to obtain legal rights in relation to their genetic children. Though usually where there has been some sort of relationship developed with the child, not simply out of the blue. But any sensible lawyer would, as you suggest, advise that if a woman/women use a known donor, he may be granted rights in relation to the child that the women do not want. Lesbian couples need to go into arrangements of this kind knowing that and accepting it. (Dislcosure: my family has two mums and two dads, and we love having the extra parents around – but we have chosen particularly lovely gay dads).

    • Hi Anonymous – are you saying that you opted not to take anything away from the child your raising and just collaborate in order that the child would have both bio parents and plus their respective partners? Maybe you should teach a series of classes on non-destructive parental behavior. So long as the bio parents are on the birth record too so there’s no messed up medical records or kinship rights then ts as perfect a family in my mind as would be on a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover.

    • Thanks so much for filling in some of the blanks. This is very helpful. It seems as though parenting orders are, like so many things, double-edged swords.

      In some ways it does not surprise me that the US has a stronger version of parental rights. I’m not at all convinced it is a good thing (and I think it inadequate to judge based on the application in one or another specific case rather than the grand sweep of things), but in general in the US there is a greater suspicion of government and therefore greater protections granted the private family.

      I’m also struck by your last comment. All sorts of arrangements work out where people choose carefully and thoughtfully, probably allowing ample time for reflection before taking action. I think the same of surrogacy, open adoption, etc. It is, however, all too easy to rush into things without that kind of reflection and then I’m not sure what you do except hope for the best.

  2. there is nothing new about your note of caution, except for the fact that it’s lesbians we are talking about…. most of us would not advise a straight friend either to have kids with someone they didn’t want to be parent with.

    • that’s quite true. But I wanted to make a different point as well. The way the law is structured in Australia might cause some people to choose to use anonymous donors. If we agree (and let’s assume for a moment that we do) that this choice is not the best choice for the expected child, then this should give us pause. I meant to suggest that we should try to structure law so that it is at least neutral on this point. Perhaps better yet would be structuring law so that it encourages people to choose the options that we think would be best for the expected child.

      The other thing of note here is that it seems that the Australian legal system gives the judge a good deal of discretion and this means there’s a fair bit of uncertainty built into the system. You can see why flexibility is good–each situation is different and can be decided on its own. But I think in general people who are planning families do not want uncertainty. It is at the very least unnerving. I think there is probably an irreconcilable tension there–between wanting to leave room for flexibility and wanting to give people a chance to rely on expectations.

      • hmm julie, seems like the court chose exactly the opposite of your preferred formula which is to milk the genetic father’s bank account but not give him any access to forming a relationship…. this court decided that he has every right to form a relationship, but no responsibilities whatsoever. What do you think of that?

  3. would australian law allow for visitation by aunts, grandparents, and former long-term foster parents?

  4. Waaaait Wait Wait. Wait. You said that this man is listed on the birth record as this child’s father. That means that he is a legally recognized father. You don’t mention which one of them is the child’s legal mother. The child is going to have 2 legally recognized parents a Mom and a Dad. Sounds like the Mother has full legal and physical custody of their child and that the father, who is not terribly mature and responsible yet, has a schedule for visitation. It would appear that the state is hoping that in due time the father, who indeed does owe it to his child to be as involved as possible, would at some point be able to possibly share the burden of child rearing with the mother as he should have been doing from the start.

    What abot the Mother’s partner or spouse, how is it that she is legally recognized as having parental custody and rights? She’s the Mother’s spouse, if they are married she’s a legal step parent and would be sharing the day in and day out responsibilities of having full physical and legal custody of her wife’s child – remember whatever burder your spouse has you take on as well. She as step parent could add her step child to her medical insurance at work and if she died tomorrow and she had any death benefits coming to her then her legally dependent step child would receive suport until they were 18. Step parents are full board responsible for the welfare of their spouses children right with them. They can authorize for school field trips and take them to doctors appointments. In the U,S. step parents can take family leave act time off work to care for their sick child or take a certain amount of time off a year to deal with school related issues like parent teacher conferences etc. Step parents income will increase the income of their spouse which actually increases the amount of that spouse’s support burden and improves the financial position of the step child. This is one reason why I feel childre of gay and lesbian parents benefit if their parent marries their partner because then not only will they have support from their mother and father they will gain the benefits of having a step parent as well – something children of straight people have always benefited from when either of their parents married a partner and made it official.

    So since you really did not clarify here how there could be two mothers and one father I’m fairly well thinking that the kid’s parents are not and were not a couple, the mother is a lesbian and she has full custody and she’s raising her kid with her girlfriend or spouse. It’s like one of my first boyfriends had two mom’s just like that. And while he would not tell me which one gave birth to him they were both white and he was half black it was kind of anyone’s guess they both had salt and pepper hair wore glasses and wanted to know what I was going to do with my life and we had dinner and they showed me embarrassing pictures of him from grade school. Standard bring the girlfriend home to meet the parent’s stuff but he did have a legal father back east who had paid support and visited I never met him. Anyway whether it was mom or mommy one of them could not have actually had any parental authority as you could not marry your girlfriend back then in San Francisco. I was a kid it was a long time ago. They would be nearly 80 years old now.

    • No, his being on the birth certificate does not mean he is the legal father. It’s really important not to leap to that conclusion (which I’ll remind you all isn’t warranted in the US either.) Being listed on the birth certificate does not confer legal rights. It’s quite clear that he is NOT the legal father of the child. But he will remain on the birth certificate and he does have some defined rights. The legal parents are the two women. (This is in the article.)

      • Yes but being on a child’s birth certificate is not indicative of the father’s rights but is an indication of the person whose birth the certificate documents. If his name is on that piece of paper he is the legal father of the child and the child will be the legally recognized sibling of any other child he has which is far far more important than whether or not he has custody or visitation. The child will have a right to support from him while they are under age and to visitation with him while they are under age. The child will have a right to his military or social security death benefits or to be added to his medical policy if need be. The child if born abroad would have the right to dual citizenship in the father’s country as well as in his country of birth. Stop thinking about parental “rights” for a moment and realize that the person (not child) the person has rights to things that flow through him even if he does not have daily decision making authority. The child will not be the legally recognized sibling of his mother’s partner’s other kids if she is not the mother named on the birth certificate. If they mother is married to her the child will have legally recognized kinship to her kids as step siblings and most all benefits of legal kinship are extended to step relatives so long as the parent remains married to the step parent. So say what you will about it not making him a legal father it does make him the child’s legally recognized father and really we need to focus way more on the rights and expectations of the child and the child’s relatives because the child won’t be a child forever.

      • based on past cases that have appeared on this blog, i have a question: the court declared that the guy is not a legal father but he does have aright to form a relationship with the kid. Now lets say he tell’s the kid “i’m your dad”. can the two moms then move to restrict his access, saying that he’s undermining their parental status?

  5. This is just killing me. Has nothing to do with the gender of the partners of the people who have the offspring – WTF can’t you just suck it up and be the step parent you are? Why you gotta go and try and take away half the kid’s family and all the support they are due from the non-custodial parent and the kinship rights???Why would you want to do that to a kid when you could and should just collaborate?
    A step parent can do a great job raising a kid for sure and it may not be appropriate that one of the bio parents be around but it is profoundly messed up when a person makes a child and shows no interest in wanting to be involved in raising that child together with the other person who made them as well cause they are the two people who actually owe it to the kid to take care of them and neither of them should do anything that would prevent their child from receiving everything possible from both of them. Certainly not when they can also additionally have all the benefit and love from whoever their partner happens to be. It’s not like the kid is only worth loving if their other parent abandons them. Everyone can and should just work it out and get along but that requires people coming to terms with who they are in relation to the child and either you made the kid and have that permanent creator createe obligation or you have an obligation granted by permission of the parent your sleeping with. Just way way different.

    • The way you describe a step parent I don’t believe there is any way this child would have any respect or could develop any bond with that person. It’s almost as if that “step parent” is just there with no role in the child’s life.

      • A person will have respect for the adults who make the rules in the house where they are living hopefully. Respect of a child for an adult is something that differs from family to family person to person based on individuals and circumstances. You likely have friends with parents they have no respect for because of their behavior regardless of their title or legal authority. Respect for a parent starts with whether they took their legal obligation seriously and finishes with whether they made the kid feel safe loved and secure. My good friend whose parents are both remarried refers to her mother and step father jointly as her “parents” though she refers to her step father as Jack. Her mother in her eyes abandoned her and her siblings as children, today she lives with her Mom and Jack getting back on her feet at nearly 40. She credits her step father Jack with making her mother a more decent and loving person and has immense respect for him and what he’s done to bring their family together. Her father who raised her she adores she calls him Dad but she dislikes his wife her step mother and has little respect for her.

        How much respect would someone have for a step parent, their bio parent’s partner if they wanted them to pretend as if they were a child of that relationship and wanted to sequester them from their paternal relatives in order to keep them all to themselves? I rarely speak of emotion or psychology because Julie’s taught me its pointless. But you are quite concerned with the respect that a child gives a bio mother’s partner or spouse which is why I’m addressing it directly. I can only say how much respect do you have in your daily life for individuals that seek to separate rather than unify or individuals who want to be seen as something they are not because they think the world would have more respect for them if they had those attributes?

        The child has an expectation of the people who created them and that expectation is not a transferable expectation. There is nobody else that really owes it to them to raise them like the people who created them. I know that people can have as much or more respect for the individuals that care for them and raise them vs. individuals that were supposed to but did not. Ideally the kid would get what they were owed by the people that created them and what they are owed by any respective partners who share the burden of raising them with the people who created them. Marrying someone their burdens become your burdens. You take on everything of theirs as if it were your very own legally and hopefully emotionally. Ideally the spouse of someone with a child is one with their spouse and doubles the love and financial support of that spouse and garners the identical level of respect. It’s got to be more respect than they’d get for trying to rub out the kids other family. How could it not be? Would you respect a person who wanted to take you away from your bio kid? Would a kid respect someone who wanted to take them away from a bio parent? There is so much room for love and respect in a kids heart I think when nobody is doing it out of ego. By the way they won’t have much respect for a bio parent that is always bad mouthing the other bio parent or is trying to play games and use them as amo against the other bio parent either. As you said divorces are messy and plenty of people end up with kids who have no respect for them because they use their kids as tools. Its an open field for bio parents to loose a kids respect too

        • This type of logic encouraging the whole “you aren’t my real mommy/daddy” that kids use. It’s dangerous disrespectful behavior that benefits no one.

          In reality there is little room in children’s hearts for love and respect for those actually doing the parenting. If you are going to put down and disrespect those people you lose the value they can have.

          “The child has an expectation of the people who created them and that expectation is not a transferable expectation. There is nobody else that really owes it to them to raise them like the people who created them. ”

          What you have said in so many words is that only biological parents hold value to a child. Non biological parents hold zero value. This again is dangerous thinking.

          • Greg your interpretation of my words is based on your value system not mine and not one reflected by the law either. I did not say that only bio parent have value to a child or that they would never respect an adoptive or step parent. What is your definition of respect? What I’m saying is that minors have a default expectation of care by the individuals that created them. That expectation is exclusive to them and someone else can meet their needs but it won’t erase the fact that the expectation was not met by the bio parent. There may well be respect for non bio parents. You are confusing a lack of expect for a lack of respect.

            • What your interpretation of the laws are different than what they are in reality. You have said many things that imply only biological parents are “real” parents and that non biological parents are something lesser. When you say that there are things that are exclusive to one set of parents you essentially devalue the other.

              • If you were given a lifetime exemption from having to comply with the rules of the road so that if ever anything happened and you hurt someone you’d be totally off the hook would that be fair to them? Like if someone said Greg you are exempted from breaking the speed limit, or any other laws of the road and you hit and killed a person and their family was anguised by the loss of their relative due to your reckless driving would that be fair to them or to the person you killed. You are legally within your right to have broken the traffic rules but that person you killed why should they have had some different expectation than normal? Why should they not have been able to have relied on your compliance with the same rules that everyone else has to follow? The fact that you were allowed to break the rules cost someone their life and that is a tragedy. Well what if someone else were willing to take the fall for you? What if your mom was willing to do time in jail for you to pay your criminal debt so that you could still have a life? Like how fair would it be to the family of the person you killed or how fair would it be to the person you killed that instead of doing the time yourself as punishment for your own reckless actions, you were able to get someone else to do the time and cover your debt? I mean your defense could be that as long as someone does the jail time for the killing of the person then no harm no foul right? Why would the person who caused the accident be the one who goes to jail? As long as someone pays the debt for taking a life does it really matter who that person is? Isn’t that other person good enough? Are their years of freedom lost not real enough for you? Why does it matter that we punish the person responsible as long as someone gets punished what do you care if its the person who hurt you or some other random slob? This person here wants to be punished and the person who hurt you is not intrested in taking the punishment for his actions so he found someone to do it for him that would actually enjoy the punishment. That is a solution that makes everyone happy right? Justice is served by someone who enjoys it

  6. This is about parental responsibility and rights, not about known donation. In the UK it is possible to have a known donation and – if you donate formally not informally, through a clinic – for the donor to remain a donor with no parental rights/responsibilities.

    • I was learning on Olivia’s blog that the UK kind of tries to emulate the adoption process by screening unrelated person’s who might be named as parents of a donor’s offspring. They don’t do that here. Is that true or was I misunderstanding her. That they like background check before allowing them to be named parents of a donor’s offspring? They don’t screen the individuals who are actually reproducing with the donors though do they? Like a man who fertilizes a donor’s egg who will be raising his own kid does not need to be cleared first before hand right? I would think a his wife might have to pass the screening cause it would not be her kid. I’m just curious how the screening for parental rights of donor offspring works there in the UK

    • This is the law, too, in many places in the US. And it is the sort of law that allows people to elect a known donor without the risk of losing control of the child’s upbringing. I know that some readers here don’t like that idea. But to my mind insisting that a known donor have broadly defined rights seems to me to leave those contemplating using donor sperm with a pretty stark choice–the known donor and the threat to rights or the anonymous donor. Given that stark choice, some people–and perhaps a significant number–will choose the anonymous donor.

      Providing some middle ground–which is how I would describe the UK option you mention–frees people up to choose the known donor. And I think that’s a good thing.

      My hunch is that most of the people who do not like the idea of a known donor are people who would eliminate the option of choosing an anonymous donor at all. Many of them would probably insist that the donor must be a legal parent. I think some in this group of people would also say that those who need access to donor sperm (or eggs, for that matter) should just accept that they cannot have children and get on with life.

      I don’t agree with those views myself and, perhaps more to the point, I think it’s extremely unlikely that there will be any sort of global ban on using donor sperm/eggs in our lifetimes. Putting philosophical disagreements aside, if you just take the pragmatic view–that people will be using donor gametes–then I think you have to think about how best to structure a system that allows that. That’s a different way round to saying that the UK system seems to me to have many virtues.

      • I specifically used an ID option donor because I want my baby to have the option to know (so anonymous was out) but a known from the start donor has full parental right in my state unless the biological mother is married. I have gone into the reasons before why I did not think that best for my child and I am sure some will disagree. But the law in my state discouraged me from choosing a donor my child could have grown up knowing with more of an uncle type relationship.

        • i think that is just as well. less confusion all around. plus, at least now, there is one less law that can be used as a precedent to strip available willing men of fatherhood.

      • since i think neither are a good situation i see no reason to make allowances to promote this over an anonymous-until-18 donor. all the more so because it sets a dangerous precedent to a. erode the already precarious position of some unwed fathers and b. allow parental status to be determined by contract

      • I’m not insisting that they have rights per se, I’m saying that the law should not have different rules for those who had donated their gametes than for other biological parents because they wind up in the exact same place – they are a person with offspring and their offspring are people who should have identical same rights and expectations of their bio parents as every other person born. I’m not concerned with parental rights or with how or with whom people choose to reproduce. None of that should have any bearing on the obligations of people that have offspring nor should it have any bearing upon the rights of their offspring. Currently the law is unfair, it is different for some people based upon whether or not their parents were or were not classified as gamete donors. How is that fair to the offspring of a gamete donor? Are they not still human? Why should they not deserve both bio parent’s care and support? Why should they not deserve the same due process as other people whose parents wish to avail themselves of their parental responsibilities? Why should they not deserve the same due process afforded to others before allowing someone who is not their bio parent, parental authority over them? I’m just interested in the same rules being applied to all people with offspring regardless of their feelings or intentions. That is not so bad is it? It’s not like I’m expecting them to behave in ways that are impossible to achieve or are out of the standard and ordinary. I think banning and restricting and preventing people and their reproductive behavior is horrid. I find it as repulsive as the restrictions and assaults on personal freedom experienced by donor offspring and adopted people that would be wrong and I just could not condone it. So just equalize the rights of the donor offspring and the conversation will be over.

  7. Julie can you address the fact that one parent can have full physical and legal custody of a child – call all the shots make all parental decisions have all the authority and the other legal parent can have no custody, call no shots and have limited or no visitation and yet still be the child’s other legal parent, named on their certificate, owing child support providing benefits in life and in death giving the child all the child is owed. The law is set up to do this – leave the parents as the legal parents while adjusting the level of authority each has over their child. The law is set up to obligate step parents to the support of their step children and the law is set up to extend benefits from step parents to step children. That arrangement that the law has in place provides for the child’s needs and safety without undermining the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent and without compromising the child’s kinship within their non-custodial parent’s family. Why are you so hell bent on cutting the non-custodial parent out of the mix completely?

    You talk of men having the opportunity to marry women if they want to be fathers of their children. You say that option is open to them and that their fatherhood would flow through the mother with her permission. What you are describing really is step parenthood – parenthood that flows through the mother with her permission as a result of the personal relationship they have with the mother. Why then don’t you think that the mother’s partner has enough authority as a step parent. The partners authority flows through the mother and the partner will have a relationship with the child so long as she has a relationship with the mother. This is how you want it for men why not then for the female partner of the mother?

    It’s like you advocate for an odd form of step parenthood generally where the child gets another parent by virtue of marriage to the mother. Why can’t the child have that on both sides maternal and paternal where the chidl is entitled to both mother and father and entitled to support and care from those they respectively partner with? It’s set up to work that way and I don’t see why you think getting rid of the father is of benefit to the child.

    • Why are you so hell bent on eliminating the value non biological parents can have?

      • Explain how maintaining the child’s legal right to support from and contact with hiis father undermines the value of the non biological parent? How does valuing him devalue her?

    • You mean in a US system, right? that’s really all I can speak to in any event.

      In general, legal parents have two sets of rights vis-à-vis their children. First, they have the right to spend time with the child. You can think of this as custody or visitation, though a lot of modern statutes try to avoid that language. Second, they have the right to make important decisions for the child. The three big ones are often said to be religious upbringing, education, and elective medical care, but there are a really a host of topics and I think the most important might be deciding who the child does/does not spend time with. (Smaller decisions (what’s for breakfast, do you get dessert if you didn’t practice piano) are generally made by whoever the child is living with at the moment the decision comes up.)

      As long as parents are together how they sort out these rights is entirely up to them. Maybe the collaborate on the decisions and maybe they don’t–we (by which I mean society or law or something) neither know nor care.

      If the parents split up then courts step in to allocate the rights. In general you get something like a plan a parenting plan that says when the child will be living where. In general each parent is entitled to some time with the child. The actual division of time will depend on many things: how close together do the parents live? What age is the child? What are the work schedules of the parents? And so on. But the presumption is that each parent is entitled to some time.

      Now that doesn’t always happen, particularly if one of the parents has proved herself/himself to be particularly irresponsible. Maybe they only get supervised visitation or maybe they get none, pending something like drug treatment, etc. But they are still a parent.

      Independent of the residential provisions are provisions for decision making. Commonly court’s like to order joint decision making–that the legal parents will cooperate about those big choices. That can be true even if the child mostly lives with just one parent. There’s usually some provision for what you do if you cannot agree.

      Now it is possible for a person to have their rights to both residential time and decision-making curtailed but to remain a legal parent. But I’d say that’s extremely rare. And I bet it is unlikely to be understood as a permanent situation. If you thought it was never going to get better, you might see a court terminate the parental rights of the person, which makes them a non-parent.

      I have no idea if this addressed what you meant. And I’m not sure I see why it’s important. But since I’m about to start teaching family law, it all came out in a rush.

      • Its all very important and thank you. You confirmed what I know to be true from experience and what I learned from you now over the years. Here is what I am noticing from all the birth records I get to see and all the various kinds of situations where families get separated: All kinship rights and entitlement flow through the people named parent on that certificate. It is utterly critical that those individuals be the bio parents otherwise entire families loose their kinship rights. It’s really not just about parental rights with regard to child rearing. In fact the amount of rights and amount of authority a parent has over a child is not determined for them by being on that certificate, custody orders or subsequent adoptions can void the authority of the people named parents on the certificate without voiding the kinship rights of the child on the certificate. That I think is ideal and that I think is where the law should always be striving to be. Adjusting the amount of authority the bio parents have, heck dialing it right down to zero if called for but without undermining the rights of the child or the rest of the family. People married to the parents take on whatever support and care burden that their spouse has. If their spouse has full physical and legal custody of their step child they too share in that support burden and have custody of that child. They will have more decision making authority than the non custodial parent but they are not named parent and the child looses nothing.

        In reuniting families the ideal situation is one where their dead beat father or mother or both are still on their certificate even if in some cases they never met them and they never paid a dime of support. They aged out of foster care or were raised by relatives. This is ideal not to have had them adopted into a situation that would have revised their records because they somehow managed to get raised without having their identity changed.

        This is relevant to this post because the child has a birth record naming both parents – why would they name a second mother? Why not just have her be a step mother? I mean I guess so long as she’s adding to the child and not subtracting from the child it would be OK. I don’t think Mother 1 or 2 should be able to get rid of the Father because then the child has to loose something and there is n need for that.

  8. No what it says is two gay men wanted to have a child and they went looking for a surrogate and found a woman in a lesbian relationship to have a child with one of them. It only recognizes the woman who gave birth as the mother. It recognizes she and her partner as the parents because they were in a registered domestic partnership – see this is where it gets sticky. Her partner is not a legally recognized parent on the child’s birth record. The mother and her partner have custody and parental rights and the father has visitation, pays support. The woman’s parter is the step parent. there is no permanent legal kinship if the relationship between the two women disolves Julie. I can’t believe you don’t get that. The kid’s rights in this instance are fully intact to both mother and father and the kid has rights to support from his step mother while this domestic partnership lasts. If they separate however the child’s record state clearly who his parents are and the record is accurate. It is not all about the parents and parental rights its about the childs rights and the rights of the child’s relatives as well.

    • So basically the non biological parent serves no purpose the way you are describing it. I don’t see how in that scenario why the child would have any respect or could form a bond with that parent

      I agree with Julie that Australia’s laws have created a very messy situation. The sperm donor plays the role of providing genetic material to create the child, answering questions and be a male role model if the child’s parents choose him to be. But their parents are the two in the same sex couple.

      • Does the concept of personal responsibility mean anything to you? Do you honestly believe we get to personally determine how much responsibility we have for our own actions or that we can produce our offspring for other people to raise and be the parents of? If you give your kidney to someone else its still your kidney in their body. Their kidney did not work and so now your kidney is helping to support the life of their body but it stays your kidney. It never becomes theirs your code is still in it, they are just using it. Sperm and eggs don’t work that way, they never get transplanted to help the reproductive function of the other person. They reproduce the person they were harvested from. They are the one that ends up with offspring no different than had they not given their sperm or eggs away. It’s their kid, they are responsible for causing the life of that person and they are supposed to be taking care of their own kid and if they don’t there should be a very good reason to justify their absence like death or incapacitation of some sort, those are forgivable and understandable reasons for not caring for your own child. Giving the child as a gift so that other people can have them when you yourself are totally able to be taking care of them is not something that makes sense in a society that has the expectation of all people that they take care of their offspring. Especially in a situation where clearly the obligation is understood by one of the bio parents who stayed and is making good on that obligation – what is the child to think of the bio parent who is not fulfilling that obligation? What ethical standards of personal responsibility is one bio parent applying that the other one is not? How should the child reconcile the obvious lack of concern by one of the bio parents and how should the child reconcile the fact that nobody is protecting them from being given away by one of their parents?

        • The disagreement we have is not whether or not there should be personal responsibility. We just disagree on what that responsibility is. I believe a donors responsibility is providing medical history and answers that the child may have. You believe it is more parental. We agree to disagree.

          Donating an organ is different than donating a cell to create another human. An organ donor’s responsibility ends at donation a gamete donors responsibility never ends. We just disagree on what that responsibility is.

          • OK lets explore the reason you differentiate his responsibilities. Stepping into the here and now, why do some infants have a right to have both bio parents named on their certificates while others only have the right to have one bio parent named? Why do some have the right to the financial support of both bio parents AND the support of whoever else they are married to as step parents while others have to loose the care and support of a bio parent to get the care and support of whoever else they are married to when they could have had that ANYWAY without having to loose their bio parents care and support?

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