An Australian sperm donor who helped a lesbian couple conceive a child now claims to be the girl’s legal parent and is asking the courts to say the mothers cannot take the child to live in New Zealand.
Lower courts have temporarily blocked the couple from moving over these objections, saying the women cannot prove a legitimate relationship, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The Australian High Court could soon weigh in on the matter.
The case could have implications on whether a sperm donor’s rights infringe on those of same-sex parents.
Court documents conceal the identities of all parties through the use of pseudonyms.
The man, identified as Robert Masson, conceived a child “privately and informally” with a long-time friend, identified as Susan Parsons. The child was to be raised by Susan and her partner, Margaret Parsons.
But Robert said he did more than help conceive the child.
"We went away on holiday together and cooked up that we would have a child, and the stipulation from my side of it was 'I have to be Dad'," he said. "I have to be part of that child's life because I didn't know my own father."
If the women move to another country, a continued relationship with his child would be impossible, he argued. That convinced a Family Court to order the couple not to move yet. The mothers have another child as well who has no relationship to Robert.
A legal decision concludes Margaret, with Susan since at least 2006 and the time of conception, cannot prove a de facto legal relationship.
Marriage equality became legal in Australia only in 2017. It’s unclear whether Susan and Maragaret have wed since then, but the child was conceived years prior.
The Herald notes, however, that New South Wales law says a sperm donor is presumed not to be the father of any child unless he is the husband or de facto partner of the mother.
Robert has relied on a legal argument the law is silent on, which is when the mother has "no legitimate partner."
A lower court in 2017 determined Robert to be the child’s father, but a Family Court overturned that finding. But the question of whether the couple can move without Robert’s permission remains unclear.