Sperm donor wins landmark case over access to son

A sperm donor today won a landmark court battle to get access to his son who is being raised by a lesbian couple.

The Supreme Court ruled that, while the man was not entitled to guardianship, he has natural rights over the three-year-old child.

Five judges unanimously found it was in the best interest of the boy’s welfare to remain in contact with his biological father.

The court previously heard that the man donated his sperm to the lesbian couple, who were his friends, so one of them could have a baby.

It was the couple’s preference that the child would have knowledge of his biological father while the donor – a 41-year-old gay man – would be like a “favourite uncle”.

But their friendship deteriorated and he started court action two years ago when the couple revealed they planned to move to Australia for a year with the boy.

The Supreme Court overturned an earlier High Court decision that the man was not entitled to access to the child.

In her judgment, Ms Justice Susan Denham found that the sperm donor has rights as a natural father and added that he had formed a bond with the child when he was born.

“There is benefit to a child, in general, to have the society of his father,” she said.

“I am satisfied that the learned High Court judge gave insufficient weight to this factor.

“The basic issue is the welfare of the child,” she added.

The judge urged the parties to agree to terms of access before the case is dealt with back in the High Court.

Ms Justice Denham also found the lesbian couple were not a family under the Constitution of Ireland and said their relationship may not be weighed as such in the balance against the father.

The Iona Institute, a pro-marriage and pro-religion organisation, welcomed the decision and said it respected the rights of both fathers and children.

Director David Quinn, said: “A biological father has a right to know and have access to his child, and a child has a right to know and have access to his or her biological father.

“It is clear the Government must now move to regulate the assisted human reproduction industry, and to do so in a way that is fully child-centred.

“The best way to do this is to enshrine in any such regulations the right of a child to be raised by their mother and father.

“Anything else fails children, and puts the wishes of adults ahead of the rights of children.”

Campaign group Noise warned that the ruling effectively meant same-sex couples raising children have no recourse to legal protection.

“Our Constitution defines family as being based in marriage. It does not identify marriage as being solely between a man and a woman,” organiser Paul Kenny said.

“There is now a moral obligation on the Government to legislate as soon as possible for access to civil marriage for same-sex couples in order to allow them and their children to avail of all of the vital legal protections reserved for families.

“This is the only child-centred option.”

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