A man who donated his sperm to a friend with the belief he could play a role in the child’s life has won a High Court fight sparked by the mother’s decision to move to New Zealand with their biological child.
The decision by the court overturns an appeal the girl’s mother and her wife won and reaffirms an earlier ruling that ordered they remain in Australia and consult him on major parenting decisions.
The court heard the man, given the pseudonym Robert, initially agreed to donating his sperm to his friend, and was of the belief he would be involved in his child’s life.
The girl was conceived in 2006 and in the intervening years he maintained a close relationship with her, introducing her to his extended family and volunteering at her school canteen.
Both the girl and her sister, who is not related to Robert, call him “daddy”.
The legal fight began when the mother and her same-sex partner decided to move to New Zealand, a decision Robert challenged in the Family Court.
The initial ruling was in his favour, finding there was more to being a father than biology, and that ultimately Robert should be a parent.
The girl’s mother and her wife appealed that decision and won, arguing the man was not the legal father, citing a New South Wales law setting out rules for fertilisation procedures, which specifically addressed the situation of same-sex couples.
But today the High Court ruled in the man’s favour, overturning the previous appeal and reinstating a Family Court judgement that ordered the women to live in Australia.
The court’s majority judgement said “the term ‘sperm donor’ suggests that the man in question has relevantly done no more than provide his semen to facilitate an artificial conception procedure on the basis of an … understanding that he is thereafter to have nothing to do with any child born”.
“Those are not the facts of this case.”
The reinstated ruling also requires the women to consult with Robert about long-term parenting decisions.
The ruling will effectively block the women from moving, at least in the short term, while the three decide their next moves.