A case involving a lesbian couple, a gay man and access to their donor-inseminated child is currently before the Family Court in Melbourne.

The legal tug-of-war in progress is between the two lesbian mothers of a two-year-old child and the child’s gay donor father. This unprecedented case is an example of what may happen in the future in the law surrounding donor insemination.

While this may be the first time this situation has come up in court, it isn’t -˜new’, said Miranda Stuart, spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby (Victoria). This is just one dispute, but there are lots of families out there with children who are facing, and have faced, the same issues.

The case in question concerns an access dispute over a child -“ a two-year-old boy -“ who was conceived after the gay man responded to advertisements for a sperm donor. According to the mother’s testimony, there was no discussion of co-parenting or contact between the child and the donor father. The donor father is now seeking a court order which would allow him to spend time with his son every few weeks. The boy’s mother, who lives with her lesbian partner, wants to limit visits to a few times per year.

The mother told the Family Court that an ongoing, traditional father-son relationship was not in her child’s best interest, and she referred to the gay father only as the donor. He [my son] is not being denied a relationship, he is being denied an active parental relationship, she told the court.

However, the judge asked the mother what name her son might use if he and his father were playing ball with friends. Would the friends say throw the ball to the donor?

According to court affidavits, the child was conceived after a series of between 27 and 35 attempts at insemination, and at no time in this period was parenting discussed. This testimony was not only disputed by the judge, but he declared it unbelievable.

I guess it’s unfortunate when any family disputes arise concerning children, Mir-anda Stuart told the Star. The Family Court is full of heterosexual relationships; it’s just that relationships between homosexual parents have not been as visible up to now.

Stuart felt that the Family Court was the appropriate venue for a dispute of this nature. Ideally, the Family Court is the place to consider the best interests of the child; that’s the most important factor in this case and the Lobby would agree with that, she said. I think the general thing is that families come in all sorts of configurations. I’m quite sure that the biological mother and the other lesbian parent are providing the best care and relationship that they can, but what the court will consider is whether the interests of the child are being served.

The donor father is yet to testify and the case continues.

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