The Federal Magistrates Court has recommended a review of wording in the Family Law Act, to clarify the rights and status of lesbian co-mothers.

This is just one of the consequences of the Aldridge and Keaton custody battle — the first case to test the limitations of lesbian parenting rights following the introduction last year of laws to boost recognition of co-mums.

In the case, Aldridge, the biological mother, tried to stop her ex, Keaton, from having access to the child conceived during their relationship. The court accepted that Keaton was not a parent as the pair had not been in a de facto relationship at the time of conception, but maintained her visitation rights as someone concerned with the child’s welfare and development.

The case has highlighted flaws in the wording of the Family Law Act.

“The full court had a detailed examination of Section 60H, which gives the co-mother status of legal parent. In some places the Act makes reference to the word ‘parent’ but in 60H(i) it refers to ‘the other party’. They noted that the wording was not consistent and made the comment that section 60H may not actually achieve what it meant to achieve,”

Family Law specialist and one of the lawyers who defended Keaton, Paul Boers, explained.

“They have not been specific about what kind of amendment is recommended, although I don’t think it’s that big a drama.”
Boers recommended that gay and lesbian couples looking to enter into parenting agreements receive detailed legal advice in advance to clarify the rights for parents, co-parents and sperm donors.

“If it is intended that co-mothers are going to parent the child, get her registered on the birth certificate, because the Family Law Act does say, if your name is on the birth certificate, then you’re considered a parent of the child.
“Take advantage of the new legislation that allows co-mothers to do that, and avoid [discrepancies in the Act] being used as any type of loophole.”

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