We have recently received a number of enquiries relating to the breakdown of same-sex relationships, in particular, queries relating to parental rights. Zoe Worthington answers some of the common queries we have received regarding this topic.
Do Same-sex Parents Have Parental Responsibility?
The first question we will ask is whether you entered into a civil partnership or marriage with the birth mother.
If you were already married or civil partners at the time of treatment, then you will both have parental responsibility. This includes fertility treatment at a recognised clinic or donor insemination. At the time of treatment, the second legal parent would have signed the relevant paperwork and will be named on the birth certificate.
If you married or entered into a civil partnership after treatment, then you will have parental responsibility if you were married or civil partners at the time of registering the birth. If this was the case, you would both be named on the birth certificate.
If you married or entered into a civil partnership after registering the birth, then you will be able to acquire parental responsibility by signing a parental responsibility agreement.
If you did not use a recognised clinic and your male donor was a friend for instance, we will also ask whether that person is named on the birth certificate. If the donor is named on the birth certificate you would need the consent of both registered parents to acquire parental responsibility. If there is agreement, all parties would sign a parental responsibility agreement. If there was a dispute, then you would need to consider making an application to court to obtain this.
What If a Dispute Arises Regarding Contact?
If you have parental responsibility and you have been unable to reach an agreement with your ex-partner relating to contact, the first step is to make a referral to mediation. Mediation is an opportunity to try and reach an amicable agreement which works for both of you and is in the best interest of the child.
Should mediation be unsuccessful, then the mediator will sign a form that confirms mediation has been unsuccessful; you can then use this to proceed with an application to court.
If you do not have parental responsibility, you would first need to apply to the court to obtain parental responsibility before having the issue of contact determined.