FC v MC: Same-sex partner of mother granted parental responsibility

Image: Public Domain, via Piqsels

An increasingly common scenario: a child born to a same-sex couple, only one of whom is a natural parent. The couple separate, and the parent's partner is left with no legal standing in relation to the child. In such circumstances the partner may of course apply for parental responsibility, as occurred in the recent case FC v MC.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of the child ('D') were set out by Lieven J, giving judgment:

"FC and MC were in a same sex relationship from 2010 until 2018. They did not enter into a civil partnership. There is some dispute between the parties in relation to the degree to which FC was involved in MC's decision to become pregnant, but there is no doubt it was a planned pregnancy and FC was fully involved in both the process and the parenting. According to FC there had been discussions about having a baby for a number of years. In April 2015 the parties discussed the possibility of attending a fertility clinic but decided this was too expensive and instead invited a friend to donate the sperm. They discussed which of them would be the biological (and gestational) mother of any baby. MC indicated that she did not feel she would be able to have the same relationship with a child if she was not its biological mother and so it was decided that MC would be the one who would become pregnant.

"A friend of MC's provided the sperm and FC assisted with the artificial insemination. MC became pregnant almost immediately and D was born in January 2016. MC was entered, entirely correctly, on the birth certificate as D's mother and no application was made under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 in respect of FC. FC is therefore not, and could not be, named on the birth certificate, and she does not fall within s.12(1) or (1A) of the Children Act 1989 in respect of parental responsibility."

We are then told that: "According to FC it was always the intention that she and MC would be joint parents and she would be fully involved in D's life", and that: "MC agrees that they had intended to jointly parent D although her statements suggest that she has always considered herself to be the main, and at times exclusive, parent."

Following the birth FC was apparently fully involved with the child, and she even changed her surname to that of MC, so that all three shared the same surname.

The parties separated in August 2018. Until June 2019 D was having regular contact with FC, but then contact broke down, in quite acrimonious circumstances. In August 2019 FC applied for contact and parental responsibility.

Unfortunately, the application was not heard until January this year, but on the plus side the relationship between the parties improved somewhat in the intervening months. MC became much more supportive of contact, and agreed for FC to have overnight contact.

Unsurprisingly, and despite MC still being opposed to FC having parental responsibility, Mrs Justice Lieven was of the view that it was in D's best interests for FC to have parental responsibility and for there to be a shared care/lives with order. FC was clearly committed to D, D has a strong bond with her, and enjoys contact with her.

Mrs Justice Lieven accepted that part of FC's motivation for seeking parental responsibility may be about having the status of a parent, as MC suggested, but did not think that this was a bad thing. There was no evidence that FC's motivation was based on ill-will or a desire to thwart or control MC, as MC also suggested.

Accordingly, she made a joint lives with/shared care order, which carries with it parental responsibility to FC. Contact, she said, should be built up to two nights every second weekend, from Friday after school to Sunday; and two nights during the week on the alternate week. 

The full judgment may be read here.

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