A sperm donor in Australia has won a landmark High Court battle to have his rights as a parent confirmed and to stop his child being taken to live overseas by its mother.
Judges have ruled the 49-year old man, who fathered the girl with a single friend, had a legitimate belief that he would play a role in her upbringing.
He donated his sperm in 2006 and the pair agreed to raise the infant together, but they later had a falling out, and the mother’s lawyers had argued he was not the father, although he was listed as such on the birth certificate and paid financial support.
The man, who was given the court pseudonym of Robert Masson for privacy reasons, had fought a long legal fight battle for parenting recognition and to prevent the girl’s biological mother and her same-sex partner from moving to New Zealand with the child.
The High Court decision reaffirms an earlier ruling that ordered the couple and the girl to stay in Australia and consult Mr Masson on major parenting matters.
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”
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"Those are not the facts of this case,” it added.
The ruling could affect thousands of couples and single women whose children were conceived with known sperm donors.
Family and fertility lawyer Stephen Page said the decision was a "sensible" one but could have far-reaching implications.
“It’s removing … artificial legal barriers about whether or not someone’s a parent," he said. "But it will have an impact. I can assure you that there are men who thought they were sperm donors and had no obligation to the child … and have now discovered that potentially they have the full gamut of responsibility, including potentially child support and inheritance.”
“If you’re thinking of becoming a known sperm donor to a single woman, I think it really shows that it’s a wise idea to have a sperm donor agreement," he added.
The dispute, which began about five years ago, is believed to have cost both parties more than £820,000.
“The High Court’s decision today confirms…Robert and his daughter’s reality,” said lawyer Tahlia Bleier, who represented Mr Masson. “He is now his daughter’s dad, in every sense of the word.”