Questioning how inclusive the current Family Court systems are here in the UK
BY DIVA STAFF
Imagine you are the mother of a child born through donor conception within a same-sex relationship, but you’re not the biological mother and you are unmarried. What legal rights do you have that tie you to your child? Does the law protect non-biological LGBTQI parents? Is it possible that you could be left alone with no contact available with your own child?
That’s exactly what happened to one woman in the UK, who has shared with us her story of facing discrimination and bias from the Family Court system whilst trying to regain access to her child.
Due to the complications during the birth of her first child and the fact that her partner was slightly younger, she agreed that it made more sense for her partner to carry their child.
After seeking out a sperm donor who said he did not want to play a part in the child’s life, she and her partner welcomed a new child into their family in 2013.
Back in 2013, same-sex marriage was not legal in the UK yet. There also weren’t any legal practices in place in order to secure a family unit, as the child was not conceived through a clinic via IVF. No laws in the UK were in place to protect her as a mother, solely due to the fact she was not married to her same-sex partner.
Over the next two years, their relationship tragically broke down and ended with her partner taking their child away. The child that they had decided to have together.
The only option available was to approach the Family Court in order to regain contact with her non-biological daughter.
Surely, now that same-sex marriage is legal in the UK, there should be legal systems in place that affords LGBTQI parents who are unmarried the same legal rights as unmarried heterosexual parents?
The case was filed back in 2015 and still, five years later, there has been no break through that has brought her closer to being reunited with her daughter, and the case has now been closed without a positive resolution.
Speaking to DIVA, she said that she found “most, if not all of the process discriminatory, uninformed and archaic; from filling out the application forms, right through to dealing with Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) social workers, barristers and judges.”
Based on the devastating outcome of this case, it is clear that the UK Family Courts system still holds bias against LGBTQI parents, making this an impossible, costly and time-consuming case. The mother facing this case, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that the professionals that have been involved in trying to help rectify the situation have been “biased, naïve and uneducated around same-sex parenting.” The court order even specifies that she is not to call herself a mother to their child anymore. This is one of the most devastating and draconian demands that any authority could impose on a parent and their child.
With her eldest daughter physically unwell due to the stress of the situation, the court refusing to acknowledge the mother’s parental position and the denial of any parental rights of her youngest daughter, she has been left in a complex and unfair position that would not be happening had her relationship been a heterosexual one.
What advice would she give to prospective LGBTQI couples looking to start a family? “Ensure that you are aware of your rights. The UK government advocates a sentiment of marriage before starting a family, therefore if you do not invest in this concept (for whatever reason) before having children, you need to consider that your rights with your children will be extremely limited.”
Prospective LGBTQI couples should seek legal advice before beginning their journey into parenthood, ensuring that their relationship with their own child will be protected no matter what happens in the future.
Through this horrendous experience and learning more about the systems working against her here in the UK, she has set up a charity to raise awareness of these issues.
Parental Alienation Awareness is a charity that raises awareness of Parental Alienation – the term given to describe a set of coercive and controlling behaviours that leads to a child either being erased or emotionally cut off from a “good enough” parent who poses no safeguarding risk to them.