In a landmark decision, a lesbian has won a High Court ruling that, whilst bereft of legal rights over a child conceived by her ex-partner during their relationship, she is the child's 'psychological parent'.
During the couple's turbulent 18-month relationship, the woman – referred to as 'L' – had used a syringe to artificially inseminate her partner with sperm that had been obtained from an anonymous donor via the Internet. She had played a full part in planning the child's birth and considered herself an 'equal parent'. She was constantly on hand after the delivery.
However, L failed in two attempts to have herself named as a parent on the baby's birth certificate and was informed by a solicitor that she had no legal rights in respect of the child. After the couple split up, the natural mother – known as 'C' – was perfectly within her rights when she removed the child from the arms of her 'extremely distressed' ex-partner and returned with the two-month-old girl to her native Ireland. C had since refused to allow any contact between L and the girl.
In what the Court described as an example of 'the painful legal confusion that can arise when children are born as a result of unregulated artificial conception', L applied for a joint residency order and contact with the girl. She launched proceedings in England in the belief that she would have even fewer rights under the laws of Ireland. However, the Court found that it had no jurisdiction to consider her applications as the child was dependent on her mother and both of them were habitually resident in Ireland.
Nevertheless, in a decision which broke new legal ground, the Court ruled that L's role in planning the child's birth and the loving care that she had given to her during her first few weeks of life meant that she was the girl's 'psychological parent' and that 'family life existed' between L and the baby she considered her daughter when she was removed from her.
L's hopes of playing a full parental role in the girl's life ultimately lay in the hands of the Irish courts; however, the Court's declaration that the child was a member of L's family opened the way for her to argue that the child's removal violated her right to respect for family life, which is enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.