The Court of Appeal has ruled that a lesbian couple who are raising a two-year-old boy must allow the biological father a role in his upbringing.
The father, a gay man living in London, had been told in a previous hearing that his contact would be limited to one day a fortnight, a decision which the Court of Appeal overturned.
The man, a professional in his forties, had married the mother of the boy in order to make it easier for the couple to have a child of their own. Initially the man had agreed over dinner that the lesbian couple would be the boy's primary parents. However, he later changed his mind and asked for greater involvement.
The boy's mother and her partner described how they felt betrayed after the father decided he would like overnight and holiday contact with his son. This was a decision which they said left them feeling "bitter and betrayed".
The father applied for greater contact with his son after his first birthday. The Family Division of the High Court accepted his application, but only increased his access by a small amount, from five hours per fortnight to six. In the ruling, the judge agreed that the father should play a role in the child's upbringing, but not so much that it might "fracture the lesbian couple's nuclear family".
Dissatisfied with this outcome, the father took his case to the Court of Appeal. Yesterday, three judges ruled that the couple's decision was potentially "selfish". In judgment they said the arrangement "may later insufficiently weight the welfare and developing rights of the child".
Lord Justice Thorpe said in judgment that the father was seeking to have a relationship of considerable value with his son.
"It is generally accepted that a child gains by having two parents. It does not follow from that that the addition of a third is necessarily disadvantageous," he said.
The case could have a significant bearing on cases involving 'alternative families'. Lady Justice Black observed that the law was struggling with what was still new territory, saying that it was an area of law in which general guidelines are impossible.
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