(Family Division; Black J; 12 January 2006)
A lesbian couple who wished to have a child together, identified a man willing to conceive a child with one of the two women, on the basis that the child would live with the lesbian couple, but retain an ongoing relationship with the father. The adults disagreed from an early stage as to the extent of that relationship. A judge eventually granted contact to the father, with a residence order to the couple to protect the family relationship of the non-biological mother. Some years later, the father sought an extension of the contact, plus parental responsibility. A variation of contact was agreed to, in broad terms, in the course of the hearing, but the lesbian couple were very concerned that a grant of parental responsibility would damage their integrity as a family unit. The father offered certain undertakings to limit the practical impact of any parental responsibility order. At the judge's instigation, expert evidence was obtained on the likely impact of such an order on this unusual family situation.
The judge cited the expert evidence at length, noting that it may be of interest and assistance in other cases of this kind in the future and may obviate the need to make repeated calls on experts for guidance in similar situations". The parental responsibility order was granted, but the recital of certain conditions was included to protect the integrity of the lesbian couple as a family unit.