A Lesbian couple are involved in a custody battle over twin girls that were conceived when one of the women donated her eggs to the other.
The twin girls are now 5 years old and live with the birth mother after the couple separated in 2012.
At Portsmouth County Court last August, Judge Helen Black, was asked to rule on whether a shared residence order, which would effectively see custody split between the women, was appropriate. A joint residence order would also have granted the genetic mother parental responsibility for the girls.
At the hearing Judge Black ruled that the genetic mother was ‘not a parent of the children and that her status should not be elevated in that way’.
The judge said she was concerned about how the genetic mother ‘may operate her parental responsibility if she were given it’ and referred to ‘the risks which may be involved in the genetic mother sharing parental responsibility’.
She ruled in favour of the birth mother, granting her a sole residence order for the twins to live with her.
However, the genetic mother – who under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 has no legal status as a parent – challenged the decision in the Court of Appeal.
She insists she should have the same right to look after the twins as the birth mother.
Yesterday, three judges upheld the appeal and said the case must now be sent back to the county court to be reconsidered.
Lady Justice Black, sitting with Lord Justice Moses and Lord Justice Kitchin at the Court of Appeal said that judge in the initial hearing had made her findings without hearing evidence and her decision was, as such, ‘built on foundations which were rather wobbly’.
Court of Appeal judge Lady Justice Black told the two women: ‘I have formed the view that the judge did not take into account all the factors that were relevant and that she attributed disproportionate weight to some of the factors that she did consider. I would therefore set aside her order.’
‘Childhood is over all too quickly and, whilst I appreciate that both sides think that they are motivated only by concern for the children, it is still very sad to see it being allowed to slip away whilst energy is devoted to adult wrangles and to litigation.
‘What is particularly unfair is that the legacy of a childhood tainted in this way is likely to remain with the children into their own adult lives.’