New family structures - rose tinted spectacles?

16 April 2012

Family law is always changing to meet the demands of changing family structures. Two recent cases from the Court of Appeal have just illustrated this perfectly.

The first is A v B & C (14 March 2012).  A client of Kingsley Napley, “A” was the biological father of a child conceived within a marriage of convenience with the biological mother “B”. The mother was already in a relationship with another woman, “C”.  B always remained living with C. The parents were all successful professionals. The marriage of convenience was to appease B’s strictly religious family. During the pregnancy of B, the father, A, started to desire a stronger relationship with the child than had been previously explicitly been discussed between all three parents. The Appeal Court rejected the High Court position that Father could not yet see his child overnight. The High Court must review the case, it said.

The Court spoke of the unfairness of referring to primary and secondary parents, and of the language of “donor” father. The Court suggested this language was out of date and risked diminishing the role a biological father might offer a child in future. For further information see website article at: Father’s rights in groundbreaking ‘3 parent family’ case

Another recent case, Lawrence v Gallagher (29 March 2012),  was the first reported Court of Appeal Judgment involving how finances should be split upon the dissolution of  a  Civil Partnership. Mr Lawrence and Mr Gallagher entered a Civil Partnership in 2007, having already lived together for 11 years. Mr Gallagher was an actor who had a history of relatively insecure paid employment. Mr Lawrence was a well-paid banking professional. The lawyers admitted the case involved no legal principles not already derived from divorce cases. Mr Gallagher was awarded one third of the £4million capital assets.

At one level we have the fact that new family structures, recognised by law were involved. But perhaps at a deeper more interesting level, is that these cases just happen to involve same sex couples (or in one case a same sex couple and a father) – and what is of greater interest in them are the wider lessons they teach family lawyers for all their cases.

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