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Law changes and existing families

People were creating rainbow families long before the reforms in 2008 and 2009 allowed them to do so without legal discrimination. The Victorian law allows for those families to now be legally recognised.


The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (the ART Act, in place since 1 January 2010) and a raft of federal law reforms (which came into effect in 2008 and 2009) mean that most same-sex parented families can now be legally recognised, and can amend their children’s birth certificates and donor information to reflect the reality of their legal parentage and donor origins.

All of this information is available to download as part of our Rainbow Families information kit.

Lesbian couples with children conceived before the reforms

Lesbian couples with children conceived before the reforms came into effect can now amend their children’s birth certificates to recognise both mothers. Children of the same parents can also have older siblings recognised on their birth certificates.

Families with more than two parents (co-parent families)

Since the reforms, a child’s legal parents are their birth mother and her partner (if she has one). The parenting role of other co-parents can be legally protected through court parenting orders.

Gay male couples with children conceived via overseas surrogacy

The Victorian ART Act 2008 opened up altruistic surrogacy as an option for gay men, but legal parentage is still not recognised for parents who create their families via overseas surrogates. Court parenting orders are still required to recognize the parenting role of both the biological and non-biological father.

Sole parents

The 2008 Victorian reforms made it clear that a donor is not a legal parent or father. However, federal law is silent on the issue of the legal status of donors to single women.

Families that include step-children

If you began your same-sex relationship after your children were conceived, then the non-biological parent can be recognised as a step-mother or step-father, just like step-parents in heterosexual relationships.

Families that include children being fostered or on permanent care orders

Many same-sex couples and single GLBTI people welcome children into their homes needing short or long-term care. At present a same-sex couple cannot adopt a child they have been fostering, if they become eligible for adoption, although it is possible that one member of the couple might be able to do so.

Registering donor information: children’s right to know their origins

If your children were conceived outside a clinic before the ART Act came into effect on 1 January 2010, you are legally obliged to provide information about their donor origins to BDM.


Rainbow Families Council produced this information kit in October 2010. We have made every effort to ensure the kit is correct, but accept no liability for information given. Information will be regularly updated on our website. We strongly advise that you seek medical and legal advice and specialist counselling relevant to your specific situation.

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We are a volunteer community organisation based in Victoria, Australia. We support and promote equality for ‘rainbow’ families (parents and prospective parents who identify as lesbian, gay, bi, transgender or intersex, and their children).