The legal situation is potentially more complex for sole parents than for lesbian couples with children.
If you are a single woman who conceived a child with a donor – clinic-recruited or otherwise – then you might well be raising them on your own, without your donor’s involvement. Since the recent reforms, Victorian law, in the Status of Children Act, is very clear that a donor is not a father or parent, whether he is involved in your child’s life or not. However both Victorian and federal law come into play, should there be a dispute between you and your known donor. The federal Family Law Act is ‘silent’ on the question of donors to single women, only severing the parental status of donors where there is an ‘other intended parent’.
It is possible, if a dispute reached court, that your donor might seek to be recognised as a legal parent. It is yet to be tested what a court would decide if this was the case. This does not mean that a court would grant your donor parental responsibilities, especially if he has never had them. Legal parentage is only one factor in a court’s decision about issues like who should have contact with, live with and make decisions for a child. However, it is possible that even if a court did not grant parental status, they might grant your donor some contact with your child should he seek it. We highly recommend you seek legal advice on this issue.
If you are a sole parent, male or female, and you enter a same-sex relationship after your child’s conception, your partner is not considered your children’s legal parent. He or she can be recognised as a step-parent (see below under step-parents) and their role can be recognised through a court parenting order. Should there be a dispute, he or she can apply for such an order, as a ‘significant person’ in the child’s life.
If you conceived your child/ren in a lesbian relationship where the non-birth parent consented to the treatment resulting in the conception of a child, but are now separated, you are both recognised as the child’s legal parents. Seek advice from Births, Deaths and Marriages to find out more.
The Council of Single Mothers and their Children provides support and advice to single mothers throughout Victoria.