Picture of two women with a childWhen a lesbian couple or single woman starts thinking about trying for a family, there are lots of issues to consider.
Many relate to how you will try to conceive: would you prefer a clinic-recruited or known donor, or are you interested in co-parenting? If you choose a known donor or co-parent, what role might he (and perhaps his partner) have in your family life? Would you consider fostering?

Various factors will influence the decisions you make. The main ones fall into two groups: the relevant laws, and your personal values and circumstances. A key consideration might be that women’s fertility decreases sharply after age 35. Click on the links below for more information, and discussion of many key issues.

All of this information is available to download as part of our Rainbow Families information kit, including a PDF for prospective lesbian parents, and the corresponding information sheets for prospective donors, and prospective gay male co-parents.

Thinking it through

Of course, you need to understand the relevant laws and your Options for conception. But a good place to start is with by considering your personal values and circumstances. How would you (ideally) like to create and raise your family?

The laws you need to know about

The 2008 reforms made it easier for lesbian couples and single women to create their families. They also mean that lesbian couples are legally recognised as their child’s parents. It’s also important to understand how the law protects other relationships in a child’s life, for example with a known donor or co-parent.

Conception with a clinic-recruited donor

Many women decide that one or two loving mothers (and any extended family) are all the family their children need. We outline what’s involved with conception with a clinic donor, how your child’s donor information is stored, and the legal status of clinic-recruited donors.

Conception with a known donor or co-parent

Many women choose to welcome a known donor or co-parent into their family. We outline what’s involved with the three main Options for attempting conception, recommended health checks for the donor and prospective birth mother, what to do if you have trouble conceiving, and the legal ramifications of attempting it ‘the natural way’.

Legal parentage and other roles

Federal and Victorian law clearly state that single women or lesbian couples (at the time of conception) are their children’s legal parents, and that a donor is not a parent. The law does not recognise co-parent families, but it does protect relationships between children and other people in their lives, such as co-parents, known donors, grandparents or step-parents. One option is to recognise those roles through court ‘chttp://www.kristenhardy.com/rfc/for-prospective-families/prospective-lesbian-parents/registering-birth-and-donor-information/”>Registering births and donor information

Recent changes mean that a child’s legal parents are their birth mother and her partner (if she had one at the time of conception), which must be reflected on their birth certificate. Children’s donor information is registered and stored in different ways with the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, depending on whether conception was through a clinic or home insemination.

Known donors: finding and talking with prospective donors

How do you find a donor? How do you know he’s the right one? What about a donor who’s already a friend? A critical question to ask a prospective donor is whether this is a role he really wants, or whether he would prefer a parent himself (if he isn’t already). It’s also very important not to gloss over differences, and to stay focussed on what you want for your family.

Known donors: issues to discuss and include in your agreement

It’s very exciting to begin discussions with a donor. It’s also critical that you tackle the (potentially) difficult issues, and do it together. Written agreements are not legally binding, but are very useful for ensuring you cover the key issues, and come to a common understanding. Unspoken assumptions and conflicting expectations are the main causes of conflict for people involved in rainbow families.

Exploring co-parenting

Co-parent families are when two or more people not in a relationship choose to have children together. The law does not recognise all co-parents as their children’s legal parents, although court consent orders are an option for formally recognising relationships. Creating a family with a co-parent is very different from involving a known donor; we outline some issues to consider.
If relationships break down.

Every family has issues from time to time. Ideally, you’ll be able to sort them out yourselves. Hopefully, you will have made an agreement upfront about what should happen if you can’t. You might consider involving a mediator or counsellor before things get too difficult. Do whatever you can to stay out of court. But if you do end up in there, remember that a court cannot change a child’s legal parentage, but is likely to seek to maintain the child’s relationships with all of the significant people in their life. Always seek legal advice on the specifics of your situation.

Rainbow Families Council produced the information in this section of our website 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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