Genetic father gets custody of infants born abroad to surrogate

In separate case, woman married for three months before learning husband already had wife


A declaration of parentage following surrogacy, a woman who discovered her husband already had a wife and the division of negative equity in a divorce of grandparents were among cases at the Family Circuit Court in Dublin yesterday.

The family courts were opened up to journalists for the first time this week after Minister for Justice Alan Shatter lifted the privacy rule and allowed reporting on a limited basis.

Before Judge Carmel Stewart yesterday, the genetic father of two infants born through surrogacy was granted guardianship and full custody of them. He was also given a declaration of parentage stating he was their father.

His counsel said the infants were born to a surrogate mother overseas using donor eggs. She was a widow and had signed legal documents saying she had no objection to the children’s father being given sole custody.

DNA tests were carried out under the direction of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ diplomatic division while the infants were still in their birth country. The tests were sent to Dublin for verification, counsel said, and they proved his client was the genetic father.

The father and his partner were then allowed to take the infants home to Ireland using emergency documents, on condition they informed the HSE and made an application for a parentage declaration in a timely manner, counsel said.

In evidence, the father said he and his partner are living together and share the care of the infants between them. The children were healthy and well and “everyone was very happy”.

Judge Stewart said she was satisfied the man was the biological father of the infants. She appointed him guardian, gave him sole custody and wished him and his family well.

In another case before Judge Stewart, a woman made an application to have her marriage annulled on the basis that her husband already had a wife.

She told the court she moved to Ireland as an asylum seeker and was married in 1998. She and her husband were living together in their marital home for three months when her husband’s “original wife” turned up at the house.

Asked by the judge whether her husband had offered any explanation, the woman said he told her he was separated from his first wife. “He said he didn’t know he had to go through a divorce before he was married to me,” she said.

The woman’s solicitor said the husband, who was not present in court, had given a false date of birth when he got married in Ireland.

Judge Stewart said she was satisfied the man was aware of the court proceedings and that “due to his prior subsisting marriage he lacked capacity to enter a marriage”. She declared the woman’s marriage null and void.

Divorce case
In a divorce case, the judge heard that all of the issues between a husband and wife, who had three grandchildren, had been settled except regarding the family home. The wife wanted to remain in it and take over the mortgage. She had a letter from the bank agreeing a transfer of the mortgage to her sole name provided she paid off some small loans first. But counsel for the husband said while he was agreeable to this, he could not wait any longer. He was living in a small bedsit and the local authority had said they could not house him while his name was still on the deeds of the family home.

After some negotiation, Judge Stewart granted the decree of divorce and ordered that the house be transferred into the wife’s name by the end of July. If not, the house was to be sold and any net proceeds or negative equity were to be divided equally between the man and woman.