Same-sex couple granted guardianship rights to daughter

Order recognising woman as part of her child’s family among the earliest to be made

"It's brilliant, fantastic – we have champagne ready at home," said a woman who was speaking outside a courthouse moments after a judge granted the first guardianship application for a child in a western county to a partner in a same-sex couple under new legislation, the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.

The order by the judge now has the effect of the State legally recognising the woman as part of her daughter's family, and is among the earliest to be made at family law courts across the country.

Several years ago the woman's civil partner gave birth to their daughter following a pregnancy made possible by a sperm donor at a fertility clinic.

Up until now, the woman, from a legal standpoint, has not been recognised as part of her daughter’s family and, if her daughter had fallen ill in hospital, she would have had no legal authority to be with her daughter as a parent or make decisions on her daughter’s welfare.


Guardianship application

In the brief hearing, the woman told the judge: “I am the non-biological parent but my name wasn’t on the birth certificate and I am applying for guardianship today.”

Granting the application to the two inside the family law court, the judge said: “I want to compliment and congratulate everyone involved. This is the first application of this kind that has come before this court so that makes it a special one for me too. I wish the three of you all happiness.”

Outside court, the woman said: “this is quite emotional”, adding: “For me, it is purely a practical matter. Our daughter now has a legal relationship with me. If she is ever unwell in hospital, I can now be with her.”

Her partner said: “There has been a legal complication there and this removes the legal complication. It would change our daughter’s fundamental understanding of our family if we were to get into it with her. As far as she is concerned, we are who we are: we are her family.”

Her partner added: “It is an amazing day today. We have waited for this for nearly four years. A lot of people think that when you get civil partnered or now when you married, that this all comes with it but it doesn’t.”

(Names have been withheld to comply with family law reporting restrictions.)

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times