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My modern family – personal and professional

22nd February 2017

From being a young child, I knew I wanted a family, to be a mum one day.

I couldn’t be any happier with the cards I have been lucky enough to have been dealt. I have been blessed with two beautiful boys.

I choose the word blessed carefully. There is no other way to describe it. I am a beneficiary of a modern age which has not only allowed me to have the family I so badly craved, but with the love of my life, my wife. Our sons have two mums.

My wife and I are not naïve, whilst our young sons accept their family structure wholeheartedly today, their questions will come. Some that will surely challenge us individually, our role as parents, even our relationship, potentially. It will be for us to support them through that journey of discovery about their beginnings, their identity.

We chose to use an anonymous donor. We know little about this man but we know he is kind.

Our donor, being anonymous, will not have a relationship with our boys. For us, that was important. We want our family unit to be just that and to exist without the threat of future court applications.

Of course, to some in our situation, it is important that a donor does have a relationship with the child/children and that can be achieved using a “known” donor. The opportunity for dispute is more prevalent in known donor cases. Often these arrangements are made informally between friends.

Of course, the prospect of a baby being born is an exciting time and there is a lot to think about but thought must also be given to the legal implications of such an arrangement. How will the child be conceived, in a clinic, IUI, IVF? At home? These are important decisions which may have a profound impact on matters of parentage. Who are the child’s legal parents going to be? Who is going to care for the child? Will the donor play an active part in the child’s life? Spend time with him/her? Have a say in the big decisions in its life, schooling, religious upbringing etc. What happens if there is a dispute? Who is financially responsible for the child? There are cases which have been brought in the family courts in this country dealing with such issues. The courts are still finding their way around these cases which raise interesting and challenging legal issues. It is worth considering entering into a comprehensive pre-conception agreement to try to set out what the agreed arrangements are. That can then be produced to the court to demonstrate the agreement between the parties.

The modern family encompasses a wide range of family structures. The “2.4 children” family structure is becoming less common. Children in modern families may have two mums, two dads, one parent, adoptive parents, step parents, a surrogate. The variations are diverse and all have their own legal considerations.

Society is evolving rapidly and with the introduction of key pieces of law such as The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, huge leaps have been taken towards recognising the modern family. There is more work to be done of course and the ultimate challenge will always be acceptance. We do all we can as parents to give our boys confidence in their family structure in the hope that they will be confident to deal with issues that may arise as they grow up. However, the more openness and acceptance that can be encouraged the easier journey all children of modern families will have – that’s got to be a good thing.

You can view the original article in The Modern Family supplement on page 14, dated Saturday 18th February 2017.

Rachel Lemon is a Partner and Mediator in the top ranking and highly regarded family team at Mundays LLP. Rachel heads up the firm’s Modern Families sector. You can contact Rachel Lemon on 01932 590 612 or at rachel.lemon@mundays.co.uk 

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