A sperm donor's fight to be part of his year-old daughter's life became a three-way battle yesterday when the court heard the girl's two lesbian mothers are splitting up.
Lawyers made the admission at the very start of a hearing in Quebec Superior Court to determine whether the sperm donor gets to play papa to the girl born a year ago to his ex-girlfriend and her lesbian partner, who are legally married.
The impending divorce is already complicating the lives of the three parties. They must juggle dividing the girl's time between them after a stunning court ruling in May granted the sperm donor interim visits.
"We can't have the child torn in three," complained Anne-France Goldwater, the lawyer for the girl and her birth mother.
The revelations could shift the focus of a case that promised to have profound consequences on both heterosexual and same-sex couples who resort to reproductive technology to start families.
It could also mean a double test of a 2002 Quebec law that granted same-sex couples the right to both be listed as the legal parents on their child's birth certificate. The sperm donor is asking to have his name inscribed on the document to establish his fatherhood and to have a role in the girl's life.
Under the law, sperm donors usually have no rights or obligations to the children they father.
But in court documents, the man said that when he agreed to contribute to his friend's artificial insemination, he believed he'd be more than a genetic donor.
The women countered in their own filing that it was their decision alone to start a family together, and that the man was chosen after narrowing down a longer list of potential donors.
They also claim the man had ulterior motives by helping them: They say he announced to his family that he was gay and that his ex-girlfriend was carrying his child at the same time to mitigate the shock of his coming out.
News of the women's divorce suggests the case could break new ground when it comes to custodial rights in blended and multi-parent families.
Mona Greenbaum, a spokesperson for the Lesbian Mothers Association of Quebec, said recognition is long overdue for stepparents who become close to children through remarriage as well as same-sex couples who start families and want the friends or acquaintances who help them to be involved.
But the case could be stalled indefinitely after the three parties appealed a judge's decision to open the hearing to the media.
Lawyers for the sperm donor, the birth mother and the co-mother tried to have the media excluded from yesterday's hearing. Several media outlets, including The Gazette, challenged the move.
Online Extra: To read about other custody cases involving lesbian mothers, go to our Web site: www.montrealgazette.com