A MILLIONAIRE businessman embroiled in a bitter custody battle after secretly helping his ex conceive through IVF has been declared the child’s legal father in a landmark ruling.
A Family Court judge has awarded the man equal shared parental responsibility of the two-year-old boy – despite Victorian law stating sperm donors are not considered the father.
The man had also signed a document acknowledging he had no legal claim in relation to the child and wished to just be a sperm donor.
His ex told the court she always intended to raise the child as a single mum with the man having only an avuncular role. But she permitted regular visits and a bond formed between her son and her ex.
Justice Paul Cronin held the state laws were inconsistent with, and therefore overridden by, federal legislation, which says a parent is a child’s biological parent.
The parties, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, lived together as a couple for six months before breaking up in 2002.
Now in their 40s, they remained friends and began IVF treatment in 2008 after the man agreed to donate sperm. The couple kept the parentage of the boy, born in 2010, a secret.
The man attended the birth of the child and visited him regularly, until the relationship between he and his former partner deteriorated in late 2011 after he revealed he had a girlfriend.
The judge said the woman had effectively “stonewalled” the man, fearing he “would use his family’s wealth and power” to gain effective control of the child.
He said concerns that sperm donors could be considered parents were irrelevant, as legislation did not impose obligations on unknown donors.
The judge said each case could be determined on its own facts. Shared parental responsibility concerning major long-term decisions was in the best interests of the child.
The judge granted the father custody in an arrangement that graduated to alternate weekends and half of the school holidays.
Slater & Gordon family law specialist Heather McKinnon said the case was more about the child’s attachment to the biological father than how he was conceived.
“The mother relinquished and allowed the child to form a relationship with the man. That is when she waived the rights under the legislation,” she said.
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