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Go to Court on an egg



[with apologies to Tony Hancock and Fay Weldon for twisting their slogan]
Even by HFEA case standards, this one takes some following. Although as we know from the High Court we are all expected to be experts in the HFEA now.

It is Re G (Children) 2014

Helpfully, even from the outset, we learn that although the case is called Re G, the children are referred to as “D” and “the twins” – nobody ever gets called “G” at any point.

We have a single-sex couple, A and R. They wanted to have some children. A donated her eggs, which were fertilised by an anonymous donor, and implanted into R, who gave birth in the usual way. Those children were the twins.

There were some fertilised embryos left over from the process, and A later used one of those to have her own pregnancy – that produced child D. [Quite a few years later]

Now, biologically, D and the twins have the same biological mother A, the same (anonymous) biological father and are full siblings.

However, legally, the mother of D is A. The legal mother of the twins is R.

Even though A and R were raising the children together, until they separated, the children (who were full biological siblings) had different legal mothers – A was the legal mother of D and had no legal status in relation to the twins, and R was the legal mother of the twins and had no legal status in relation to D. And although the twins and D were biological siblings, in law they were only half-siblings.

[This is reminding me of the beginning of SOAP, where the voiceover says “Confused? You will be” ]

All of this probably worked out okay, until A and R separated (they don’t even agree when they separated – R says they separated in 2008 but lived together as friends until 2012, A says they were in a relationship until 2012 and then separated)

It is to their credit, as the Court of Appeal observed, that when they came before Her Honour Judge Black, they had managed to resolve where the children would live, contact arrangements and were left with one single issue.

Should there be a joint residence order in relation to the twins, this being the only way that A, their biological mother, would have parental responsibility in relation to them.

Her Honour Judge Black considered that carefully, and it is fair to say that the case law provided very little in the way of guidance to resolve a difficult issue. She eventually refused the order, hence A appealing to the Court of Appeal.

[I have to say, I would have pragmatically have made the order, but made it plain that the twins primary home was with R, and it was an order made to achieve the legal status that A warranted as their biological mother]

18. She began her judgment by explaining that she thought it appropriate that the order made by the court should recognise that only one of the parties was the twins’ mother and therefore she should have sole parental responsibility for them. In contrast, she remarked that the appellant is not a parent of the children and that her status should not be elevated in that way (§4). She considered that the contact arrangement, coupled with the agreement to provide information about education and medical issues and for a limited delegation of parental responsibility was sufficient to recognise the importance of the appellant’s involvement in the children’s lives (§9).
19. The judge thought it of significance that in relation to D, the parties had not taken advantage of the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 which would have enabled them both to be parents of D. From this, she inferred that there had not been an intention to bring D up as joint parents and, I think, drew the further inference that the same was true of their intentions in relation to the twins. This led to her saying that “there is no question at any point of [the respondent] sharing parental responsibility of [the appellant’s] child with her and, therefore, it would seem on that basis alone, to be wrong that she should expect to share responsibility for [the respondent’s] children” (§8).
20. A theme of the argument on behalf of the appellant was that without a shared residence order, she would be marginalised by the respondent. The judge said that she did not see from reading the parties’ statements that there had been inappropriate marginalisation of the appellant and she considered that the respondent had shown that she recognised the importance that the appellant has in relation to the children by her agreement in relation to contact and the provision of information.
21. In contrast, the judge said that she was concerned about how the appellant “may operate her parental responsibility if she were given it” (§5) and in fixing on a sole residence order as appropriate, she referred to “the risks which may be involved in [the appellant] sharing parental responsibility” (§9).The source of her concern appears to have been particularly the threat to take matters to the press, although I think I interpret her correctly (§5 of the judgment) as saying that it had not been suggested in submissions that this continued to be a problem. It seems she may also have been taking into account what she described as “a sad history to how things have developed over certainly the course of this year and last year”.


The Court of Appeal were aided in their decision-making by some recent authorities, and some lovely cut-and-thrust from the two counsel representing A and R (A is the applicant, R the Respondent)

23. Ms Campbell, who appeared on behalf of the appellant, argued that the judge had failed to give weight to some important features of the case, including that the appellant was the biological mother of the twins, that she had cared for them for four and a half years, and that she would be taking a parenting role in respect of them for the rest of their lives.
24. Ms Foulkes for the respondent argued that these matters were known to the judge but she was entitled to give weight to the fact that the respondent is, as she put it, drawing on the speech of Baroness Hale in In re G (Children)(Residence: Same-sex Partner) [2006] UKHL 43 [2006] 1 WLR 2305, “their gestational parent, their legal parent and their social and psychological parent”.
25. Ms Campbell argued that the judge had set too much store by the fact that, by virtue of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, the respondent was “the mother” and therefore overlooked the fact that the appellant was a “parent”. She submitted that the twins have regarded the appellant as their parent all their lives and, during the extensive contact that there will be in future, she would continue to take that role. She submitted that they would naturally expect her to be as involved in matters such as schooling as the respondent and, without parental responsibility, she would not be able to be.
26. Ms Foulkes responded that the law deliberately distinguishes between the genetic mother and the gestational mother. It is of note, she said, that it is the gestational mother who has automatic parental responsibility. The mere fact of genetic parentage is not sufficient, she said, to justify a shared residence order, and even if the judge did find that the appellant had played a parental role, that did not require her to make a shared residence order, see Re R (Parental Responsibility) [2011] EWHC 1535 (Fam) [2011] 2 FLR 1132 where Jackson J did not grant a free-standing parental responsibility order to a step-father who had been and continued to be a psychological parent to the child.
27. Ms Campbell complained that the judge had not identified the risks that she felt may be involved in sharing parental responsibility, submitting that there are no grounds to believe that the appellant would interfere with the respondent’s exercise of her parental responsibility. Ms Foulkes said that the judge’s reference to the threat of the press was enough and the judge could have cited many examples from the appellant’s statement of her referring to her own biological role, failing to recognise the importance of the respondent in the children’s lives, and criticising the respondent’s care of them.
28. Ms Campbell submitted that the judge was wrong to have been influenced by the fact that the respondent was to have no parental role in relation to D; that was irrelevant when considering what was in the interests of the twins. Ms Foulkes’ answer was that this was a relevant factor because it undermined the appellant’s case that the intention had been that she and the respondent would be joint parents of the twins and were intending, with the birth of D, to add to their family. On the contrary, it was said, the evidence showed that the intention had always been for the respondent to be the sole legal parent for the twins and the appellant the sole legal parent for D. It was also relevant, Ms Foulkes said, that the three children would be in different legal situations if a shared residence order was made and the twins would struggle to make sense of why they had two parents with parental responsibility and D did not.

(even though I would have made the shared residence order, I think Ms Foulkes points at para 26 which go in the opposite direction are compelling. It is harder to resolve this than you might think)
28. Discussion
29. It was common ground between the parties that a shared residence order could be made in order to confer parental responsibility. The question is whether the judge was wrong to take the view that it was not in the twins’ best interests to make such an order here.
30. Families are formed in different ways these days and the law must attempt to keep up and to respond to developments. To some extent, the judge was right to say that no decided authorities assisted her greatly. Certainly there is nothing which is precisely in point. It might, however, have been helpful if the parties had invited her to consider the legal framework, including some of the authorities dealing with the nature of parental responsibility and showing how the concept had been approached in new situations which were not centre stage when it first made its appearance. Because, for reasons I will give in due course, I would dispose of this appeal by overturning Judge Black’s order and remitting the matter for rehearing, I thought it might be of assistance to gather together some of the learning that is available even though, in order to do so, I have departed from the parties’ submissions and relied on my own research.
[The research here is excellently set out – it would make this piece rather too long to rehearse it all, but check it out in the judgment if you are interested]

I return to consider the issues arising in this appeal. It seems to me that the judge was put in a difficult position, albeit that this happened for the best of reasons. As the authorities show, a decision such as that which she was asked to take is heavily dependent on the particular facts of the case. Many of the facts here were hotly disputed and there was neither an agreed factual framework nor any factual findings made by a court. No judge wishes to put parties through more litigation, particularly not where, as here, they have at last managed to reach a sensible agreement on much that was in issue between them. Sometimes a judge has no choice but to do the best he or she can to ascertain the facts on the basis of the written material and submissions only; proceedings under the 1980 Hague Convention quite frequently have to proceed in this way. Sometimes the appropriate factual findings are sufficiently obvious for oral evidence not to be required. However, sometimes it is not at all clear on the papers where the balance of probability lies in relation to disputed facts which are central to the judge’s thinking. In those cases, notwithstanding an invitation from the parties to act on submissions only, it may not be realistically possible for a judge to make a determination without hearing some evidence. It seems to me that this case was such a case.
It may not be very surprising that the grounds of appeal did not include a complaint that the judge had made findings without hearing any evidence, as the parties had asked her to rule on the issue on submissions only. Looking back at the process however, I think that it resulted in the judge’s decision being built on foundations which were rather wobbly. This was compounded by her not having articulated, beyond the threat of the press which the appellant had abandoned, what led her to believe that the appellant would interfere with the care of the children if she had parental responsibility, why she thought that would continue to be a risk notwithstanding the appellant’s abandonment of her residence application, and the form she thought the interference would take.
The Court of Appeal felt that Her Honour Judge Black, though clearly faced with a very difficult decision, had given too little emphasis to the biological relationship between A and the twins, and that the decision had to be set aside. The Court of Appeal did not, however, think that they could simply substitute a joint residence order because the disputed facts went to the heart of that decision. Therefore, they decided that the case needed to be reheard, with either an agreed factual matrix or a Judge making findings on the essential disputed matters.

59. I would end with some words to the parties. I urge them to reach agreement about the issues that remain between them. One can well see that, subject to issues about interference and undermining, a judge might be inclined to recognise the distinctive features of this case by making a shared residence order to confer parental responsibility on the appellant, given her past and continuing involvement in the twins’ lives, her role as their genetic parent, and the fact that she is the mother of their sibling. Whether that turns out to be appropriate will depend very much upon what transpires in the new hearing and I express no concluded view about it. What I am, however, quite confident about is that a further hearing should be avoided if at all possible. I repeat what I said in T v T [2010] EWCA Civ 1366 at §49:
“Childhood is over all too quickly and, whilst I appreciate that both sides think that they are motivated only by concern for the children, it is still very sad to see it being allowed to slip away whilst energy is devoted to adult wrangles and to litigation. What is particularly unfair is that the legacy of a childhood tainted in this way is likely to remain with the children into their own adult lives.”
I think the parties realised this when they reached the agreement that they did in front of Judge Black. I am sorry that the arrangements fixed that day cannot stand in their totality. But further agreement is still an option.


“Biological parent versus legal parents – OR Judge Fudge is far too busy being delicious”



A discussion of the High Court decision in Re S v D &E 2013, in which the High Court determined that a man who had donated sperm which led to the birth of a child could make an application under the Children Act 1989, although leave would be required.   The case involved two separate families where the issues were similar (although of course the precise facts were different, and were bundled up together)  – which becomes very important later on.


 As promised, LO !



The issue really arises as a result of the provisions within the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, to the effect that in this setting, where a man provides gametes in order to bring about a pregnancy, but that the biological mother of the child is in a civil partnership, the two women will be legal parents of the child and the donor will not be a legal parent.


  1. The provisions of the 2008 Act relevant to these applications are ss.42(1), 45(1) and 48(1), (2) and (5). S.42(1) provides

“If at the time of the placing in her of the embryo or the sperm and eggs or of her artificial insemination, W was a party to a civil partnership, then … the other party to the civil partnership is to be treated as a parent of the child unless it is shown that she did not consent to the placing in W of the embryo or the sperm and eggs or to her artificial insemination (as the case may be).”

S.45(1) provides, in so far as relevant to this application:

“Where a woman is treated by virtue of section 42 … as a parent of the child, no man is to be treated as the father of the child.”

S.48, so far as relevant to this case, provides:

“(1) Where by virtue of section … 42 … a person is to be treated as the … parent of a child, that person is to be treated in law as the … parent … of the child for all purposes.

(2) Where, by virtue of section … 45 … a person is not to be treated as a parent of the child, that person is to be treated in law as not being a parent of the child for any purpose.


(5) Where any of subsections (1) to (4) has effect, references to any relationship between two people in any enactment, deed or other instrument or document (whenever passed or made) are to be read accordingly.”




Therefore in this case, the donor is “not to be treated as the father of the child” and “is to be treated in law as not being a parent of the child for any purpose”



That prevents the donor from the ability to make an application for contact or residence as of right, as he is not a parent.


The more difficult question was whether the donor had the right to make an application to Court under s10(9) of the Children Act 1989 for LEAVE to make an application, or whether the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 were in effect a bar to such leave being given, as he is “not to be treated in law as being a parent of the child for any purpose”



The parents argument was the HFAE 2008 meant that the donor was not a parent of the child for any purpose, and that meant there was no connection to the child and so any application under s10(9) was doomed to failure, connection to the child being a key component.




  1. It is a central feature of the argument advanced by Miss Russell on behalf of X and Y, and adopted and developed by Miss Fottrell on behalf of D and E, that the policy underpinning the reforms implemented in the 2008 Act is a material consideration for this court in determining the applications for leave under s.10(9).
  1. It is manifestly clear that, by passing the 2008 Act, Parliament changed the law on donation to recognise lesbian parents as joint legal parents. Those provisions not only confer parenthood but also expressly eliminate the legal status of the man who is the biological father in such circumstances. Miss Russell submits that the provision that no man should be treated as the father ‘for any purpose’ affects the interpretation of every other legal enactment and private document and should be regarded as a fundamental and overriding provision. Miss Russell submits that Parliament could not have been more categorical about its intent to shelter recipient parents from any possible parental claim from a “donor”.
  1. The respondents contend that, by providing that a man in the position of S and T is ‘not to be treated as the father for any purpose’, Parliament intended to protect families from precisely the type of conduct being demonstrated by the applicants in this case, which Miss Russell characterises as an “invasion of privacy and infringement of parental responsibility”. She argues that T’s application amounts to seeking a paternal role on the presumption that Z will benefit from the building of such a relationship with his biological father in addition to the relationship he has with his two existing legal parents. Miss Russell submits that the amendments to the law introduced by the 2008 Act represent a significant shift of policy away from the presumption that a child’s welfare is enhanced by the involvement of a father, towards an acknowledgment that alternative family forms without fathers are sufficient to meet a child’s needs.
  1. Miss Russell submits that the effect of requiring “donors” in these circumstances to apply for leave is significant. Prior to the implementation of the 2008 Act, an applicant in the position of S and T was entitled to apply for contact as of right. Previous cases have been heard under a different legal framework in which the applicant man was the legal father and the welfare of the child was, from the outset, the court’s paramount consideration. In contrast, under the present application, the applicants are not legally the fathers of the children and welfare is not the paramount consideration of the court and the court is considering the section 10(9) criteria in the context of, and in conjunction with, the provisions of, and policy underpinning, the 2008 Act. Granting an applicant in these circumstances leave to apply for orders under s.8 would, she argues, seriously undermine that policy.




The donor’s argument was that s10(9) applied and he could make an application for leave, and that it would be for the Court to determine whether his application for leave should be granted, applying all of the usual tests.



In response to these submissions, Miss King deployed an extensive range of arguments, but her central submission can be simply summarised. She accepts that the effect of the reforms implemented by ss 45(1) and 48(2) of the 2008 Act was to remove the status of legal parent from a man who provides sperm for the artificial insemination of a woman in a civil partnership, but submits that this does not eradicate his status as a genetic parent who may, depending on the facts and whether or not he satisfies the criteria under s.10(9), be allowed by the court to apply for an order under s.8 of the Children Act in order to play a role in the life of the child. Although parental responsibility is vested exclusively in the mothers of the children, Miss King submits, relying on dicta of McFarlane LJ in Re W (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 999, that with parental responsibility comes both authority and duty and argues that, as the legal parents to Z, part of the role assumed by X and Y involves making responsible decisions which meet the best interests of their child including permitting contact with his biological father. If they are unable to agree to do so, then, submits Miss King, the court must intervene on behalf of the child


  1. Miss King submits that social and psychological relationships amounting to parenthood can and often do co-exist with legal parenthood. In some circumstances, a legal parent may not have a day to day relationship with a child whereas a person with a significant social or psychological relationship may be a stable and constant presence whilst lacking the status of a legal parent. Miss King submits that to contend for the notion that a biological father has an inherently higher test to meet than would others who are not legal parents to the subject child is to ignore the fact that leave to apply is only ever required when the applicant is not the legal parent. No person is absolutely excluded from seeking redress, although, save in certain defined circumstances, an application for redress cannot be made without the court’s leave. Miss King reminds me that this is the position faced by biological fathers without parental responsibility in other circumstances(see Re H (illegitimate Children: Father: Parental Rights) (No 2) [1991] 1 FLR 214), and also by step-parents (Re H (Shared Residence: Parental responsibility)[1995] 2 FLR 883 and Re A (Joint residence/Parental responsibility)[2008] 2 FLR 1593) and same-sex partners who have no biological relationship with the subject child but are playing the role of the parent (G v F (Contact and Shared Residence: Application for Leave [1998] 2 FLR 799). Miss King submits that biological fathers who are deprived of legal parenthood by the 2008 Act should be treated no differently.
  1. Miss King submits that, had Parliament intended that a person in the position of the respondents in this case should be entirely stripped of legal remedies, it would have expressly provided that a progenitor in these circumstances would be disqualified even from seeking the court’s leave. In the absence of such an express provision, the policy considerations advanced on behalf of the respondents should not be used to trump or outweigh the statutory criteria for granting leave under s.10(9).
  1. In developing Miss King’s arguments on this point, Miss Reardon submits that the terms of s.42 of the 2008 Act do not limit a child’s parentage to the two mothers in anything but the strictest legal sense. Therefore, she argues, the Act cannot operate as a blanket ban on any application by a biological father. The fact that the terms of the 2008 Act require that a man in a position of S and T ‘is to be treated in law as not being a parent of the child for any purpose’ is a very different thing from excluding him from making an application for leave to apply for an order under s. 8 of the Children Act. In fact, she submits, biological parents who are not legal parents continue to be treated as the parents of their children for a number of purposes, for example in order to obtain information about a genetically-related medical condition, or to provide the child with an understanding of his biological heritage and identity.




The Court took pains to point out a number of times in the judgment that in dealing with cases where there were two legal parents and two biological ones and not necessarily a complete overlap between those two sets of “parents”  most of the decisions were likely to turn on the facts specific to that case.



This was also the case advanced by the donors  (there being two cases of similar type ‘bundled up’ and heard together)


Ultimately, the cases advanced on behalf of the applicants focus on the facts. Central to the case advanced on behalf of the applicants is the argument that each case is fact specific. They submit that the policy considerations underpinning the 2008 Act do not entitle or oblige the court to refuse an application for leave in every case. In some cases, it will be appropriate to grant a genetic or psychological parent leave to apply for contact, in others not. In support of this submission, Miss King relies on the decision of the Court of Appeal in A v B and C (Lesbian Co-Parents: Role of Father) [2012] EWCA Civ 285 [2012] 2 FLR 607. In that case, both Thorpe LJ and Black LJ (at paragraphs 23 and 39 respectively) stressed that decisions in disputes between two female parents and a male parent are “so fact specific’. As a result, Black LJ concluded that ‘this is an area of law in which generalise guidance is not possible’. Miss King acknowledges that A v B and C was a case in which the biological father was entitled to apply for contact as of right and the court was thus applying the paramountcy principle. She submits, however, that the observations of the Court of Appeal support the argument that the court should adopt a fact-specific approach to the application for leave in this case, rather than attaching any significant weight to the policy considerations identified by the respondents.



And that it would therefore be a consideration by the Court of the facts in the particular case as to whether a donor should be granted leave under s10(9) rather than interpreting that the policy underpinning the provisions of the HFEA 2008 meant that as a matter of public policy such a s10(9) application for leave should be refused.



The Court, as you will see from the conclusion of the judgment, was in agreement with the applicant, that it was a case specific decision on the facts as to whether s10(9) leave should be granted, and went on to do so.



  1. 112.                     Discussion
  1. I accept the submission put forward on behalf of the respondents to these applications that the reforms passed by the Human Fertilisation Embryology Act 2008, and the policy underpinning those reforms, are material considerations for this court in determining this application for leave under section 10 of the Children Act 1989. The effect of sections 42(1), 45(1) and 48 (2) of the 2008 Act is that S and T are not to be treated in law as the parents of, respectively, G and Z for any purpose. I endorse the submissions that the policy underpinning these reforms is an acknowledgement that alternative family forms without fathers are sufficient to meet a child’s need. It is now established beyond doubt that the relationship between a same-sex couple constitutes ‘family life’ for the purposes of article 8: see Schalk and Kopf v Austria[2010] ECHR 995. Thus, D, E, F and G have a family life together, as do X, Y and Z, that is entitled to respect under article 8. Thousands of children in this country are being brought up happily and successfully by same-sex couples. ‘As the usages of society alter, the law must adapt itself to the various situations of mankind’ (per Lord Mansfield in Barwell v Brooks (1784) 3 Doug. 371).
  1. To my mind, the policy underpinning sections 42(1), 45(1) and 48(2) of the 2008 Act is simply to put lesbian couples and their children in exactly the same legal position as other types of parent and children. This is in my judgment the clear intention of Parliament. I do not see any ambiguity in the wording of the Act which, under the rule in Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart [1993] AC593, is required to justify the court considering reports of recordings in Parliament as an aid to statutory interpretation.
  1. Any person who seeks a s.8 order in respect of that child against the wishes of such parents must obtain the leave of the court which will consider all relevant matters including the factors identified in s.10(9) as explained by Black LJ in Re B (Paternal Grandmother: Joinder as Party). As part of that analysis, the court will consider the rights of legal parents to family life including the right to make decisions about their children. Those rights are widely recognised both as a long standing principle of English law and under article 8. In this regard, the position of a lesbian couple who have been granted the status of legal parents by the 2008 Act is exactly the same as any other legal parent. Having taken those rights into account, however, it is still open to the court, after considering all relevant factors, to grant leave to other persons to apply for section 8 orders. In this regard, the position of biological fathers who have been deprived of the status of legal parent by the 2008 Act is the same as any other person.
  1. As a matter of law, Miss Russell and Miss Fottrell are right to describe S and T as strangers to G and Z. But in another sense, they are not strangers. As a result of choices made by the respondents, both S and T had regular and frequent contact with G and Z respectively. D and E chose S, an old friend of D’s, who lived 100 yards or so away, to provide sperm to enable them to conceive a child. They involved him in preparations before the birth. They invited him to see the new baby, F, immediately after birth and thereafter on a regular basis. When they decided to try for another child, they asked him to provide sperm again. They wanted their second child to have the identical genetic background to their first. Again, they involved S in the preparations before the birth and allowed him regular and frequent contact thereafter. I acknowledge that D and E say that, in some respects, they were acting under a degree of pressure when they involved S in those preparations and arranged the regular and frequent contact with the children, but the fact remains that, for whatever reason, they did involve him in this preparation and did allow him contact. Equally, D and E challenge the quality of the contact S had with F and, in particular, G, saying that, when he visited the home, it was mainly to pay a social call on his old friend D. S does not accept their evidence on these points. Irrespective of the truth about these issues, which can only be resolved after a substantive fact-finding hearing, it is clear, on either version and irrespective of the legal position, that S was not as a matter of fact a stranger to the children. Furthermore, although again no finding on the point can be made without a substantive hearing, it is in my judgment arguable that the relationship that D and E allowed S to develop with the children was linked in some way to their biological relationship.
  1. Equally, X and Y, having met T through D, E, and S, and being fully aware of the degree of involvement S had in F’s life, selected T to provide sperm to enable them to conceive a child, and subsequently allowed T frequent and regular contact on over 50 occasions in the first 18 months of Z’s life. Again, X and Y assert that they were to some extent put under pressure by T to allow that level of contact. They too challenge the quality of the contact. Again, T does not accept their arguments on these points. Again, irrespective of the truth of those issues, which can only be resolved by a substantive fact-finding hearing, and irrespective of the legal position, T is not a stranger to Z. Further, it is to my mind again arguable that the relationship that X and Y allowed T develop with Z was linked in some way to their biological relationship. In their case, it is also significant that they expressly wanted T to be a role model for Z. They could, of course, have chosen any of their relations or other friends to be a role model, but the fact is that they chose T, the biological father of their child, for that purpose. Although no finding can be made without a substantive hearing, it is at least arguable that their choice of T as a role model for Z was again linked to their biological relationship.
  1. By choosing friends, S and T, to provide sperm to enable them to conceive children, and by allowing them to have regular and frequent contact and to place some role (albeit disputed) in the lives of their families, D and E in one case, and X and Y in the other, were exercising their parental responsibility to facilitate some sort of relationship between their children and their biological fathers. This illustrates the true effect of the reforms implemented in sections 42 (1), 45 (1) and 48 (2) of the 2008 Act. D and E, and X and Y, have been granted full and inclusive parental responsibility for G and Z, to the exclusion of the biological fathers. They consciously exercised that responsibility by allowing S and T regular contact with the children. The 2008 Act empowered them to take this course. It did not deny them the right to do so. No doubt there will be some lesbian couples who, after having children by artificial insemination, not only allowed the biological fathers to have contact with the children but also encouraged them to play a full parental role and be recognised as fathers. The 2008 Act denies the biological father the status of legal parent, but it does not prevent the lesbian couple, in whom legal parenthood is vested, from encouraging or enabling the biological father to become a psychological parent. On the contrary, it empowers the lesbian couple to take that course as the persons in whom parental responsibility is vested.
  1. Accordingly, I reject the respondents’ submissions that granting leave to the applicants would have the effect of frustrating the legislative intention behind the 2008 reforms. I accept Miss King’s submissions that the potential importance of genetic and psychological parenthood is not automatically extinguished by the removal of the status of legal parenthood, and that social and psychological relationships amounting to parenthood can and often do co-exist with legal parenthood. She is correct that no other person is absolutely excluded from seeking redress and I accept her submission that biological fathers who are deprived of legal parenthood by the 2008 Act should be treated no differently. Had Parliament intended that a person in a position of the applicants in this case should be entirely stripped of legal remedies, it would have expressly provided that a person in the position of S and T in these circumstances would be disqualified even from seeking the court’s leave.
  1. Furthermore, whilst following the decision in Anayo v Germany, that a biological kinship between a natural parent and child alone will be insufficient to attract the protection of article 8 of ECHR, it is plainly arguable that the relationships which D and E allowed S to establish with G, and which X and Y allowed T to establish with Z, amount to ‘family life’, or alternatively fall within the scope of ‘private life’, so that a refusal to allow the applicants at least permission to apply for orders under section 8 of the Children Act would amount to a breach of their rights under article 6 and 8.
  1. I further accept Miss King’s submission, supported by Miss Reardon, that this court must adopt a fact-specific approach to these applications for leave, by a careful scrutiny and application of the factors under section 10(9), and considering the merits of the proposed applications as required by case law. I therefore turn to consider the application of the criteria under section 10(9), starting with S’s application for leave to apply in respect of G.





And in terms of any general principles to be extracted



  1. Conclusions
  1. When considering an application by a biological father for leave to apply for an order under s.8 of the Children Act 1989 in respect of a child conceived using his sperm by a woman who, at the time of her artificial insemination, was party to a civil partnership, the reforms implemented in ss 42,45 and 48 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, and the policy underpinning those reforms – to put lesbian couples and their children in exactly the same legal position as other types of parent and children – are relevant factors to be taken into account by the court, alongside all other relevant considerations, including the factors identified in s.10(9) of the Children Act. In some cases, the reforms, and the policy underpinning those reforms, will be decisive. Each case is, however, fact specific, and on the facts of these cases, having considered all submissions from all parties, I find that the most important factor is the connection that each applicant was allowed by the respondents to form with the child.



As has been commented by the solicitors who were advising and representing the legal parents of the child, it becomes therefore extremely important that a clear understanding is reached and ideally recorded, about what each of the three parties involved (the biological mother, father and the legal parent who is the partner of the biological mother) intend and propose about the involvement (if any) that the biological father should have in the child’s life.




Warning, next section for law geeks only



All of the above is potentially interesting to the lay person, and I am sure the case will hit the national press, containing as it does the nature of the modern family, battling parents and the chance to be partisan based on ones political persuasion.


The next bit is not interesting to the lay person, and may possibly only be interesting to about five people in the country. Sorry to be one of them.


The Judge had painted himself into a bit of a corner, since on the first case, he had granted s10(9) leave and then on hearing the more substantive public policy arguments deployed by the legal parents on the second case, wanted to bundle both up together and consider both arguments together. But the s10(9) leave had been given, and there is no scope in the Children Act 1989 to give that leave and then hear an application to remove it. So, it was either find the power to revoke the order, or the case would have to go upstairs to be appealed.



That led to a very odd  but potentially significant sidebar discussion about whether a Court has the power to revoke its own order, or whether having made it, the Court was stuck with it, and the redress was limited to an appeal.


Rule 4.1(6) of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (“FPR”) provides that ‘a power of the court under these Rules to make an order includes a power to vary or revoke the order’. Rule 4.1(6) is, of course, subject to the overriding objective of the FPR as set out in rule 1 “to deal with cases justly”, meaning inter alia so far as practical ensuring that parties are on an equal footing and that the case is dealt with expeditiously and fairly.



Which initially suggests that the Court does have a pretty sweeping power to revoke its own order, providing that it doesn’t put the Court in conflict with the overriding objective.



  1. No party drew to my attention any previous case in which the scope of rule 4.1(6) has been considered, but the rule is in identical terms to rule 3.1(7) of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998, which has been considered in a number of cases in the context of civil claims. In Lloyd’s Investment (Scandinavia) Ltd v Ager-Hanssen [2003] EWHC 1740 (Ch) Patten J (as he then was) considered this power on an application by a defendant for variation of an order made by a deputy judge setting aside an earlier judgment obtained in default of defence, on terms that the defendant should pay a sum into court within 28 day At paragraph 7, Patten J said of rule 3.1(7) :

‘Although this is not intended to be an exhaustive definition of the circumstances in which the power under CPR Part 3.1(7) is exercisable, it seems to me that, for the High Court to revisit one of its earlier orders, the applicant must either show some material change of circumstances or that the judge who made the earlier order was misled in some way, whether innocently or otherwise, as to the correct factual position before him. The latter type of case would include, for example, a case of material non-disclosure on an application for an injunction. If all that is sought is a reconsideration of the order on the basis of the same material, then that can only be done, in my judgment, in the context of an appeal. Similarly it is not, I think, open to a party to the earlier application to seek in effect to re-argue that application by relying on submissions and evidence which were available to him at the time of the earlier hearing, but which, for whatever reason, he or his legal representatives chose not to employ.’

  1. In Collier v Williams [2006] EWCA Civ 20, the Court of Appeal, (Waller, Dyson and Neuberger LJJ), considered the ambit of rule 3.1(7) amongst a number of provisions of the CPR. Giving the judgment of the Court, Dyson LJ at paragraphs 39-40 cited the passage quoted above from the judgment of Patten J in Ager-Hanssen and added:

‘We endorse that approach. We agree that the power given by CPR 3.1(7) cannot be used simply as an equivalent to an appeal against an order with which the applicant is dissatisfied. The circumstances outlined by Patten J are the only ones in which the power to revoke or vary an order already made should be exercised under 3.1(7).’

  1. Later, at paragraphs 119-120 he said:

‘this rule gives a very general power to vary or revoke an order. It appears to be unfettered. But it is a wrong exercise of this power to vary or revoke an order where there has been no material change of circumstances since the earlier order was made and/or no material is brought to the attention of the second court which was not brought to the attention of the first. A party who unsuccessfully deploys all his material before a court should not be allowed to have a second bite of the cherry merely because he failed to succeed on the first occasion …. In short, therefore, the jurisdiction to vary or revoke an order under CPR 3.1(7) should not normally be exercised unless the applicant is able to place material before the court, whether in the form of evidence or argument, which was not placed before the court on the earlier occasion.’

  1. In Edward v Golding [2007] EWCA Civ 416, Buxton LJ (with whom Wilson and Moses LJJ agreed) cited the above passages from judgment of Patten J in Ager-Hanssen and the judgment of Dyson LJ in Collier v Williams and observed (at paragraph 24):

‘The basis of that jurisprudence is that the jurisdiction under rule 3.1(7) is not a substitute for an appeal. There must be additional material before the court in the form of evidence or, possibly, argument. I would reserve the issue of whether additional argument in itself is enough to attract the jurisdiction of rule 3.1(7), but the general thrust of Collier is that the case before the court before which rule 3.1(7) is moved must be essentially different from one of simple error that could be righted on appeal.’

  1. In Roult v North-West Strategic Health Authority [2009] EWCA Civ 444 , the Court of Appeal rejected an argument that rule 3.1(7) could be utilised to vary or revoke an order approving a settlement in a personal injury case. Hughes LJ observed:

‘There is scant authority upon rule 3.1(7) but such as exists is unanimous in holding that it cannot constitute a power in a judge to hear an appeal from himself in respect of a final order. …. Like Patten J in Ager-Hanssen I would not attempt any exhaustive classification of the circumstances in which it may be proper to invoke it. …. It may well be that, in the context of essentially case management decisions, the grounds for invoking the rule will generally fall into one or other of the two categories of (i) erroneous information at the time of the original order or (ii) subsequent event destroying the basis on which it was made. The exigencies of case management may well call for a variation in planning from time to time in the light of developments. There may possibly be examples of non-procedural but continuing orders which may call for revocation or variation as they continue – an interlocutory injunction may be one. But it does not follow that wherever one or other of the two assertions mentioned (erroneous information and subsequent event) can be made, then any party can return to the trial judge and ask him to re-open any decision. In particular, it does not follow, I have no doubt, where the judge’s order is a final one disposing of the case, whether in whole or in part. And it especially does not apply where the order is founded upon a settlement agreed between the parties after the most detailed and highly skilled advice. The interests of justice, and of litigants generally, require that a final order remains such unless proper grounds for appeal exist.’


Giving some qualification to the power to revoke. And of course, granting leave under s10(9) could be argued to be a  FINAL order in that application for leave. The application for leave is determined one way or another. If granted, then the Court then moves on to the application for residence or contact.   As you can see from the above, it appears pretty plain that the ability to revoke an order is limited to interlocutory and not final orders. That all suggests then that the High Court couldn’t revoke its own order granting s10(9) leave and consider the case afresh in the light of these new public policy arguments.



But clearly, the High Court Judge wanted to hear both of these cases and reach a fair decision, and therefore wanted to be able to set aside or revoke his original order granting s10(9) leave, to start with a blank slate when considering the arguments.   [You might think, when reading this argument, that you can detect the delicious taste of fudge]



  1. At the hearing on 22nd November, D and E, appearing in person, put forward only a limited range of arguments in opposition to S’s application for leave to apply for orders in respect of G. Those arguments focussed on the factual background, referring only briefly to s.42 of the 2008 Act. The skeleton argument prepared by Miss Russell QC on behalf of X and Y in the second case deploys a much wider range of arguments, based not only on the facts of that case, and, as one would expect, a closer analysis of the application of s.10(9) of the 1989 Act to those facts, but also on the policy considerations underpinning the reforms effected by the 2008 Act. The filing of that skeleton therefore gave rise to the prospect that, although the facts of the two cases were not only interlinked but also in many respects similar, the outcome of the applications for leave might be different if the court accepted the policy-based arguments deployed by leading counsel for the respondents in the second case but not cited by the self-represented respondents in the first.
  1. Having regard to the overriding objective of FPR, I concluded that such an outcome would be potentially unfair to D and E, and therefore to G. In those circumstances, I decided that it would be an entirely appropriate use of the power under rule 4.1(6) to set aside the order of 22nd November. To my mind it was unnecessary to analyse whether the new information which would be advanced on behalf of D and E was ‘fact’ or ‘argument’. It was, in my view, new material which the court had not considered at the previous hearing.
  1. An order granting leave to apply for orders under s.8 of the Children Act is a case management order. It is not a “final” order in the sense of an order that determines the substantive outcome of the proceedings. The court is obliged under the rules to exercise its case management powers in accordance with the overriding objective. Setting aside the order allowed the court to consider the two linked applications together, and apply its conclusions on the policy-based arguments to both cases. Such a course would not be unfair to S. Only a few weeks would elapse between 22nd November and the re-hearing of his application for leave. S would be able to deploy the same arguments based on the facts that had prevailed at the first hearing. He would in effect be in the same position as T.
  1. Overall, I concluded that the interests of justice would be best served by a re-hearing at which the court had ample opportunity to consider all the relevant arguments on both applications, followed by a reserved judgment. I therefore set aside the order of 22nd November, and as explained above the two applications were heard together.



I think that this is the right decision for the case and was the right thing to do, but there’s some squashing and stretching that had to be done.  Mmmm, delicious Judge-made Fudge.


But there you are,


A Court can revoke any order it makes prior to the final order (and granting of leave doesn’t count as a final order) if there is evidence to show that it is the right thing to do, and doing so doesn’t conflict with the overriding objective to conduct a case justly and expeditiously.



If you did make it that far down, here is a picture of Drawn Together’s Judge Fudge, who is laid back and is always “far too busy, being delicious”    [Drawn Together is magnificent, but really I cannot emphasise enough that it is Not Safe for Work, so do not watch it in your office]


 he is indeed delicious