The definition of "family" has changed so much over the past few years. In any neighborhood here in Lake County, for instance, there can be married and unmarried couples with or without children, single parents with children, grandparents raising their grandchildren ... as many different families as there are houses. Some families start off as more traditional, while others are forged by choices some of us didn't think possible not too many years ago.
The case of a young man and a young woman who agreed to have a child together is a good example of how families change. The two were not a couple, but they did know each other. The man agreed to be the "sperm donor," and they agreed that the child would not know the identity of its father for at least two years. This was not the first time the father had acted as sperm donor, and it's not clear if he had any kind of relationship with the other mothers.
Somehow, the couple's plans changed, apparently, and the expectant parents told their families about the arrangement before the child came along. When their daughter arrived, her father took an active part in her life, including keeping her overnight. Mother and father remained on good terms, but there was reportedly never a romantic relationship.
Time passed, and the mother entered into a relationship with another man. She and her new partner had a child, and they found it necessary to relocate. The little girl stayed with her donor-father, because he was not able to drive the four hours to see her on a regular basis.
Two years ago, when the girl was 5, her mother learned that the girl's dad had fathered a second daughter (again as a sperm donor) a year earlier. Court records indicate she was livid at the news. She called her child's father a "slimy liar"; the record also indicates she had "ongoing palpable fury" toward the father for not having told her about the other child and continued to badmouth him to as many people as possible.
So she sued for custody. The court ordered that the couple share custody of their daughter. The father will have a say in her education, and he will have physical custody of her during the school year. The mother could not fault her donor in one important area of the child's development -- music and academics -- and the court apparently found that enough to award a man who was never meant to participate in his child's life legal status as a custodial parent.
Source: BioNews, "'Sperm donor' father wins child custody battle in Australia," Maria Sheppard, Oct. 22, 2012
Our firm works with couples who have questions or disagreements about custody, like the couple in this post. You can learn more about our Lake County, Illinois, practice by visiting our Libertyville child custody page.