A lesbian couple who were stopped from moving to New Zealand by their daughter’s sperm donor after a $1million legal battle have said they do not regret letting him spend time with her.
Susan Parsons had a daughter with her partner Margaret using sperm from her gay friend Robert Masson in 2007.
He had agreed on the understanding he would be able to spend time with his child, especially if she wanted to get to know him.
Susan Parsons had a daughter with her partner Margaret using sperm from her gay friend Robert Masson in 2007 (stock image)
During his daughter’s early years, Mr Masson moved from Sydney to Newcastle to be nearer to his daughter and got to know her after spending time together with the consent of her mother.
He is named as the girl’s father on her birth certificate and was actively involved in the lives of her and her younger sister from another sperm donor, with both calling him ‘daddy’.
But troubles arose in 2014 when Mr Masson discovered Susan and Margaret were planning to move across the Tasman with the girls aged seven and six at the time.
Mr Masson said he only learned the shocking news from another father while waiting to pick up their kids from school.
He took the couple to court and won a landmark High Court ruling that he was the girl’s legal father and could stop her from moving to New Zealand.
Now, Margaret and Susan (court pseudonyms), have spoken out for the first time since the ruling to say they do not regret letting Mr Masson spend time with his daughter.
‘I don’t regret the time that we gave him. I regret his action,’ Susan told the ABC.
She said her daughters were asked about the court battle at school and one had asked her ‘why is it happening to us?’
‘I feel for the children I regret what’s happened to them,’ Susan said.
The donor had agreed on the understanding he would be able to spend time with his child, especially if she wanted to get to know him (stock image)
She said when she agreed to accept Mr Masson’s sperm, she did not expect him to end up spending as much time as he did with their daughter.
‘The agreement we made with him was that he would be a donor and that he would be known to the child, especially if the child wanted to know their origins,’ she said.
Susan said Mr Masson had told her he would be working in China for years and agreed to let him see his daughter whenever he returned to Australia.
She said he did travel for the first years of their daughter’s life but then moved to Newcastle and played an increasingly large role.
In 2014, after Margaret was diagnosed with bowel cancer, he started asking for more time with the girls.
Susan said when she agreed to accept Mr Masson’s sperm, she did not expect him to end up spending as much time as he did with their daughter (stock image)
‘Probably the week after my diagnosis, which was a big shock, he then started hassling us for more time with the children, it was a very bad time,’ Margaret told the ABC.
When they tried to move away to New Zealand that year, Mr Masson stopped them.
A legal battle in which both parties spent more than $1million concluded in June that Mr Masson was a legal parent – prompting lawyers to warn against informal sperm donor agreements.
After the High Court ruling, Mr Masson spoke out about the ordeal.
‘People need to have their eyes wide open when they decide to have children with friends.
‘It means discussing as equals every possible important issue about the future welfare of their children,’ Mr Masson told Good Weekend.
His lawyer Tahlia Bleier agreed, calling on people in similar circumstances planning to have a child together to sit down with lawyers and draft pre-conception agreements.
She added the landmark judgment creates clarity but also creates problems for sperm donors who aren’t immediately a parent but should be able to opt in to involvement if they choose to.
Mr Masson stopped Ms Parsons and her partner from moving to New Zealand through the Family Court but on appeal state laws were used to rule him as purely a sperm donor.
The girl’s mother and her partner argued NSW law clearly spelled out rules for fertilisation procedures with respect to same-sex couples.
The couple forked out more than $1 million in legal fees in the landmark case that has potentially dramatic ramifications for sperm donors (stock image)
However, Solicitor General Stephen Donaghue QC successfully argued in the High Court in April that the commonwealth definition should be used.
‘State law is just not relevant,’ he told the court.
The argument was put that under Commonwealth law Mr Masson is considered a parent, as he is the biological father and involved in the child’s life.
A majority High Court judges agreed, saying in a judgment no reason had been shown to doubt the initial court conclusion that Mr Masson was a parent of the child.
‘To characterise the biological father of a child as a ‘sperm donor’ suggests that the man in question has relevantly done no more than provide his semen to facilitate an artificial conception procedure on the basis of an express or implied understanding that he is thereafter to have nothing to do with any child born as a result of the procedure,’ the judges said.
‘Those are not the facts of this case.’
The court ordered women to consult with Mr Masson about parenting decisions, that he make day-to-day decisions on the children’s welfare when they’re in his care and that the children cannot live in New Zealand without his written consent.
The women have no right of appeal.
Mr Masson continues to have an active role in both girls’ lives and recently returned from a skiing trip with his partner Gregg and eldest daughter.
Now the long-running saga is over, Mr Masson hopes both couples can now get on with raising the girls.
He has no regrets, saying he had no choice to fight the cause to show he cared.
‘If I had lost this case, if I hadn’t seen my kids and they turned up on my doorstep in 15 years’ time, I wanted to be able to point to a huge pile of legal documents. This is how I fought for you. This is how much I loved you,’ he told Good Weekend.