A gay sperm donor who fought a bitter legal battle with the mother of his child has issued a stark warning about having kids with friends.
The man, known as Robert Masson, won a landmark ruling in the High Court to be ruled his daughter’s legal father.
He launched legal action against his child’s mother after learning she planned to take their 12-year-old daughter to New Zealand.
The girl was born in 2007 after Mr Masson and his long time friend Susan Parsons (their court pseudonyms) agreed to have a child through artificial insemination.
He had agreed on the understanding he would act as a parent, provide financial support and financial care.
Mr Masson changed jobs and took a $100,000 pay cut to move from Sydney to Newcastle to play a major role in his daughter’s life.
A sperm donor was deemed to be the legal dad of a child he’d fathered with a friend, which prevented her moving to New Zealand with her mother without his consent (stock image)
He is named as the girl’s father on her birth certificate and was actively involved in the girl and her younger sister’s life, with both calling him ‘Daddy’.
But troubles arose in 2014 when Mr Masson discovered Ms Parsons and her female partner 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.
While the women invited him to make the move with them, Mr Masson had personal and business commitments that would keep him in Australia, including an elderly mother who had just been diagnosed with lung cancer.
In the five years since, he’s forked out more than $1 million in legal fees in a case that has potentially dramatic ramifications for sperm donors.
The sperm donor found out during school pick-up that the mother of his child was planning to move to New Zealand with her partner and his daughter (stock image)
‘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.
The legal saga finally over, Mr Masson now wants get on with raising the girls (stock image)
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.
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 of the High Court agreed last month, 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 forked out more than $1 million in legal fees in the landmark case that has potentially dramatic ramifications for sperm donors (stock image)
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.