A gay couple who donated sperm to lesbian friends ended up in a bitter custody battle which illustrates the 'immense difficulties' of informal sperm donation, a judge has said today (November 4).
Mr Justice Cobb, presiding over the case in the Family Division of the High Court, put an end to almost six years of hearings - which he said had been 'infused with a sense of mutual loathing' - for the sake of the two children born from the donations.
The gay couple, who must be referred to only as Father 1 and Father 2, were friends with the lesbian couple, Mother 1 and Mother 2, and agreed to donate sperm to enable them to start a family.
Two daughters were born of this informal arrangement, both of them the biological children of Father 1 and Mother 1. The older girl is now in her early teens, while the younger one is about to turn 10.
Six years ago, Father 1 and Father 2 applied to have contact with the two children. The mothers rejected the idea, unleashing a protracted legal battle which Mr Justice Cobb called the most 'bruising and distressing' he had ever presided over in family court.
"Friends and collaborators in this wonderful endeavour of creating a family have become to some extent strangers, harbouring strong feelings of mutual distrust and reciprocal aversion," he observed, noting that Mother 1 had suffered severe mental health problems as a result.
In his written rulings, Mr Justice Cobb called for an end to the conflict, which he said he feared had 'irredeemably harmed' the two children at its centre.
Mr Justice Cobb ruled that the girls should remain in the custody of their mothers, despite evidence of domestic violence between the two women, with supervision from social services.
He granted Father 1 and Father 2 contact with the younger daughter only, as the older one had expressed an aversion to contact.
"The case illustrates all too clearly the immense difficulties which can be unleashed when families are created by known-donor fertilisation," Justice Cobb remarked in his conclusions.
"A very high psychological price can be paid, and I believe has been paid in this case, by all concerned."
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