The High Court unanimously allowed an appeal from the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia, holding that the appellant was the legal parent of a child conceived via artificial insemination. In so doing, they found that s 79(1) of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth) did not pick up and apply a State Act which ruled that the appellant was “presumed” not to be a parent, when the relevant Federal Act made no provision as to the appellant’s status as a parent and evinced an intention not to limit the categories in which someone could be found to be a parent in the context of artificial insemination. To the extent that various State Acts were inconsistent, they were inoperative by reason of s 109 of the Constitution (Cth).
All parties are identified by pseudonyms. The appellant, Mr Masson had been friends with Susan Parsons for many years. In 2006 Susan Parsons conceived a child by artificially inseminating herself using Mr Masson’s donor sperm. At the time of conception, Mr Masson believed that he was fathering the child, and that he would care for and support the child. When Susan Parsons gave birth to a daughter, Mr Masson was listed on the birth certificate as the father. The child lived with Susan and her partner Margaret Parsons (who later married in New Zealand) but had a close relationship with Mr Masson and saw him frequently. He had a continuing role in the child’s financial support, health, education and general welfare.
In 2015 the Parsons decided to move to New Zealand, as Susan was originally from New Zealand and wanted to be closer to family. Mr Masson filed for a parenting order pursuant to Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), in which he sought shared responsibility for the child between himself and Susan Parsons, a restriction upon the Parsons from moving to New Zealand, a provision for certain rights in terms of access, and the placing of certain conditions on overseas travel and communication. The question was whether Mr Masson qualified as the legal parent of the child for the purposes of the Family Law Act. Continue reading