Statutory provisions: the Family Law Reform Act 1987
Traditionally, fathers were ‘matched’ with children through their marital relationship with the mother, being named as the father upon registration of the child’s birth, and the concurrent assumption of a bio-genetic tie to the child. Some feminist legal commentators suggested that donor insemination was considered problematic, as the notion of the ‘child of the marriage’ was potentially undermined by the lack of a bio-genetic tie between husband and donor-conceived child. However, Snowden and Mitchell suggested that where donor insemination was used, married social fathers’ names were ‘almost invariably’ entered as the father on the child’s birth certificate. This practice was sanctioned by s 27 Family Law Reform Act 1987, which provided that, when donor insemination was used, married social fathers were to be considered the legal father of the donor-conceived child. Hence, s 27(1) Family Law Reform Act 1987 explicitly extended the notion of the ‘child of the marriage’ to incorporate donor-conceived children. It is possible to view this extension as a reiteration of ‘the family’ norm, in light of its potential erosion through involuntary childlessness or the (previously) illegitimate status of children conceived through the use of donor sperm. The extension of this legal concept also established connections between married men and their donor – conceived children for the purposes of property and inheritance and ensured that men, as fathers, retained financial (and arguably emotional) responsibilities for children. However, developments in assisted reproductive technologies, which prompted wider issues than matching children to fathers, led to the introduction of comprehensive legislation to regulate these procedures and the legal ascription of parenthood for resultant children.