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Family Court refuses transgender man’s child contact bid

The Family Court has denied a transgender man permission to seek contact with his ex-partner’s daughter.

The nine year-old girl at the centre of it all was referred to in the judgment as ‘Alice’. She was conceived by donor insemination. Her biological mother, ‘Rachel’ entered into a civil partnership with a woman identified as ‘Helen’ shortly before Alice’s birth.

The couple separated in 2009. Since then, Alice has been cared for by Helen. The girl did not stay with her biological mother because Rachel was suffering from serious mental health problems. Shortly after her relationship with Helen ended, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Helen subsequently applied for a residence order, which was granted. This gave her parental responsibility for Alice and confirmed that the girl would live with her. Around the same time, Helen began a relationship with ‘Matthew’, a transgender man who was at the beginning of his transition from female to male. The two shortly began living together.

By the time Helen and Matthew separated in 2013, he had completed his transition. As he had helped care for Alice during his cohabitation with Helen, Matthew sought permission to apply for a child arrangements order. This would allow him to spend time with Alice despite him having no official connection to her as a parent.

Matthew’s lawyers submitted that his position was “analogous to that of a step-parent”. They claimed that he did not intend for Alice to live with him, but only to be allowed to spend time with her. “The impact of such an order on Alice’s life would be minimal”, they contended.

Both Alice’s biological mother and father, who were involved in her life in a limited capacity, opposed the application, as did Helen. She strongly disagreed that such an order would have a “minimal” impact on Alice. As Helen and Matthew’s separation was acrimonious, she claimed that allowing him to apply for contact would “bring Alice into the arena of conflict and will be harmful to her”.

His Honour Judge Clifford Bellamy said that, on balance, Matthew’s application was “at its highest, barely arguable”. He ruled that allowing the case to proceed could have a “potentially damaging effect on Alice’s welfare” and refused permission for Matthew to continue.

To read A (A Child: Leave to apply for a child arrangements order), click here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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