A new parenthood paradigm for twenty-first century family law in England and Wales?
Callus, T. (2012) A new parenthood paradigm for twenty-first century family law in England and Wales? Legal Studies, 32 (3). pp. 347-368. ISSN 0261-3875
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-121X.2011.00224.x
There are few other areas in family law where incongruence between the legal and social positions is as evident as that concerning parenthood. Recent cases involving lesbian couples and known sperm donors serve to highlight the increasing tension between the respective roles of biology, intention and functional parenting in the attribution of legal parental status. As both legislative and case-law developments have shown, intention is central in some circumstances, but not in others. The main claim of this paper is that this ad hoc approach leads to incoherent and unsatisfactory law: instead of striving to identify a status, what we are really looking to do is to identify the people who assume responsibility for a child. Drawing upon recent case-law, this paper explores how a conceptual reform of the law could result in a principled framework which would place formally recognised intention at the heart of parental status in order to reconnect legal duty with social reality for as many children and parents as possible. Moreover, it would ensure that parental status would not be dictated by the mode of conception of the child (natural or assisted). The analysis identifies the objectives of reform before proposing a new model which, while recognising the social importance of the biological parentage link, would reserve legal status for functional parenthood.