Family Law Library

Do co-parents have the same rights as legal parents?

A child born to a lesbian couple will generally have a birth mother and a lesbian co-mother. The current family law system recognizes the birth mother as a legal parent.

A child born to a gay couple will often have a birth father and a gay co-father, as well as a birth mother.

Alternatively, a child may have two gay co-fathers as well as a birth mother. If there is a birth father, he will be a legal parent along with the birth mother.

The lesbian co-mother or gay co-father(s) can apply to the Family Court of Australia for a parenting order, as ‘other people significant to the care, welfare and development’ of the child. But the lesbian co-mother and gay co-father(s) will be treated in the same way as a social parent is treated under the law, they will not be treated in the same way as a birth parent.

A partial resolution to this issue if for the co-parents to apply to adopt the child, this step will entitle the co-parent to many of the rights of a legal parent.

This issue is of particular concern to a gay couple who are both listed as co-fathers, neither member of the couple is a legal parent. Adoption is important in order to enable at least one parent to be a legal parent.