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IAFL Global Comparison of LGBT Laws

The International Academy of Family Lawyers, of which Vanessa Mathews is a Fellow, has published a global survey of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender laws (LGBT laws), the results of which can be found here

The IAFL LGBT Committee stated ‘Laws affecting LGBT people vary greatly by country or jurisdiction. There are now 28 jurisdictions that accept same sex marriage, however gay sex remains illegal in many jurisdictions with the death penalty still applying in 14.

The International Academy of Family Lawyers (“IAFL”) supports all efforts towards full equality of the LGBT community throughout the world and the end to rules that unfairly discriminate against such individuals and, in many countries, criminalize countless couples because of the ones they love. There remains a lot of work to be done.
The work done by some fellows of the IAFL is having a real impact and changing for the better the lives of LGBT people. The LGBT Committee of the IAFL commissioned this survey to capitalize on the knowledge and expertise of some members for the benefit of the IAFL as a whole and the LGBT community.

The individual submissions in this survey are the work of fellows of the IAFL who have kindly donated their time and expertise to answer the same questions as set out below. Each of the contributor’s names and contact details are included.

The LGBT Committee intends that this should be a living resource. We are asking those who have already kindly donated their time to keep us informed as laws change in their jurisdictions. We have detailed submissions from 46 jurisdictions, however, there remains a good number of jurisdictions not covered where the IAFL has fellows. If your jurisdiction is not covered and you feel able to complete a survey, please get in touch with the IAFL.’

Congratulations to the IAFL LGBT committee members for preparing such a comprehensive review of comparative laws.

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The Task of the Single Expert Witness: A Recent Decision of the Family Court

To follow is a summary of the ‘pathway’ to be taken by the single expert witness in parenting proceedings.

It provides a useful reminder of the Family Court’s expectations of the single expert witness.

  1. ‘ … The task of a single expert witness is never easy. The opportunities for observation and consultation are rarely if ever entirely satisfactory, because of constraints of time and money. Usually, each party is seeking some corroboration from the single expert witness of his or her position.
  2. Although the expert may give evidence about the “ultimate issue”[67], more frequently the determination of that matter will fall to the Trial Judge. Each party and the Judge may confront the single expert witness with hypothetical sets of facts to see if the expert will or could modify or qualify his or her opinion. Frequently, with a necessarily limited database a single expert witness faces challenges to his or her opinion.
    It is important therefore that single expert witnesses follow the pathway prescribed by authority[68] to prepare and present his or her report.
  3. The pathway accords with common sense. First, the expert must have primary and particular qualifications and experience. For example, expert evidence on the health of children should come not only from a medical doctor but desirably from one specialised in child medicine and moreover someone experienced in such an area of practice and knowledge.
  4. Second, the expert should clearly indicate the information and facts upon which he or she has relied and identify the assumptions upon which he or she proceeded.
  5. To the extent that the expert relies on research to form his or her opinion, it may be wise to identify that research, particularly if it is likely to be controversial and invite cross-examination. An expert becomes an expert through knowledge of and reliance upon, research other than his or her own and the expert’s opinion must necessarily be a synthesis of knowledge in the field of expertise. However, comments such as “research shows” may indicate a lack of specialist acuity.
  6. Third, the pathway of reasoning to the opinion must be discernible. This would seem to be a statement of the obvious but surprisingly from time to time it is overlooked by the single expert witness …’.

As reported in Hoffman & Barone [2014] FamCA 52 (4 February 2014), Deputy Chief Justice Faulks, paragraphs 93-100 (inclusive).

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Surrogacy in Australia

Surrogacy – when another woman carries and gives birth to a child for another person and then gives that child over – started thousands of years ago when infertile women offered their handmaids to childless husbands.  Since then, the technology has advanced quite a bit and now includes many variations of the traditional surrogate.   These scientific developments – including IVF and the ability to freeze sperm and eggs – have necessitated legal changes throughout the world.  Questions abound regarding the ethics of surrogacy, the legal status of the surrogate and the parents and the ability of nontraditional families (same sex couples, singles) to use surrogates to have children.

There are two types of surrogacy.  In traditional surrogacy, also known as genetic contracted surrogacy, the egg is from the surrogate and the sperm is donated by the father.  This links the fetus genetically to the surrogate.  Gestational surrogacy involves both an egg and sperm donation (one or both may come from the intended parents) and involves In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), in which the egg is fertilized in a petri dish, and the embryo is then implanted into the surrogate.  The surrogate has no genetic connection to the fetus with gestational surrogacy.  This distinction is important for determining who are the legal parents of the child and what citizenship the child obtains.

The laws surrounding surrogacy in Australia are somewhat complex.  Commercial surrogacy, where a woman is actually paid to carry the child, is illegal in all states in Australia.  Overseas commercial surrogacy – primarily in India, the United States and Thailand is against the law in New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.  Altruistic surrogacy, in which a woman has no financial gain from carrying the child (although reasonable expenses, such as medical costs, travel, work lost, are covered by the parents) is legal in all states in Australia.  The Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (ART Act) came into force in Victoria in 2010, and opened more doors for surrogacy.

Some Important Laws on Surrogacy in Victoria in the ART Act

  1. The woman serving as s surrogate must be at least 25 years old, previously gave birth to a live child and is NOT using her own eggs in the surrogate pregnancy (gestational surrogacy).
  2. Everyone involved in the surrogacy arrangement must be approved by a Patient Review Panel.  The Panel will make sure that all of the requirements in (1) are met and, in addition, that all those involved received legal advice and counseling.
  3. The Patient Review Panel may approve a surrogacy plan, even if all of the conditions in (1) and (2) above have not been met, in exceptional circumstances.
  4. Those involved may also have to undergo a police check (to determine if there is a criminal record) and a child protection order check.
  5. No advertising!  Nobody may “publish” any type of notice or advertisement regarding a person’s willingness to be a surrogate or a person’s search for a surrogate.
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Altruistic Surrogacy and Parentage

In Victoria, the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008, which came into effect in Victoria in 2010, provides greater rights for same-sex couples in the area of surrogacy.  Currently the law in Victoria permits only gestational surrogacy (link to page on surrogacy in Australia) and requires the involvement of two different women for the purpose of surrogacy – the woman who will carry the child and another woman to donate her eggs.  Neither woman may be paid for her services.  The law prohibits any advertising or notification for surrogacy services (to be one or to hire one), but advertising for an egg donor is permitted.  Men who have limited fertility may use a sperm donor.

Becoming the Legal Parents

1.    The Birth Certificate

The surrogate will automatically be listed as the child’s mother on the birth certificate, and her partner (if she has one) as the other parent.  The commissioning parents must turn to the courts for a Substitute Parentage Order  to be legally registered as the child’s parent(s).

2.     Importance of Location

Commissioning parents can apply for a Substitute Parentage Order only if: (1) the child was conceived as a result of a procedure that took place in Victoria AND; (2) the commissioning parents live in Victoria at the time the application for a parentage order is submitted.

3.    Time is of the Essence

Commissioning parents must apply for the Substitute Parentage Order no less than 28 days after the birth and not more than 6 months after the child is born.  The court may make exceptions.

4.    When the Court will give the Order

A court will give a Substitute Parentage Order when ALL of the following requirements have been met or proven to be true:

  • Making the order is in the best interests of the child
  • A Patient Review Panel approved the arrangement (if a registered ART provider assisted in the process)
  • The child was living with the commissioning parents when the application for the order was made
  • The surrogate mother and her partner (if she has one) did not receive any material benefit or advantage from the surrogacy arrangement
  • The surrogate mother freely consents to the order

Parenting Orders

An application for a Parenting Order can be made by the child’s parents, the child, a grandparent or any other person concerned with the child’s welfare.

The Court will only hear child related proceedings if an applicant has attended family dispute resolution (perhaps at a Family Relationships Centre) and obtained a certificate. A certificate is not required where:

  • the Application is for Consent Orders,
  • the matter is urgent or
  • child abuse or family violence is involved.

When dealing with an application for a Parenting Order, the court should have as its paramount consideration the child’s best interests.

A child’s views can be taken into account via a ‘family report’ prepared by a family consultant or an independent children’s lawyer. Sometimes a judge may interview a child, but this is unusual.

A Court can make Orders about:

  • parental responsibility;
  • which parent a child lives with;
  • wow much time a child spends with the other parent; and
  • how a child communicates with a parent.

When a magistrate makes an intervention order to protect a child, they must check if there are Parenting Orders in place. A magistrate can decide to suspend, vary (change) or discharge (cancel) a Parenting Order if certain conditions are met.

The relationship between intervention orders and parenting orders is complex. An intervention order does not stop the respondent applying for a parenting order to see the children. Get legal advice.

Can child care arrangements specified in a Court Order be varied?

There is a legal obligation to take all reasonable steps necessary to put the Parenting Orders into effect. The children should be positively encouraged to comply with the Orders.

What happens if Court Orders become unworkable?

If Court Orders are no longer workable, parents should try to resolve matters with the assistance of a lawyer and vary the Orders. If agreement can’t be reached, then application is made to the Court and the Court may order that both parents attend a parenting program or consider varying the Orders.

What happens if the Court Orders are breached?

The Court takes breaches of its Orders very seriously. Depending on the circumstances, the non-complying parent can be referred to a parenting program, fined, made to provide compensatory (or ‘catch up’ time) with the child and parent, or even face gaol.

Reasonable excuse

When a breach occurs, the non-complying parent may show a reasonable excuse. For example, a very sick child (supported by proper medical evidence) may be considered a legitimate reason for a parent breaching an Order.

Less serious contravention with no reasonable excuse

If there is no reasonable excuse for a less serious contravention the Court can:

  • make Orders for the person committing the contravention to take part in a post-separation parenting program,
  • make further Parenting Orders that compensate a person for the time the other person did not spend with the child as a result of the contravention,
  • order the person who committed the contravention to enter into a bond and
  • order the person contravening the order to pay costs.

More serious contravention with no reasonable excuse

For more serious contraventions where no reasonable excuse has been established the Court can make Orders for fines or imprisonment in relation to the parent committing the contravention.

Further information is available at: