When Irish same-sex married couple Jenna and Mary Bailey Redmond had their son Rhys, they had the kind of worries that any other first-time parents would have. However, like many LGBT+ families in this country, they had an extra one – that both of them were not legally recognised as the parents to their child.
Now, the commencement of parts Two and Three of the Child and Family Relationships Act has given the courts jurisdiction to make retrospective declarations of parentage for children born through donor-assisted human reproduction prior to May 4 2020. At the moment, this only covers certain families, there is still quite a way to go in order for all rainbow families to achieve their full rights.
Among the first of these applications for retrospective declarations will be listed on July 21 and 22 in Dolphin House, Dublin, with the President of the District Court presiding and applicants being dealt with through virtual meetings. Jenna and Mary will make history as being among the first applications to be dealt with.
After that day, Mary will finally be legally recognised as her son Rhys’ parent – a week before his fourth birthday. Further to that momentous happening – Jenna works in the Civil Office, so following their own application, she will then act as the registrar for every other case over the two days.
While this will finally bring her family some piece of mind, Jenna shared the worry that the couple have experienced up to this point; “It’s always been in the back of our minds that if anything was to ever happen to me, what would happen to Rhys? We had to wait two years for Mary to get guardianship – which was on the 30th of July, two days after he turned two.
“It was silly that we had to wait two years even to apply for that. For the first couple of years, it was a constant background worry that we had.”
But Mary achieving guardianship wasn’t perfect either, as Jenna continued; “At the end of the day I work in the courts, so I know that guardianship doesn’t always hold up. It can always be contested, it’s never just a solid – ‘you’re the parent’. And I know families always say ‘we would fully support you,’ but in the eyes of the law, if anything happened, Mary would have no rights.”
The couple shared that they have so far been treated really well, but Jenna elaborated, “When Rhys was born in the hospital, Mary was treated like any other parent would be. She’s brought him to the doctor without me, there have never been any questions. But we were lucky – it doesn’t mean every doctor’s surgery is like that, or every birth in a hospital. It is a constant emotional rollercoaster.”
With the eventful day on the horizon, Mary explained how their own happiness is tinged by the knowledge that many other families will continue to struggle. “The sour part is that as much as we are really thrilled to be recognised, it’s sad to think that there’s still work to be done,” she explained. “Hopefully this will speed things up for other people.”
Jenna shared how much this means to her knowing that Mary will finally get the legal rights she deserves; “My wife is the most amazing mother to our son and they have such a special bond, so it means so much that now she will be finally legally recognised as his parent. It is truly a life-changing moment for our family that I myself am so emotional about, as she deserved this recognition from the day we started our journey to have Rhys.”
Jenna continued, “this is such an honour and we cannot thank everyone who made this all possible enough.”
If you are a same-sex or LGBT+ couple with children and would like further information, you can visit LGBT Ireland and Equality For Children.
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