There are more same-sex parented families than ever before in Australia. More than 10,000 children live with same-sex parents in this country. Over half of same-sex couples with children have an only child. While 1 in 3 same-sex couples with children have 2 children. However, the Census doesn’t identify lesbians or gay men who are single parents.
This article will help you consider some important questions about becoming a parent in a same-sex couple.
Ways to become a parent
Same-sex families can be created in many ways. You may already have children from an earlier relationship. Or you may decide to:
- co-parent— a planned parenting relationship with another person or couple who you are not in a romantic relationship with
- offer foster care
If you are thinking of having a child that is genetically yours, there are again choices available, including:
- insemination with a sperm donor
- using a surrogate (with or without an egg donor)
A sperm donor could be:
- someone you know, e.g. a family member or friend
- an unknown donor who has given their sperm to a sperm bank
Think carefully about what you are looking for in a donor.
If your donor is someone you know:
- Why would they consider donating to you?
- What level of involvement do you want them to have with your child?
Make sure you involve your partner in the discussions. Give the potential donor plenty of time to think about it. Also consider getting legal advice and a contract drawn up to ensure all people involved understand the agreement.
If you plan to use sperm from a sperm bank, the donor could be Australian or come from overseas.
- have their sperm medically screened
- are asked about their medical history
- are screened for infectious diseases
- attend counselling sessions
- are told about their legal rights
If you are thinking about getting donor sperm from overseas, make sure you understand the laws of the country in question. Getting donor sperm from some countries could cause future legal problems both for you and your child.
In Australia, the donor’s identity can be released when the child reaches 18 years of age (or 16 years in Western Australia).
Most assisted reproductive technology clinics can organise donated sperm for you.
Pregnancy after sperm donation
If one parent has a uterus (womb), pregnancy could happen using intrauterine insemination (IUI). With IUI, sperm from a donor is injected directly into the uterus.
You don’t always need to take fertility medicines, and the steps involved are quite quick and cheap. However, it doesn’t always result in pregnancy.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is another option. This is when sperm is introduced to eggs in a laboratory. Fertility medicines need to be taken beforehand. IVF is more expensive, and it also doesn’t always work.
Surrogacy is when a woman (or person with a uterus) carries and gives birth to a baby for another person or couple. This might be because the couple can’t be pregnant themselves.
It’s important to get legal advice before you enter into any surrogacy arrangement.
There are two types of surrogacy:
- gestational surrogacy (full surrogacy)
- traditional surrogacy (partial surrogacy)
Gestational surrogacy is when a fertilised donor egg (embryo) is implanted into a surrogate through in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The surrogate has no genetic connection to the baby. For legal reasons, this is the only type of surrogacy that many clinics in Australia will be involved in.
Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate’s own egg is fertilised by the sperm through IUI or IVF. This can be done at home or in an overseas clinic. In this case, the baby is biologically related to the surrogate.
The surrogate can be someone you know. You may or may not want them to be involved in your child’s life.
There are 2 types of surrogacy arrangements:
- altruistic surrogacy
- commercial surrogacy
Altruistic surrogacy is when the surrogate doesn’t get a payment. Money to cover the cost of the surrogate’s medical expenses is allowed. This is legal in Australia. But there are different regulations in each state and territory.
Commercial surrogacy is when the surrogate gets money or another payment. This is against the law in Australia.
Some couples find a surrogate overseas, but this can be quite expensive. It’s very important that you get legal advice before entering into any arrangement.
Social and psychological issues
Research has shown that children who grow up in same-sex families do as well: emotionally, socially and educationally as any other children.
In fact, research shows that children raised by same-sex parents have better educational outcomes. This is true for both primary and secondary school.
There is more support than ever for same-sex families in Australia. But some same-sex couples and their children are exposed to stigma (disapproval). It’s negative treatment by others that may affect your child’s wellbeing.
If you think your child is being bullied, it’s important to step in quickly. Schools and teachers are trained to deal with issues like this.
Surrounding your family with supportive friends, family and LGBTIQ+ organisations and communities can help your family navigate discrimination.
You may want to involve your child’s biological parent(s) in your family life. You can also involve adults of other genders in your family life. They can act as role models for your child.
Rainbow Families is the peak organisation supporting LGBTQ+ parents and their children. Have a look at their website for resources to support your family.
Work and legal issues
Same-sex parents and their families have the same entitlements as everyone else. It doesn’t matter if you are married or in a de facto relationship. This law covers:
- social security
- family assistance
- Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net
- Medicare Safety Net
- child support and family law
You will also be assessed for entitlements in the same way as everyone else.
You may be eligible for child support or Dad and Partner Pay. Visit the Department of Social Services for more information.
What happens if we split up?
From December 2017, same-sex married couples have been treated the same legally as other married couples. You can divorce under Australian law if you meet the requirements for divorce. This means you have the same rights as heterosexual parents. This includes if you separate or divorce.
Resources and support
For further information and support, visit:
- LGBTIQ+ Health Australia — supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/transgender, intersex, queer and other sexuality, gender, and bodily diverse people and communities throughout Australia.
- Rainbow Families — is the peak organisation for LGBTQ+ parents and their children.
- Resource kit for rainbow families by Jacqui Tomlins.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
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Last reviewed: October 2022