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Recognising family diversity: the ‘boundaries’ of RE G

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In Re G, the Court of Appeal awarded a joint residence order to the appellant, who was the lesbian ex-partner of the child’s full biological mother. The award also indirectly vested the appellant, a social parent, with parental responsibility and extended a body of case law to same-sex couples, which had until now only been applied to heterosexual couples. The initial purpose of this note is to outline the legal issues of the case in the context of the framework of parental responsibility set out in the Children Act 1989, putting forward a test of ‘parental fitness’ (which focuses on active ‘care’ as its central consideration) for social parents who must appeal to the court’s discretion to obtain parental responsibility. Secondly, the note offers at once a positive reading of Re G while highlighting a number of reservations centring upon continued legal preference for the ‘sexual family’. It is argued that while the legal recognition of ‘family diversity’ and parenthood remains modelled on this ‘sexual family’, the relaxation of family ‘boundaries’ (despite legal victories such as Re G) will remain limited.

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