An older Swedish couple with one child decided to seek help conceiving another, but were forced abroad as embryo donations – where both the egg and the sperm come from third parties – are not legal in Sweden. The man, however, claimed he was clear about wanting just one child, partly because he and his wife are both in their fifties, and the couple ticked a box stating so on the consent form.
The first attempt did not work, but the wife travelled abroad again for a second try, this time leaving her husband at home. At the clinic, she amended the consent form to allow the staff to implant two embryos at once. She did not tell her husband. The second attempt failed too, but the woman persisted, again travelling abroad for a third procedure. Yet no matter her desire for another child, the news that she was expecting twins would cost her her husband.
"They were so at odds over this that they agreed to no longer live together," the 56-year-old's lawyer Ulf Bjermer told The Local on Thursday. "She said in court that she acted against her husband's wishes, but said that she so desperately wanted a child."
While there could be legal implications to her lying on the consent form, Bjermer was quick to point out that the ex-husband did not take her to court for any criminal offence. Rather, he simply wanted the court to recognize that he had consented to one child only, and that he therefore legally should not be considered the father to both children.
The district court disagreed. It ruled that the man was both twins' legal father.
"If you look past the family law aspects, this case is important when it comes to the content and the actual meaning of giving consent," said Bjermer, whose client has instructed him to appeal the verdict.
"This is such an important case, and a question of principles. It opens up for risks and possibilities that are difficult to fathom," Bjermer said.
Uppsala University family law professor Anna Singer said however that Swedish law clearly stated that giving consent to your partner to go through an insemination mean the man became the legal father.
"A man that has given consent to the insemination of his partner becomes a father according to law," Singer told the TT news agency.
Bjermer, meanwhile, said that the case also had wider social implications, rather than simply being a question of paying child support.
"Should he spend time with the children, make a connection with them?" he queried.