Lifelines: Mark Stalker on children and same-sex relationships

My husband and I have been married for 17 years and have had our ups and downs.

We have two lovely children, a son of 16 and a daughter of 11. Over the last 18 months, my husband had been a bit distant from me and I put it down to the pressures of his job. I was stunned when he told me at Easter that he was gay and was leaving me to be with his new partner. I fell apart and things got very bad, but it’s getting better now, and my son seems to be coping with it. My daughter, however, is not. We are both really worried about her.

MS: Parental separation is never easy. While your circumstances may be slightly different, the end result for your daughter is the same. That her dad left you for a man is likely making it harder for her to understand, but working together is important as your daughter needs consistent messages – that you both love her, that the split isn’t her fault and that it’s OK to still love her dad. If you are still concerned, Relationships Scotland can help find counselling for her.

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My partner and I recently separated after more than ten years together. We decided about seven years ago that we wanted to be parents, and eventually agreed that my partner would bear our child. We approached a male friend to help, and six years ago my partner gave birth to our beautiful baby girl.

Initially things were OK but as time passed I felt myself becoming frozen out of the relationship with my partner and our daughter. This became so marked earlier this year that we finally separated. Since then, I have tried to continue to be a mum to our daughter but my partner is making it really hard for me and I’ve had to hire a lawyer. My partner and I were never in a civil partnership and I’m scared I won’t see my daughter.

MS: This situation must be daunting for all of you, particularly your daughter, who is caught in the middle. You should discuss in more detail with your lawyer what I’m going to say here, but the fact that you and your partner are not in a civil partnership is not strictly relevant. Even if you were, the fact you are not the biological mother means you don’t have automatic parental rights and responsibilities for your daughter.

You can, however, apply to the court for an order in terms of section 11 of the Children’s Scotland Act 1995 to be granted parental rights and responsibilities for your daughter to put you on the same legal footing as your partner.

Going to court is a stressful and sometimes divisive process, and it doesn’t always help the relationship between parents in the long term. As well as discussing matters with your solicitor, you may want to try mediation. This would let you both to focus on the needs of your daughter rather than issues as former partners.

Mark Stalker is service manager at Relationships Scotland Family Mediation, South Lanarkshire