Parents of transgender children are now in fear of their ex-partners suing them for custody of their children after the high court ruled that a seven-year-old trans child should be removed from the care of their mother.
According to Mermaids, an organisation that supports young trans people and their families, has said that several mothers of trans children have said that their ex-partners have threatened to to take them to court in the wake of this decision.
Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, said: “We have had four separate parents come forward, in cases where the ex-partner doesn’t agree with the child’s [gender] presentation. All the ones that have come through so far have been the mum who has custody and the father is unsupportive.”
One of the mothers in question has actually been served papers from her ex-partner over custody of their child. The father has indicated that he will attempt to get a court order to prevent their child from wearing female clothing to school.
According to the mother, these proceedings were initiated after her ex-partner read about the high court’s decision. She said it has “turned my family’s world upside down”.
Susie Green continued: “[The fathers] have literally said: ‘I’ve seen this [the court ruling]. I’m going to take you to court’. Parents are very, very frightened, and rightly so.”
Another mother, Miranda, has said that a mere few days after the high court ruling her ex-partner contacted her who threatened to take her to court over their trans child Jake.
Miranda said: “He thinks that our boy is still a girl – he’s supposed to have the clothing that Jake wants to wear, but he doesn’t. I still have female clothing if Jake chooses to wear it, you still have to be open to the possibility that he might turn around and say: ‘I’m Joanna again’, even though Jake’s telling me that’s never going to happen.”
Following the high court ruling, there was naturally very worried that the same thing could happen to her.
“I just sat down and stared for quite some time. I’m tired. I cry myself to sleep at night sometimes. But it is what it is. I know that it’s not a phase, you have an instinct for a reason, you’ve just got to fight for making sure your child’s happy.”
There isn’t just concern among mothers of trans children about their partners or ex-partners, though, there are even concerns that the child’s grandparents could use this high court ruling to gain custody.
Lucy, who has a trans daughter, has said that her partner is supportive of their daughter’s gender identity, her mother is not.
She said: “You do question it: could somebody use that [a child’s gender identity] to take your child away from you? It makes me worried that she’s going to use that against me with social services. You feel like you’ve done the right thing when you’ve helped your child transition. But then the court case comes out and you think: am I doing something wrong?”
However, there have also been some comments from Sarah Cornes, head of family law at TWM solicitors. She said that while the high court ruling has created a precedent and understands parents’ concerns, the decision made about children’s living situations are “usually very fact-specific”.
She continued: “You can’t just say: there was a case and therefore everybody else’s situation will be affected. The overriding criteria in any case is what is in the best interests of the child. [Being transgender] is not a phenomenon that people can deny the existence of; it’s a question of what weight would be given to the stated wishes of the child to transition. And of course it depends on the age of the child; the younger the child the greater the extent that external factors will be considered.”