Donor Conception & Co-parenting
Planning to start or grow your family is an exciting time. Whether you are planning to conceive with a donor or want to co-parent with someone you know, it’s important for you to have a clear picture of the legal framework, and how your plans may impact on important issues like legal parentage. We can help you shape your plans to give your family the best possible start.
Our services include:
- advising you on the law surrounding donor conception, co-parenting and legal parentage
- discussing your plans and exploring your various conception options, and discussing how your plans may impact on your legal status as a parent
- putting pre-conception agreements in place
- helping you if a dispute arises in a known donation or co-parenting arrangement
If you would like to find out more about how we can help, please call us or send us an email.
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility gives someone the authority to make decisions on a child’s behalf. This includes general day-to-day decisions relating to the child’s care, and also important choices relating to their schooling, medical treatment and their upbringing in general.
Who has parental responsibility?
The birth mother always has parental responsibility, and fathers will have parental responsibility if they are married to the birth mother at the time the child is born, or if they are registered on the child’s birth certificate.
For same-sex female couples conceiving with a donor, the non-birth mother will have parental responsibility if she is married or in a civil partnership with the birth mother at the time of conception. If the couple are not married or in a civil partnership, the non-birth mother will have parental responsibility if the child is conceived at a clinic, the correct forms have been signed enabling her to be a legal parent and she is registered on the child’s birth certificate.
For children born through surrogacy, both parents will acquire parental responsibility once a parental order has been granted.
Who will be my child’s legal parents if I conceive with a sperm donor?
The woman who gives birth will always be a legal parent. The identity of the second legal parent depends on your marital status and the circumstances of conception. If you are married or in a civil partnership before you conceive you will both be your child’s legal parents (as long as you both consent to the treatment). If you are in a couple but are not married or in a civil partnership and you conceive at a clinic, you need to sign a specific set of HFEA forms before you conceive to ensure you will both be your child’s legal parents.
If you conceive with a sperm donor at home and are not married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception, then the donor will be your child’s legal father.
Do sperm donors have parental rights?
Whether or not a donor is a child’s legal parent depends on the particular circumstances of the donation arrangement.
A donor who registers at a licenced clinic in the UK for their sperm to be donated to an unknown couple or individual will not be the child’s legal father and won’t have parental rights.
The situation is a little more complex if the donor knows the person or couple they are donating to. Whether or not the donor has any parental rights in this situation will depend on the marital status of the intended parents, and the place and method of conception.
Is egg and sperm donation anonymous?
Since the law changed in 2005, it’s no longer possible to register with a licenced UK clinic as an anonymous sperm or egg donor. Now any child who is donor conceived at a licenced UK clinic will be entitled to identifying information about their donor when they reach 18 (including their donor’s name, date of birth and last known address). At 16, they are entitled to some limited information about their donor (such as a physical description, their year of birth and their medical history).
What is a preconception agreement?
A pre-conception agreement is a written document which you can prepare with your donor/co-parent before you conceive. The purpose of this document is to help you with your discussions, and to encourage you all to think and talk about practical and sensitive issues at the outset before you conceive a child. The document should reflect the agreements you reach about your plans, and you should complete it together with your donor or co-parent.
Preconception agreements are not legally binding, but we encourage people who are planning to conceive to have one in place, as experience shows that setting up arrangements with careful thought and planning is the best way to avoid problems in the future.