If you are a sperm donor, you could be the legal parent of any child born from your donation. In this blog Reena sets out some important information with regards to the legal implications of this complicated area of law.

Many couples are turning to egg and sperm donors to begin their journey to become parents and to have their much longed-for family.

If a man donates sperm through a Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) licensed clinic, he will not be the legal parent or acquire Parental Responsibility. This will mean that he will not be named as the legal father of the child, have any rights about how the child is bought up, be asked to support the child financially or have any legal obligation.

Other scenarios might see the use of an unlicensed clinic to donate sperm or, as depicted in the BBC drama The Split, two friends having sexual intercourse in order to get pregnant – with the female friend, who is in a same sex relationship, telling her partner that the resulting pregnancy was through artificial insemination. In both these scenarios, under UK law the “sperm donor” (irrespective of any claim that the sperm was donated through artificial insemination) is the biological father of the child.

Legal Parents at Birth

Using a sperm donor at a clinic is safer than doing so at home. Should you choose not to do so, then there are important legal issues to be considered if you are thinking about using donated sperm outside a licensed clinic.

If you are a single person or you are in a same sex relationship and not married, or in a civil partnership, the sperm donor will be considered the legal parent of any children you may have. This could mean that he can apply for Paternal Responsibility, and this will give him rights and responsibilities for your child, despite an informal agreement that you may have entered in to at the time.

Using a Sperm Donor That You Know

When using a sperm donor you know, you must be clear and set out the expectations in relation to the future relationship your child will have with your sperm donor and how much they will be involved in their life. Is this going to be an Uncle or a relationship that will entail the donor to co-parent? What appears to be agreed in theory may be different in practice. It is helpful to have an agreement even though this will not be legally binding, as disputes which happen quickly after the birth are likely to concern the legal status of the donor/biological parent and whether they should be treated as the donor or the parent.

Artificial Insemination – Legal Consent to Parenthood

The birth mother in the UK is always the child’s legal parent.

If your Child is conceived after 6 April 2009 through artificial insemination, you as the birth mother and your civil partner/wife will be the child’s legal parents and will both have parental responsibility. You must register both your names on the child’s birth certificate.

If your child is conceived after 6 April 2009 through sexual intercourse with a man, your wife or civil partner will not automatically have any legal rights to the child.

If the mother is married or in a civil partnership to a man who is not the sperm donor and the child is conceived through artificial insemination, then the mother’s husband or civil partner will be the legal parent.

In the case of a child conceived through artificial insemination to a mother who is unmarried and not in a civil partnership, the partner will not automatically be the legal parent, unless both have consented before treatment. This will apply even if they are in a same sex relationship and one partner is donating her eggs for the treatment.

If your Child is conceived before 6 April 2009 through artificial insemination, you wife or civil partner will not automatically have legal right to the child.

Surrogacy in the UK is legal. However, if you enter into a Surrogacy Agreement it cannot be enforced by the law.

The law regarding who is the legal parent when egg and sperm donors are used is complex, with the identity of the other parent depending on how the child was conceived and in what circumstances.