If you are a parent, co-parent or donor, our specialist family team can advise and support you through your journey.
Planning or growing your family is a very exciting time. If you are considering using donated sperm or eggs, we can ensure you are legally protected. It is vital that you understand the legal aspects, in case a dispute arises in the future.
What is donor conception?
Donor conception is when eggs, sperm or embryos from donors are used to help with conception of a baby. If both eggs and sperm are used from donors, this is known as double donation. Donor conception is one option to help someone conceive if they have certain specific fertility issues and is usually done through IVF or self-insemination.
Sperm and egg donor legal issues, who are the legal parents?
If you are a couple wishing to have a child through donor conception, you may do so by using an ‘unknown donor’ at a licensed clinic. Alternatively, someone you know may be willing to donate their eggs or sperm to you to assist conception , they are considered a ‘known donor’. As long as the donation occurs at a licensed clinic, there is no legal difference between a known and unknown donor.
A woman who gives birth to a baby is considered to be the legal mother by default, regardless of whether the egg was donated or her own. If the sperm came from the birth mother’s partner, they will automatically be considered the other legal parent, as long as they consented to the procedure e.g. through IVF treatment.
If a child is born as a result of a sperm or egg donation that occurred at a licensed clinic, the donor is not considered to be the legal parent. The birth mother can instead agree for her partner to be the other legal parent. However, if the donation takes place outside of a licensed clinic then you must be married or in a civil partnership in order for the birth mother’s partner to be considered as the child’s legal parent.
A woman who has donated her eggs or a man who has donated his sperm at a licensed clinic have no legal responsibility for any children born as a result, but when the child or children reach the age of 18, they are able to receive identifying information about the donor if they wish, so that they are able to make contact if they choose to do so. Information such as the donor’s medical history are provided at the point of donation and non-identifying information about the donor can be given to the child or children when they reach 16 years of age.
If you have any questions about the legal position of a sperm donor, you can speak to an experienced sperm donor solicitor who will be able to clarify things for you before you commit.
Can I use a known sperm donor at home?
Rather than use a clinic, some people make an arrangement with someone they know for them to donate their sperm at home. It’s important to understand the legal issues with known sperm donors if you choose this route.
- You don’t have the screening and health protections provided by the clinic for sperm donations.
- If the child is conceived through intercourse with the sperm donor then they will be considered the legal parent of the child, whether or not they are named on the birth certificate.
- If you conceive through artificial insemination, the sperm donor will not automatically be the legal parent or have parental responsibility, unless you choose to put them on the birth certificate. Your civil partner, husband or wife can be given parental responsibility instead. However, if you are not married or in a civil partnership, they cannot be named on the birth certificate and would instead need to adopt the child to become their legal parent.
- The donor does not automatically have any rights or responsibilities towards the child. However, they could potentially make a legal application for a child arrangement order at some point in the future in order to establish their time and contact with the child.
How Moore Barlow Solicitors can help you?
We recommend that you always seek expert legal advice from Moore Barlow Solicitors before using a sperm donor outside of the protection of a licensed clinic in order to have a child. This area of law is highly complex and it’s important that you fully understand the implications of the decisions you make with regards to sperm donation laws. We have experience within our family law team on matters of this type and can offer egg and sperm donor solicitor advice to help make sure that you have all the legal support you need to take the next steps as a family.
Our expert family law team work across our offices in London, Richmond, Southampton, Guildford, Lymington and Woking and we offer specialist support to clients nationwide. Contact us for more information on how we can help.
Surrogacy and donor FAQs
How does donor conception work?
Donor conception can work in a range of different ways, depending on what is being donated (i.e. eggs, sperm or embryos) and whether the conception is being done through a licensed clinic or in another manner. A donor conception is often done using IVF or, when only using donor sperm, via Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) in a clinic, although some choose to use donor sperm via a known donor unofficially. There are many legal implications of choosing the latter route and it’s important to consult expert donor conception family law solicitors if you are considering any kind of donor conception.
Who are the child’s legal parents?
In the first instance, the child’s legal mother will always be the gestational parent who will also be named on the birth certificate. This is the mother who carries the child to birth therefore an egg donor will not be the child’s legal parent. In the first instance, the child’s legal father will be the biological father but they will only be named on the birth certificate under certain circumstances.
How do I become the child’s legal parent if I want to use a surrogate?
A parental order must be obtained. This extinguishes the legal parentage of the surrogate mother and instead the applicant assumes the status of the child’s legal parent. The child must be living with the applicant in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man and the parental order must be applied for within 6 months of the child’s birth.
Can I get a parental order if I am single?
Parental orders used to be limited to those that were married, in a civil partnership or in an enduring relationship. The laws changed in January 2019 allowing single people to also apply for a parental order.
Do I still need a parental order if I commission a surrogacy abroad?
Yes, a parental order is still necessary if you want to be recognised as the child’s parent in the UK rather than the surrogate mother regardless of the laws of the country where the surrogacy arrangement took place.
What is a surrogacy agreement?
A surrogacy agreement may be drawn up and entered into by the commissioning parents and surrogate parents before, during and even after the child is born. It sets out all the parties’ intentions and expectations and can include issues such as the making of a parental order, the financial obligations towards the child, the surrogate’s relationship with the child and how the child will be brought up.
Why should I get a surrogacy agreement?
Surrogacy agreements are not legally binding in the UK as a parental order must be freely entered into by all the parties at the time it is applied for. A surrogacy agreement is however useful to ensure that all the parties involved understand the practicalities of the surrogacy. This can help avoid any misunderstandings, oversights and disappointment when a parental order is eventually applied for. Although surrogacy agreements are not legally binding, the courts can still consider them in relation to any disagreements in the future to take into account the parties’ intentions.
If I wish to use a surrogate do I need to pay her?
Surrogates cannot be paid for commercial purposes however, a surrogate can be paid reasonable expenses which is determined on a case by case basis.
What is the difference between a known donor and an unknown donor?
The commissioning parents will not know the identity of an unknown donor unlike a known donor. In the UK an unknown donor can only be used through a UK licensed clinic. Likewise, an unknown donor will not know the identity of the mother or any child conceived but can request confirmation of the number of children born as a result of their donation, the children’s genders and the years of birth.
Can a donor conceived child find out who the donor was?
An unknown donor will remain anonymous until the child turns 16 after which they can request non-identifying information. Once a child turns 18 they can then request identifying information about the donor however, donations before 1 April 2005 were anonymous therefore any information before this date will only be available if the donors have agreed to remove their anonymity.
If I used a donor then can my partner be the child’s legal parent?
This will depend on the relationship between you and your partner and whether the donation was carried out in a UK licensed clinic. If the donation is carried out in a UK licensed clinic then the donor will not be the child’s legal parent and the mother can agree for her partner to be the other legal parent, regardless of whether they are married or in a civil partnership. If the donation takes place outside of a UK licensed clinic then the partner must be married or in a civil partnership with the mother in order to be considered the child’s legal parent.
What is a donor agreement?
A donor agreement may be drawn up and entered into by the commissioning parents and the donor before, during and even after the child is born. It sets out all the parties’ intentions and expectations and can include issues such as the financial obligations towards the child, the donor’s relationship with the child and how the child will be brought up.
Why should I get a donor agreement?
Donor agreements are not legally binding in the UK. A donor agreement is however useful to ensure that all the parties involved understand the practicalities of the arrangement. This can help avoid any misunderstandings, oversights and disappointment at a later date. Although donor agreements are not legally binding, the courts can still consider them in relation to any disagreements in the future to take into account the parties’ intentions.