Same sex parenting and child law

When it comes to having a child with your same sex partner, there are several different ways that you can go about this and many different family structures can result. There are some potential complexities when it comes to parenting and child law for same sex couples, so it is important for every parent to understand where they stand legally and where the same sex parental responsibility lies. 

Whether you are  considering adoption, donor insemination, surrogacy or another route to parenthood, or you are experiencing a same sex parental responsibility dispute, taking specialist legal advice can make a big difference to what happens next and in the future. 

What is same sex parental responsibility?

Same-sex parental responsibility refers to the legal status of a parent in a same-sex relationship, giving them rights and responsibilities in relation to a child. This may include the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, to live with the child, and to provide financial support. The specific rights and responsibilities will depend on the nature of the relationship with the child and the laws in the jurisdiction in which the child resides.

Same sex parents under UK law

Under current law, a child can usually only have two legal parents (there are potential exceptions to this in some circumstances) but being a legal parent does not necessarily mean that you have parental responsibility legally. A legal parent may or may not have a biological link to the child, depending on the route to parenthood that the same sex couple decided to take.

It is important for same sex couples to understand who is a legal parent for any child you have together because there are certain legal and other consequences involved, which include:

  • Only legal parents can have their name on a child’s birth certificate
  • Legal parents have financial responsibility for the child under law
  • A potential inheritance impact 
  • An automatic right for legal parents to apply for court orders that relate to the child
  • The emotional value of being a legal parent or the child of a legal parent

The woman who gives birth to the child is automatically a legal parent (even if the child is not biologically hers) unless there is a parental order to remove this legal status due to surrogacy or adoption. The status of the other legal parent can depend on a wide range of factors, such as the conception method, when the child was born (either pre or post 6th April 2009), and any legal steps that have been taken after the birth of the child, such as adoption or surrogacy. 

There are no limits to the number of people who can have parental responsibility for a child.

Laws on same sex couple adopting

Same sex couples adoption laws in the UK are the same as adoption for opposite sex couples or single people and it has been illegal to discriminate against same sex couples regarding adoption since 2010. The basic adoption requirements are:

  • To be at least 21 years of age and in good health
  • To be a UK resident
  • To not have any convictions in relation to specific offences

As for anyone wishing to adopt, the same sex couple adoption laws require you to be confirmed as suitable by the adoption agency or local authority and able to meet the needs of any child you are matched with. 

Same sex parental rights if you break up

The same sex couple’s parental rights and parental responsibilities do not automatically change if the relationship breaks down, but in situations like this, it is  important to have a full understanding of potential legal issues that may apply. 

Depending on the route that was taken to parenthood, there could be some complications with regard to legal responsibilities and this can be a very complex area of law if clear legal steps were not taken after the birth of the child. Dealing with issues like this on top of the challenges of the relationship breakdown can be very difficult. It is recommended that you take expert legal advice if you are a parent considering splitting from your partner, and they are a legal parent or have parental responsibility, to ensure that you know your rights and where you stand from a legal point of view.

Why choose Moore Barlow for same sex parenting and child law services?

At Moore Barlow, we have many years of experience in the various complexities of family law, for same sex parents as well as heterosexual parents. This means we are ideally placed to assist you if you are a same sex couple wanting to start a family, or are dealing with a dispute in relation to same sex parenting. 

Our team offer specialist assistance to parents across our regional offices in LondonRichmondSouthamptonGuildfordLymington and Woking and also operate nationally to deliver our expertise wherever needed.

Please get in touch today to find out how we can help.