Family Law and the BBC’s The Split – Highlighting Legal Parentage – Legal Rights of Egg and Sperm Donors

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If you are a sperm donor, you could be the legal parent of any child born from your donation. In this blog, Reena presents important information regarding the legal implications of this complex area of ​​law.


Many couples turn to egg and sperm donors to begin their journey to becoming parents and having their long-awaited families.

If a man donates sperm through a clinic approved by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), he will not be the legal parent and will not acquire parental responsibility. This means that he will not be named as the legal father of the child, he will have no rights over how the child is purchased, he will not be asked to support the child financially or that he will have no legal obligation.

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

Legal parents at birth

Using a sperm donor in a clinic is safer than doing it at home. If you choose not to, there are important legal issues to consider if you plan to use donated sperm outside of an approved clinic.

If you are single or in a same-sex, unmarried relationship or civil partnership, the sperm donor will be considered the legal parent of any children you may have. This could mean that he can claim paternal responsibility, which will give him rights and responsibilities for your child, despite an informal agreement you may have made at the time.

Use a sperm donor you know

When using a sperm donor you know, you need to be clear and set expectations about the future relationship your child will have with your sperm donor and how involved they will be in their life. Will it be an uncle or a relationship that will involve the co-parenting donor? What seems agreed in theory may be different in practice. It is useful to have an agreement even if it is not legally binding, as disputes that arise soon after 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 biological mother in the UK is always the legal parent of the child.

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

If your child is conceived after April 6, 2009 through sex with a man, your spouse or civil partner will automatically have no legal rights to the child.

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

In the case of a child conceived by artificial insemination from an unmarried and non-pacsé mother, the partner will not automatically be the legal parent, unless both have consented before the treatment. This will apply even if they are in a same-sex relationship and a partner donates their eggs for treatment.

If your child is conceived before April 6, 2009 by artificial insemination, your spouse or civil partner will not automatically be entitled to the child.

Surrogacy in the UK is legal. However, if you enter into a surrogacy agreement, it cannot be enforced by 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 under what circumstances. If you would like to know more about these types of issues or need advice on legal parentage and surrogacy, please contact our Child and Family Law Team.

Speak to our family law specialists

Reena Vadera is a senior associate within the Family team and can be contacted on 01895 207 819 or [email protected].

To contact the team, send an e-mail [email protected] or call 03456 381 381.

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