Assisted conception with donor sperm: heterosexual and lesbian couples

Many couples who are looking to start a family may be given hope with the law surrounding assisted conception. It is complex and different from traditional family law. Often couples, whether they are heterosexual or lesbian couples, can use a sperm donor in order to conceive a child.

The law surrounding assisted conception for reproduction is complex, especially when establishing who the legal parents are, and there are differing requirements depending on the status of your relationship (married, civil partnership or not).

Heterosexual couples

When identifying who the legal parents are, in heterosexual couples conceiving with donor sperm, the legal mother is the woman who carries and gives birth to the child.  As to who the legal father is, it will be either the mother’s husband, or, if she is unmarried, her partner, but only if two conditions are met. These are:

  1. The fertility treatment takes place at a licensed UK clinic; and
  2. At the time of the treatment, both the legal mother and her partner give written signed notices to the clinic stating that they both wish for him to be treated as the father.
Lesbian couples

For lesbian couples conceiving with donor sperm, the woman who carries and gives birth to the child is the legal mother. Also, if she is married or in a civil partnership, her partner would be the other legal mother. However, if the legal mother is not married or in a civil partnership, her partner would be the other legal mother only if the same factors apply as above, that being:

  1. The fertility treatment takes place at a licensed UK clinic; and
  2. At the time of the treatment, both the legal mother and her partner give written signed notices to the clinic stating that they both wish for her to be treated as the other legal mother.

It is also important to remember that birth mothers of children donor-conceived before 5th April 2009 will not automatically be the legal parent, even if they entered into a civil partnership.

Whilst often this requirement is overseen through licensed clinics, problems can arise where there is an informal arrangement i.e. not through a clinic but through a friend. If the legal requirements for confirming legal parenthood are not met, then the donor will be the legal parent and not the husband/wife/civil partner of the legal mother.

Legal 500 logo

Investors in People logo

UK Chambers logo

Best Companies - One to watch logo