Managing a Dispute
Known donation: what if there is a dispute?
Although there are lots of positives to known donation and co-parenting, sadly disputes are not uncommon.
Disputes about child arrangements
These are disputes about how much contact a parent or donor should have, or how much he or she should be involved in decision-making about the child. The family court has a wide discretion to decide such disputes, just like they do any disputes in relation to children, if people cannot reach an agreement themselves (which is always encouraged first). The court might take into account any written donor or co-parenting agreement, but will weigh this against the history of what has happened, the connections each adult has with the child. Ultimately the court will do what it considers best for the child.
The court will also take into account the legal status of everyone involved, and someone who is not a legal parent may need to ask for permission to make a court application (which the court will permit if that person has enough ‘connection’ with the child).
Disputes like this can be very complex legally, and very acrimonious. It is very common for disputes to arise because expectations were not clearly addressed at the outset, and this has subsequently created frustration or disappointment. It is therefore very important for anyone going into a conception arrangement to make sure they are in agreement and understand each other. While a donor agreement is not strictly legally binding, the process of putting an agreement in place can be helpful in managing everyone’s expectations and may be of evidential benefit to a court dealing with any dispute. See the section on donor and co-parenting agreements.
Disputes also sometimes arise over whether a known donor is financially responsible for a child. Whether a known donor is financially responsible depends solely on whether he is the child’s legal father. Any agreement between the parties, and even whether the donor has had any contact with the child, is completely irrelevant.
If a donor is the legal father, an application can be made to the Child Maintenance Service for regular child support, or to the family court for a capital or property award.
It is therefore very important for sperm donors to understand their legal status and whether they might be liable financially if a disputes arises.
For more detailed information, visit NGA Law’s free and searchable online Knowledge Centre http://www.nataliegambleassociates.co.uk/knowledge-centre