Fertility Law

When choosing to donate sperm or eggs, become a recipient or enter into a co-parenting arrangement it is vital that the correct legal advice is sought. The parties involved may have different views as to what level of involvement they have with the child and their parental and financial responsibility.

A legal donor or co-parenting agreement can help clarify intentions and would be helpful in the event of any future dispute.

  • Will there be any ongoing contact between the donor and the child?
  • Will the sperm donor be protected if he wishes not to have parental or financial responsibility?
  • Will the co-parents name be put on the birth certificate?
  • Will the co-parent have parental and financial responsibility?

If a lesbian couple conceives through sperm donation, they will both be legal parents of their child if:

They are married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception, and the non-birth mother consents (this applies to both home and clinic conception, provided the child is not conceived through sexual intercourse), or
They conceive through a licensed fertility clinic in the UK and follow the proper procedure at the clinic to nominate the non-birth mother as the child’s second legal parent.
In these cases both parents can be recorded on the birth certificate immediately their child is born.

In other cases the non-birth mother can acquire rights by adopting the child or obtaining parental responsibility.





If you conceive with an unknown sperm bank donor, the donor has no legal status as a parent. However donor conceived children will have the right at age 18 years to access the HFEA register to gain information about their donor and any other donor conceived children through the same donor.

If you conceive with a known donor or co-parent (whether at home or at a clinic), the legal position is more complex and is dependant upon whether the recipients are married or in a civil partnership.

A written donor agreement concerning parenting will not bind the family court, but it may be taken into account if a dispute arises. 

The weight an agreement is given - and its legal effect - will depend on the underlying law, your particular circumstances and the content of the agreement.  To be of the most value, a donor or co-parenting agreement should therefore be drafted according to your particular circumstances and with expert legal help, whether your goal is to exclude your donor’s responsibilities or to set out how you envisage a co-parenting relationship working.

The process of putting in place a written agreement also helps everyone to think through and plan how they expect things to work, and to flush out any differences in expectations.  There are sadly quite a few cases which have been heard by the family court involving disputes which have arisen in relation to children conceived through known donation and co-parenting arrangements, and most involve mismatched expectations.    

Fertility law specialists can help you prepare a written agreement and give further advice about your own personal situation, discussing with you how the underlying law applies, with a view to helping you to avoid pitfalls and manage your relationship successfully to avoid disputes arising. 

Please contact a fertility specialist lawyer for further information and advice on written donor and co-parenting agreements..

If you conceive through known donation or or co-parenting (whether at home or at a clinic), who the legal parents are and the position is more complex as it depends upon the marital status of the birth mother whether the recipients are married or in a civil partnershipand whether you conceive at a clinic or at home.  The birth mother will always be legally and financially responsible for the child, and will be registered on the birth certificate.  Her partner may be a legal parent too, if they are married/civilly partnered or if you conceive through a licensed UK fertility clinic and follow the procedure to nominate her as the second parent.  

This has an impact on the donor or co-parent’s position too.  If the child has two female parents, the donor or co-parent will not be legally or financially responsible and cannot be registered as the father on the birth certificate.  If the child does not have two female parents, the donor or co-parent will usually be the child’s legal father in which case he will be financially responsible for your child if a claim is made.  He can also be registered on the birth certificate if you all agree, and this will give him shared parental responsibility with the birth mother.  The donor’s partner (if any) will not have any automatic status as a parent, but may be able to take steps to acquire it.

Even if a non-birth mother, donor or co-parent father has no formal rights and no financial responsibilities, if he or she has a relationship with the child then he or she will usually be able to apply to the family court for rights of contact if a dispute arises at a later stage.  It is important to put a donor or co-parenting agreement in place and to take whatever other steps you can to ensure everyone is clear about expectations and to help prevent future problems.