Parenting Law

Parenting law issues and problems

Families conceived through known donation, co-parenting, IVF and surrogacy are families just like any others, and sometimes relationships break down.  Parents may separate or divorce and not be able to agree about arrangements for their children.  If their children are conceived with a known donor or co-parent, then agreeing arrangements may be more complicated than for other parents, because the role of the other parents or known donor will need to be factored in as well as the parents who are separating.

UK law provides a framework in which the adults involved in a child’s life are in the first instance expected to try and resolve things themselves.  Mediation is a first port of call to help them to reach an agreement (which involves a professional third party mediator facilitating discussions and helping you to find common ground and reach your own solution). 

If this doesn’t work or isn’t possible, then an application can be made to the family court.  A child’s legal parents (and certain other people) have a right to make a court application, but others will as a first step need the court’s permission to apply.  This is the case, for example, for known donors who are not the child’s legal father and there have now been a number of cases in which the family court has given sperm donors without legal parenthood permission to make a court application where they can show they have sufficient ‘connection’ with the child.

From there the court will consider the child’s welfare.  There may be a number of court hearings, evidence from all parties and reports from Cafcass (the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) and possibly other experts before the court decides what is in the child’s best interests.  The orders which can be made include:

  • orders about who the legal parents are and who should have parental responsibility
  • orders that the child lives with or spends time with someone
  • orders relating to specific issues about schooling, religion and anything else relevant to the child’s upbringing

For more detailed information, visit NGA Law’s free and searchable online Knowledge Centre

Page last reviewed: 12/6/2018