Using Known Donors
Known sperm donation: for parents
There are a number of reasons why parents choose to conceive with a known sperm donor. Some want to have control over their choice of donor, but don’t expect the donor to have significant ongoing involvement with their child after the birth; others want a donor who will play a role in the child’s life of some kind, even if it is not a full parental role. See the separate section on co-parenting for situations where the father is intended to be fully recognised as a father and involved in the child’s upbringing.
How do I set strong foundations for a known donation arrangement?
It is very important, if you are conceiving with a known donor, that you are all clear about the basis of your arrangement and how you expect things to work. Setting strong foundations can be the key to avoid disputes later. See the sections on disputes and problems [link to section below] and donor agreements [link to section below] for more information.
Who will be the legal parents
It is also important to understand how the law applies to your particular circumstances. Who your child’s legal parents are (and therefore what the birth certificate can record, and who is financially responsible) depends, not on what you agree, but on your personal situation and how your child is conceived. A separate question is who will have ‘parental responsibility’ for your child i.e. the right to be involved in decision making for your child while he or she is under 18. This is how the law works:
The birth mother is always your child’s legal mother and always has parental responsibility (even if she is not the biological mother, for example if you are egg-swapping or using an egg donor).
Married couples and civil partners
If the birth mother is married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception, then her spouse (rather than your sperm donor) will be your child’s legal father (if a man) or second legal parent (if a woman). That is the case provided that the birth mother’s spouse consented to the conception and your child was conceived by artificial insemination (whether at a clinic or at home).
He or she will then automatically have parental responsibility for your child, shared with the birth mother. He or she will also automatically be recorded as the other parent on your child’s birth certificate.
Unmarried couples conceiving at UK licensed clinics
If the birth mother is not married to or in a civil partnership with her partner at the time of conception, then who the legal parents are depends on how you conceive.
If you conceive at a licensed clinic in the UK, you can choose to nominate the birth mother’s partner as your child’s father (if he is a man) or as your child’s second legal parent (if she is a woman). There is a process to go through at your clinic (including counselling and the correct completion of a set of forms) which must be completed absolutely correctly before conception. There have been various recent cases in which clinics have not dealt with this process properly and, as a result, the parents have had to make applications to the family court to resolve their parental status. To avoid this, please make sure you are following the process to nominate a second parent carefully and if necessary take legal advice.
If nominated as the other parent via this clinic process, the father or second parent will legally be a parent which means that he or she will have legal and financial responsibility for your child. He or she can also be registered on your child’s birth certificate if he/she attends the birth registration with the birth mother and, if so, will then share parental responsibility.
Unmarried couples conceiving at home or at overseas clinics
If you conceive through home insemination or at a fertility clinic overseas then it is not possible to nominate the birth mother’s unmarried partner as your child’s other legal parent. This means that your known sperm donor will be your child’s legal father. If the non-birth mother (or the non-biological father) wants to become your child’s legal parent instead, you will need to make an application after your child is born for step-parent adoption. This is usually a reasonably straightforward process if everyone agrees.
Single women conceiving at UK licensed clinics
If you are a single woman conceiving with a known sperm donor at a licensed clinic in the UK, the law is grey. It may be possible to establish that your donor should be treated in the same way as any other clinic sperm donor (without any legal rights or responsibilities), or the donor may be treated as your child’s legal father. It is usually sensible to seek legal advice as to how the law will apply in your particular circumstances.
Single women conceiving at home
If you are a single woman conceiving with a known donor through home insemination, your donor will be your child’s legal father. That means that he will be financially responsible for your child, and has various other rights. However, he will only share parental responsibility with you if you register him as the father on your child’s birth certificate.
If you are a single woman conceiving with a known sperm donor at a licensed clinic in the UK, the law is grey. It may be possible to establish that your donor should be treated in the same way as any other clinic sperm donor (without any legal rights or responsibilities), or the donor may be treated as your child’s legal father.
If you are a single woman conceiving through home insemination, your donor will be your child’s legal father.
Birth certificates and parental responsibility
The birth mother is always recorded on the birth certificate. Her partner can be recorded as the other parent if he or she is your child’s legal parent (and he/she will then share parental responsibility with the birth mother).
A donor can only be registered on the birth certificate if he is your child’s legal father. However, choosing to name your known donor on the birth certificate is legally significant, since it gives him ‘parental responsibility’.
For more detailed information, visit NGA Law’s free and searchable online Knowledge Centre http://www.nataliegambleassociates.co.uk/knowledge-centre
Page last reviewed: 12/6/2018