Suzi Denton
Associate Solicitor
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Date Published:18 Jul 2019 Last Updated:13 Apr 2021

Legal parentage and donor conception

Fertility Law

If you are planning to start a family with the help of a sperm donor, it’s really important for you to understand who will be your child’s legal parents, and what this will mean in practical terms.

Being a legal parent has wide-reaching implications for you and your child, and impacts on fundamental issues such as inheritance, nationality and financial obligations.

A child can have a maximum of two legal parents, and the woman who gives birth is always the legal mother. The identity of the second legal parent depends on the circumstances of conception, and the mother’s marital status at the time of conception.

If a child is conceived through IVF or artificial insemination with donated sperm, the following basic rules apply:

  • If the birth mother is married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception, then her spouse will be the child’s legal parent. It doesn’t matter whether the conception takes place at home or at a clinic.
  • If the birth mother and her partner are unmarried, then her partner will be the child’s second legal parent if the correct consent forms are signed before conception, and the treatment takes place at a licenced UK clinic.
  • If the birth mother is single and conceives at licenced UK clinic with an unknown donor, she will be her child’s only legal
    parent.
  • If the birth mother and her partner are unmarried and conceive at home, then the donor will be the child’s second legal
    parent, meaning that the partner will not be a legal parent.
  • If the birth mother is single and conceives at home, the donor will be the second legal parent.

Legal parentage and parental responsibility are not the same, and being a legal parent does not necessarily mean that you have parental responsibility. Click here for more information on parental responsibility.

If you are planning to start a family with the help of a donor or are hoping to co-parent, please contact our specialist fertility team for more information about our services. Call us on 01202 525333 or email us at fertility@ellisjones.co.uk