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Donor conception + lesbian couples
For lesbian couples, artificial insemination using donor sperm is perhaps the most obvious route to becoming parents.
In the UK, lesbian couples have two broad options: using donated sperm through a HFEA licensed clinic or by insemination at home. However your relationship status and method you choose can have significant implications with regards to legal parenthood.
Couples who are married or in a civil partnership
You’ll both become the child’s legal parents if you’re married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception. But the child must be conceived by artificial insemination – either at a UK fertility clinic or by private arrangement (for example, with a male friend acting as known donor).
The non-birth mother will be named on the birth certificate and have full parental rights and responsibilities, in much the same way a father has.
Couples who aren’t married or in a civil partnership
If you’re not married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception, you can still become joint parents – however the way in which you conceive your child will differ.
Crucially you can only conceive at a licensed UK fertility clinic, meaning that home insemination isn’t an option for you. Before you start treatment, the clinic will ask you both to sign forms consenting to the non-birth mother being named on the birth certificate and becoming the child’s legal parent.
These forms can’t be signed after conception, during the pregnancy or following the child’s birth, so you must be trying to conceive together from the outset.
You can still opt for home insemination or by using a clinic outside of the UK, but the non-birth mother will have no parental rights and must apply to adopt the child.
How does this affect sperm donors?
If you donate through a licensed UK clinic, you won’t have parental responsibility for any child conceived using your sperm. You can’t be asked to support that child financially and you won’t be named on the birth certificate.
You’ll have much less protection if you’re donating informally or as part of a private agreement. If the recipient is married or in a civil partnership and both her and her partner are the child’s legal parents, you’ll have no financial or parental responsibility. This is because the child can only have two legal parents.
However if the non-birth mother isn’t the legal parent and isn’t named on the birth certificate, you will be the legal father of any child conceived using your donation.
Further information about donor conception
Donor conception law is complex. If you’re thinking of conceiving a child with donated sperm or if you want advice on becoming a legal parent of a child conceived using a surrogate, speak to our specialist fertility lawyers in Bristol for advice. For an informal chat, call us on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.
We offer all new clients a free 30 minute consultation with a legal expert in family law, as well as fixed fees on our family law services so you’ll know exactly how much you’ll pay from the start.