What are the legal implications of being a sperm donor?

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Donor conception is life-changing for thousands of families across the UK and becoming a sperm donor could offer you the chance to make a real difference.

However, there are a range of social, emotional and legal implications that should be considered before pursuing this journey. In this blog, our fertility lawyers discuss what sperm donation could mean for you and how to best prepare for the legal implications it carries.

Do sperm donors have parental rights?

If you donate sperm, the legal tie you have with any donor-conceived children depends on the circumstances of the donation and conception.

In the UK, there are two options for donor conception: donating sperm through a Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) licensed clinic or by insemination at home.

If you donated sperm through a HFEA licensed clinic, to either an anonymous or known person, you will not:

  • Be the legal parent of any child born
  • Have any legal obligation to any child born
  • Have any rights over how the child will be brought up
  • Be asked to support the child financially
  • Be named on the birth certificate

However, if you donate sperm at a non-HFEA licensed clinic or at home, you will be considered the child’s legal parent unless it is specified otherwise on the birth certificate.

Sperm donation outside of a licensed fertility clinic can create disagreements further down the line around legal parenthood and parental responsibility. This is why it is best to seek professional legal advice before making any decisions on sperm donation.

What legal rights do birth parents of a donor-conceived child have?

If a parent has given birth to a child conceived through donor sperm, they will be their legal parent and have parental responsibility. If they have a partner who has consented to the process or they are married to/in a civil partnership with them, that person will have parental rights, too.

If the child was conceived at home or through a non-HFEA licensed clinic and the parents are not in a marriage or civil partnership, the sperm donor will automatically be granted legal parenthood, unless other arrangements are in place.

What is legal parenthood?

Legal parenthood determines whether you have financial responsibility for a child and whether they receive your nationality and any inheritance you may leave. This does not mean you have parental responsibility, which relates to the rights and responsibilities to make decisions about a child’s day-to-day life and upbringing.

Parental responsibility is granted to the birth parent of the child, their civil partner or spouse, anyone named on the birth certificate, or can be applied for in Court.

Do sperm donors have the right to remain anonymous?

In 2005, donor anonymity was lifted. Before this, all UK sperm donors were anonymous and children conceived through your donation could only access your non-identifying information from the age of 18.

If you donated sperm prior to 2005, you can still choose to waive your anonymity.

Regardless of whether you donated sperm before or after 2005, it is possible for home DNA testing and online matching services to identify you. Definitive anonymity cannot be 100% ensured, therefore, deciding to be a sperm donor should not be taken lightly.

Can I be contacted by a child conceived through my sperm donation?

Contact between a donor-conceived child and their donor will be decided by the child and can happen once they turn 18-years-old. You will need to wait for them to contact you but you are not legally obliged to respond.

Children conceived through a HFEA licensed clinic are given information about their donor that is dependent on their age.

At 16-years-old, a donor-conceived child can find out:

  • Your physical description (height, weight, eye, hair and skin colour)
  • Your place and year of birth
  • Your parent’s/parents’ ethnicity
  • Whether you had children at the time of donation, how many and their gender
  • Your marital status
  • Relevant personal and family medical history
  • Any additional information you provided, e.g. job, religion, interests

Parents of a donor-conceived child can also ask for this info at any point after birth.

At 18-years old, a donor-conceived child can find out:

  • Your full name
  • The date and town of your birth
  • Your most recent address
  • Any information removed from the details above that could reveal your identity

Parents of donor-conceived children can never access this information.

The HFEA will attempt to inform you before this information is released so it is important to keep contact details up to date with them.

How our fertility law solicitors can help

Before making any decisions regarding sperm donation, all parties involved must be on the same page. Whether you wish to proceed with a straightforward, anonymous donation at a HFEA-licensed clinic, or you are planning to privately donate to a friend, a Donor Agreement can be drawn up to set out everyone’s intentions and avoid future disputes.

Donor Agreements are not legally binding, however, so seeking advice from our experienced family solicitors can help ensure that you are aware of all the legal implications of sperm donation.

Our fertility solicitors can help you to:

  • Consider your options of sperm donation and conception to make the best decision for you
  • Have a conversation about the rights of the donor, the recipient and any children conceived
  • Understand how to deal with disagreement over parenting, opinion and legal position
  • Agree on what the child will be told and how and when this conversation will happen

Contact our donor conception solicitors

Whether you need advice on becoming a sperm donor, receiving a sperm donation or agreeing on the relationship terms between all parties, our specialist fertility law solicitors are here to help. Call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.­­­­­­­

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