Conceiving with an unknown donor
You may choose to conceive using an unknown donor in the UK through a licensed UK fertility clinic. By taking this route, and by signing the appropriate treatment forms, you (and your spouse/partner) will have full legal responsibility for your child. This means that the donor will not be the child’s legal parent. They will not be named on the birth certificate and they will not have any parental rights or obligations.
If you are not married or in a civil partnership and conceive at a licensed UK fertility clinic, you will be asked if you would like to complete a parental election form. This allows you to nominate who will be considered a second parent to the child.
Rules around releasing donor information changed in April 2005. Once your child is aged 16, they have the legal right to obtain non-identifying information about the donor. At 18 they have the right to obtain identifying information about the donor, such as their name and last known address. There is also a register to obtain information about any genetic half siblings, if the half siblings have also registered.
If you conceive at a clinic in a foreign jurisdiction, your child may not have the option of requesting information about their genetic identity in the future. This is because not all countries have a central donor register. If you are considering conceiving at an overseas clinic, we recommend seeking legal advice from solicitors in the country you are planning to conceive in.
Conceiving with a known donor
If you are conceiving with a known donor, it is crucial that both parties understand exactly what you and the other person expect from the arrangement. This includes whether or not the donor will be the child’s legal parent. Many factors affect who the legal parents of the child are in the eyes of the law. Some people are automatically recognised as the legal parents and others need to acquire status. We advise seeking legal advice prior to conception.
Sperm can only be considered a donation if conception does not occur through intercourse. If you conceive through intercourse, the donor will be considered the child’s legal parent even if they are not named on the birth certificate.
Insemination at a licensed clinic
Insemination can take place at a UK licensed fertility clinic if you are using a known donor. If you conceive at a fertility clinic using a known donor, the donor will not be the child’s legal parent unless that is what you both want. The known donor can enter into the same donation agreement as an unknown donor. However, this can be complicated by the fact that the donor’s identity is known.
If you are not married or in a civil partnership, it is possible to sign election forms at the clinic so your partner is the second legal parent. It is worth bearing in mind that the law in this area is still evolving and any potential rights which the known donor may have may be considered by the courts.
Insemination at home
If conception takes place outside of a licensed UK fertility clinic with a known donor, it is advisable to seek specialist legal advice on how legal parenthood will be applied in your particular circumstances as it is complex. If someone is a legal parent they are financially responsible for the child.
If you choose to artificially inseminate at home using a known donor and the birth parent is not married or in a civil partnership, the donor will automatically be the other legal parent. This is the case even if they are not named on the birth certificate. In addition, the donor will acquire legal parental responsibility if you name them on the birth certificate. This is a decision that must be made by you and the donor together.
If you are married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception, your spouse/civil partner can be named on the birth certificate and be recognised as the child’s legal parent. If your spouse/civil partner has explicitly stated they do not consent to the donor conception, they will not be the child’s legal parent. The donor will not acquire legal status.
When choosing to conceive with a known donor, it is crucial that all parties are on the same page. The process of creating a donor agreement can help you work through potential issues and ensure your expectations are aligned. A donor agreement can be created whether or not you intend for the donor to be involved in the child’s life.
We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to ensure that all parties are on the same page. Whilst we have seen many known donor arrangements work well, any misunderstanding can cause difficulties in the future.
Some of the issues that we recommend discussing when creating a donor agreement are:
- How much involvement the donor will have, if any
- Who the child will live with
- Financial responsibility
- Expectations around education
It is important to know that a donor agreement is not legally binding. If you are worried that either party might change their position, you might want to consider using an unknown donor instead.
If you intend to co-parent the child, then you may wish to consider having a co-parenting agreement prepared, setting out what your agreed intentions are for the future.
Contact a donor conception solicitor
Whether you are considering conceiving with a known or an unknown donor, our solicitors will provide you with clear and sensitive legal advice to help you to make an informed decision. We can also provide support if you are thinking about becoming a known donor and would like to be clear on your legal position before making a commitment.