Did you know that, in the UK, sperm donors have parental rights if they are known to the parent/s to be?
Needless to say, the law regarding both a sperm donor’s legal responsibilities as well as his parental rights is somewhat complex. If you are intending to donate sperm anonymously or to a single or a couple you know, know your rights before you make a decision that has unintended legal consequences for you.
This article comes from the office of Philadelphia divorce lawyer Lee A. Schwartz.
How Do You Intend to Donate Sperm?
If you intend to donate sperm anonymously to someone through a licensed fertility clinic, you will have no parental rights in the UK. And, while the offspring created by your donation has the right to your identity and may contact you someday, you will have limited information about those individuals, usually only gender and year of birth.
If you intend to donate sperm to an unmarried woman via home or natural insemination, you will probably be its legal father and have parenting rights as well as legal responsibility for the child: The woman carrying the child has the right to name either the sperm donor or her partner as the other parent on the birth certificate.
If you intend to donate sperm to a married couple (lesbian or heterosexual) via home or natural insemination, you may have parental rights and legal parental responsibility for the child. In most cases, however, if the woman who is carrying the child is married or in a civil partnership, the husband or civil partner (if the child was born after 6 April 2009) becomes the child’s legal parent.
What Are the Rights and Responsibilities if the Sperm Donor is Known to the Mother or Couple?
The law governing parental rights and responsibilities varies greatly depending upon whether the woman carrying the child is single or married, whether you choose home insemination, whether you choose natural insemination, and whether you have a binding sperm donor agreement.
Donating Sperm via a Licensed Fertility Clinic to a Married Couple
If the married couple, either lesbian or heterosexual, conceive from your donation through the services of a licensed fertility clinic, you are not the legal parent – the married couple is recognized as the legal parents.
Donating Sperm to Married Couples Who Conceive at Home
In this case, it is important to have a legally-binding sperm donor agreement in place. This should ensure that the donor will have neither parental rights nor responsibilities. However, there have been recent legal challenges from known sperm donors wishing to exercise parental rights and from mothers wishing to pursue known sperm donors for child maintenance. This is an evolving area of law in the UK and you should consult with a solicitor.
If the couple is a lesbian couple who are not married but civil-partnered, this is also a wrinkle that you should consult a solicitor about.
Donating Sperm via a Licensed Fertility Clinic to a Single Woman
If a single woman conceives with the help of a licensed fertility clinic, the sperm donor may or may not have parental rights and responsibilities. This area of law is quickly evolving and developments are sure to have occurred between this writing and your situation. However, if the mother names her partner as the father on the birth certificate, that partner will be recognized as the legal father.
Donating Sperm to a Single Woman Who Conceives at Home
If the single woman conceives at home, the sperm donor will likely be considered the child’s legal father unless there is a binding sperm donor agreement in place that dictates otherwise. Again, the mother is free to name who she wishes as to the child’s other legal parent on the birth certificate.
Drafting and Executing an Effective Sperm Donor Agreement
Unfortunately for the parties to the agreement, some agreements have been found to be ineffective in resolving the issue of parental rights and responsibilities upon legal challenge.
Also called a “known donor” agreement, a binding sperm donor agreement will include the following provisions, among others:
- The legal names of all parties, including the partner or spouse of the intended mother;
- How the donated sperm will be used;
- Who has the power to name the child;
- Who will be named on the birth certificate as parents;
- What involvement each party will have with the child;
- If there is to be involvement by the donor, what co-parenting responsibilities he will have;
- If there is to be no involvement, an acknowledgment of giving up all parental rights;
- What financial responsibility each party will have to the child;
- Whether a legal application for adoption will be made;
- Whether future donations will be desired to give birth to siblings;
- Whether the child has the right to contact the donor;
- Whether the donor has the right to contact the child
- That the agreement was freely entered into by all parties.
All parties should sign and date the agreement before witnesses, as should their legal representatives or solicitors if they have them.
Be sure to consult with a solicitor before signing anything that may give away rights or assign responsibilities that you are not willing to exercise.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted family law attorney in Philadelphia.
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