Parental rights: sperm donors can seek more rights

The 31.01.13 High Court ruling has paved the way for sperm donors to seek contact with their biological children.

This judgement could affect thousands of couples. Men that help families conceive through sperm donation may now win parental rights to play a part in the child’s life even though they are not currently raising that child.

The ruling is the first of its kind and declared that sperm donors do not need to have a sexual relationship with the mother of the child to influence the child’s upbringing.

It has been warned that this ruling could have far-reaching consequences for both heterosexual and homosexual couples considering the use of sperm donors.

The case centred on two lesbian couples who were friends with two homosexual men.

One of the men was the biological father to the two children being raised by one of the lesbian couples and the other man fathered the child to the other lesbian couple.

All three couples, who are in civil partnerships, entered into reproduction arrangements amicably and informally.

Nothing was put in writing and relations broke down when the fathers sought more contact than was agreed.

The male couple applied to the court for contact and residence but the women argued that this would infringe on their family life.

Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, same-sex couples are the legal parents of children conceived through sperm donors, donated eggs or donated embryos.

Until this Act the law had refused contact for sperm donors who have no legal or domestic relationship with biological children.

But, the ruling yesterday has paved the way for sperm donors to pursue applications for contact orders.

The Family Division of the High Court’s ruling applies because the 2008 Act has extended the law governing the rights of sperm donors to cover same-sex couples.

The court must now take into consideration the nature of the application, the sperm donor’s connection to the child as well as the possibility of disruption to the child’s life.

Swain & Co.’s family lawyers say this landmark ruling means that those sperm donors who have enjoyed a relationship with biological children, but where their relationship with the child’s mother has broken down, have protection and a place to turn to ensure that contact takes place, particularly where friends have made informal agreements.

Of course we understand this can also be worrying for those parents that wish to seek the use of sperm donors to have a family.

We urge that these people seriously consider the child rearing equivalent of a prenuptial agreement or co-parenting arrangements.

If you have any family law matters and need expert advice and assistance, call Swain & Co for a free consultation on 0800 298 6479.