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Fertility Law Solicitors
Thanks to scientific advances there are multiple ways to have a child nowadays, helping everyone access parenthood, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or ability to have a child the “traditional” way.
At Crisp & Co, our fertility law specialists can provide bespoke advice and support for individuals and couples looking to grow their family.
There are many legal matters you need to be aware of before going ahead with fertility treatment, including issues of legal parenthood, partner and donor consent, and your parental rights and responsibilities. These are challenging concepts that even legal professionals struggle with, so it is definitely worth choosing a family law specialist to help you.
Our wide-ranging fertility law expertise covers artificial insemination, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, co-parenting, and everything in between. As a dedicated family law firm, we stay at the forefront of knowledge in this fast-developing area of law so we can provide the highest quality of advice to our clients. We will explain the law surrounding fertility in plain, understandable language so you can make informed decisions about how you want to proceed.
We aim to create an open, welcoming environment to every individual regardless of background or personal characteristics, with particular experience supporting LGBT+ couples as they expand their families.
How our fertility law solicitors can help
Deciding to start or add to your family will be one of the biggest and most exciting decisions of your life. We would be proud to be by your side throughout the process, providing advice and support in relation to all legal aspects of the matter. Our expertise includes:
- Assisted reproduction and artificial insemination, including:
- IVF (in vitro fertilisation)
- IUI (intrauterine insemination)
- ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)
- Donor insemination (sperm donation)
- Egg donation
- Co-parenting – having a child with someone who is not your partner
- Legal parenthood and parental responsibility
- Parental Orders, Adoption Orders and other family related court orders
- Helping families resolve fertility and surrogacy related disputes
Artificial insemination and assisted reproduction
There are multiple ways to fall pregnant nowadays and we can provide advice on the legal aspects of all the processes. Common artificial insemination and assisted reproduction methods include:
IVF (in vitro fertilisation)
IVF is the process of removing an egg from a woman’s ovaries and fertilising it with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised egg is then implanted into the woman’s womb.
You can either use your own eggs and your partner’s sperm, or you can use donated eggs and/or sperm.
IUI (intrauterine insemination)
IUI involves sperm being inserted directly into a woman’s womb just after ovulation. You can either have IUI using a partner’s sperm or a donor’s sperm (either an anonymous donor or someone you know).
ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)
ICSI is similar to IVF, except it involves sperm being injected directly into an egg rather than simply mixing the sperm and egg together and leaving them to fertilise.
We can provide expert advice on surrogacy law. For further information, please visit our Surrogacy Solicitors page.
Co-parenting is when two people who are not in a relationship decide to have a child together usually using artificial insemination/assisted reproduction. Co-parenting can cause difficult legal issues, for example, if the woman has a spouse or civil partner, they will automatically be considered the legal father rather than the intended father – the man who has donated the sperm.
We can provide detailed advice about co-parenting arrangements and the legal status of the parties involved.
Fertility law FAQs
Who are the legal parents of a child?
A child can only have 2 legal parents.
Legal parenthood is not the same as biological parenthood. This can sometimes cause difficulties where two people have conceived through artificial insemination or surrogacy. For example, the woman who carries the child will always automatically be considered the legal mother, even if she conceived using donated eggs.
If you are planning to conceive using a method of artificial insemination/assisted reproduction, the legal father’s identity will depend on a number of factors:
- If the mother conceives using a Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) licenced clinic, they are married or in a civil partnership, and their partner consents, their partner will automatically be considered the legal father
- If all the above factors apply but the mother is not married or in a civil partnership, their partner can still be considered the legal father if they sign various HFEA forms
The situation is more complicated in "co-parenting" situations or where the mother otherwise knows the sperm donor.
If the mother conceives using a sperm donor in a licenced clinic, the automatic position is that the donor has no legal rights in respect of the child, whether or not she knows the donor. However, if there is no "second parent" - either a married partner, civil partner or unmarried partner - the sperm donor can become the legal father in certain circumstances.
Most licenced clinics will be happy to support co-parenting agreements where the mother and sperm donor intend to raise the child together. However, they will highly recommend that you attend counselling and consult a legal specialist for advice.
If the mother is married or in a civil partnership and conceives using artificial insemination by a known sperm donor outside of a HFEA licenced clinic, the donor will not be the legal father. If the mother is not married or in a civil partnership, the sperm donor will always be the legal father regardless of whether the mother is in a relationship.
Why is legal parenthood important?
Legal parenthood is important because it grants parents certain rights and responsibilities in respect of their child, including:
- The responsibility to provide financially for the child
- Inheritance rights (your child can automatically inherit from you after you die and vice versa)
- A lifelong connection to the child
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility describes the rights and duties associated with raising a child. It is different to legal parenthood and you can hold one without the other (although most people automatically hold both).
If you have parental responsibility, you are responsible for:
- Providing the child with a safe home
- Protecting the child
- Making decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as where they should go to school and whether they should have a religious education
- Disciplining the child
- Consenting to the child’s medical treatment
- Taking care of the child’s property
- Choosing the child’s name or changing their name
There is no limit on the number of people who can acquire parental responsibility. For example, when parents break up and enter new relationships, the child’s step parents may be able to acquire parental responsibility.
In assisted reproduction and artificial insemination cases, the child’s birth mother will always have parental responsibility. The father or second parent will have parental responsibility if they are married or in a civil partnership. If the parents are unmarried, the father or second parent can get parental responsibility by putting their name on the birth certificate, entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother or getting a court order.
In surrogacy cases, the intended parents of a child can acquire legal parenthood and parental responsibility by getting a Parental Order from court.
Is sperm donation anonymous?
Since 2005, sperm donation with licenced clinics is not anonymous. Any child conceived via sperm donation after 1 April 2005 is entitled to get limited information about their donor once they turn 16 (including a physical description and medical history) and identifying information once they turn 18 (including their name, date of birth and last known address).
However, sperm donors are not considered the legal parent of any child conceived using their sperm. They will not have any obligations towards them, including financial obligations.
What is posthumous conception?
Posthumous conception is when you conceive a child using someone’s egg or sperm after they have died.
Typically, posthumous conception can only occur where the deceased left written consent for their eggs and sperm to be used in this way. However, where the deceased left no consent, there have been successful cases of people going abroad for treatment.
We can provide in-depth advice on the legal considerations surrounding posthumous conception. For example, deceased fathers can (if the embryos were created with his sperm or with donor sperm before he died) be named on the child’s birth certificate within 42 days of the child’s birth but they will not be considered a legal parent for any other purpose.
If the mother is inseminated with sperm or the embryos were created after her partner’s death, he cannot be considered the legal father and his name cannot be put on the birth certificate.
We approach all cases with tact and sensitivity and our goal will always be to help you achieve the positive results you are looking for.