Who’s a parent?

More and more children are born every year using assisted reproduction involving either co-parents (two people who are not in a relationship together but want to have a child), a sperm donor, an egg donor or a surrogate. So who is a parent in these situations and why does it matter?

Legal parentage is a very important legal relationship for both a parent and a child. It has an impact on a wide range of legal issues such as nationality, inheritance, parental responsibility, child arrangements and financial responsibility for a child.

At birth the legal mother will always be the birth mother regardless of whether her egg is used or whether she is acting as a surrogate.

Who is a legal father or second legal parent at birth depends on the particular situation. Assuming conception takes place artificially then:

  • Where the mother is married or in a civil partnership her spouse/civil partner will be a legal parent unless they do not consent to the conception, even if their sperm/egg is not used.  

This means that where a married/civil partnered woman uses a sperm donor her spouse will be the legal father or second legal parent. This applies even if the mother is a surrogate.

  • If the mother is unmarried or not in a civil partnership and conception takes place at a UK licensed fertility clinic then the mother and another person can provide the clinic with written consent prior to conception to that person being a legal parent.

This means that the mother can consent to a co-parent or her partner being a legal parent even if their sperm/egg is not used.

  • If the mother is unmarried or not in a civil partnership and conception takes place elsewhere then whoever is the biological father will be the legal father.

The law relating to legal parentage and the consequences of being a legal parent are complex. Our specialist family lawyers have lots of experience in advising on these issues including parental orders following surrogacy arrangements and donor and co-parenting agreements. On 3 and 4 November 2018 our @rmedrury and @amyestarnes will be at the Fertility Show in London. If you’d like to find out more about legal parentage you can drop by and meet them or get in touch using our dedicated hotline

Kris Arpon