Gay sperm donor pays maintenance for ‘his’ children

bumble bee sat on a flower_bThe Guardian has reported the case of NGA client Mark Langridge, who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple who conceived two children in 1998 and 2000. More than a decade on, the lesbian mothers have split and Mark is being pursued by the CSA for maintenance.

Having been advised by NGA solicitor Sarah Wood-Heath, Mark spoke out in the Guardian’s Saturday Money section about the unfairness of the law in holding him financially responsible. The article also quotes Natalie, who was interviewed this week on the story on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio London.

As specialist lawyers who have advised on cases like these for many years (including the case of Andy Bathie, which received worldwide press coverage back in 2008), we know that the law on this is black and white – whether you are financially responsible depends on whether you are legally the ‘father’.

A sperm donor is the legal father, whether or not he appears on the birth certificate, unless:

– he donates his sperm through a licensed clinic (without planning an ongoing role if he knows the recipients), or
– he donates to a married couple, or
– he donates, after April 2009, to a lesbian couple who are civil partners.

In all other cases (including private donations to single women, unmarried couples and lesbian couples before April 2009) there is no financial protection for sperm donors. It often shocks people to learn that any verbal or written agreement that the donor would have no financial responsibility is completely irrelevant.

Should the law be changed? Mark Langridge certainly thinks so. The law is particularly cruel in his case, since in 1998 and 2000 it would have been difficult for him to have donated to the mothers via a clinic to give him financial protection, and the law did not then (as it now does) hold both lesbian mothers legally and financially responsible.

The key message to others has to be to take great care before acting as a private donor. Make sure you structure things to protect yourself (by only donating to a married/civilly partnered couple or via a clinic) or at the very least that you understand the risk you are taking. There is more on our website about being a known sperm donor.

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