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There are various ways for lesbian couples to build a family through donor conception/ co-parenting, including: asking a UK fertility clinic to treat you with sperm from a registered donor conceiving with the help of someone you already know, or with a donor or co-parent from a donor-matching website conceiving with the help of an overseas fertility clinic. Will you both be legal parents? Whoever of you is the birth mother is your child's legal mother. We refer to birth rather than...
There are various different ways you might be building your family through donor conception, including: using a UK fertility clinic to treat you with sperm or eggs from a registered donor conceiving with the help of an overseas fertility clinic conceiving with the help of a friend or family member using a donor-matching website to find a UK egg or sperm donor. Legal parenthood and birth certificates UK law says that the woman who gives birth is the legal mother, and this protects women...
There are various different ways in which you might be building your family, including: asking a UK fertility clinic to treat you with sperm (and eggs) from a registered donor conceiving with the help of someone you already know conceiving with the help of an overseas fertility clinic or sperm bank using a donor-matching website to find a UK known donor or co-parent. Who are the legal parents? If you give birth to your child, you are the legal mother. This is the case whether you...
If you are providing your eggs or sperm to someone who is not your partner to help them conceive, it is important to be clear about where you stand legally. Donating through a UK licensed clinic If you donate through a licensed clinic in the UK, the clinic will have to follow rules set down by law and by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority which provides its license. This includes screening requirements and a cap on the number of families who can conceive with your eggs or sp...
When lesbian parents separate, the legal issues can be complex. Arrangements for the children As with all separating parents, it is sensible to try and agree arrangements for your children and how care will be managed without involving the court. Lesbian parents often want to know whether biological or legal parenthood will have a bearing on the court's decision about care arrangements if court proceedings are necessary. This is always a difficult question to answer, as a great dea...
There is a wide spectrum of known donation and co-parenting arrangements, including relatives donating eggs or sperm, lesbian mums conceiving with known fathers, and co-parents who intend to share parenting fully. If you are planning a known donation or co-parenting arrangement, it is important to be clear about the law and to set strong foundations. Disputes in known donation cases very commonly stem from underlying mismatched expectations (find out more about known donor disputes). Plan...
The law dictates who the legal parents are in a known donation arrangement (and who has parental responsibility), irrespective of what the adults have agreed. What is the legal position at birth? Under UK law a child can have no more than two legal parents. The birth mother is always the legal mother and she must be registered on the birth certificate. The other legal parent is either her spouse/ civil partner (find out more about parenthood for lesbian non-birth mothers and fa...
Anyone in the UK who provides donor conception treatment or stores/ transports eggs, sperm or embryos requires a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Under the terms of the licence they have to comply with the HFEA's Code of Practice. Organisations which introduce donors and recipients (such as donor-matching websites) but do not deal directly with the eggs/sperm do not need a licence and this means that the rules which apply at fertility clinics (such as do...
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Register of Information has, since 1 August 1991, recorded information about treatment at licensed fertility clinics in the UK. The law sets out how that information can be accessed. General information Anyone over the age of 16 can ask the HFEA whether they were conceived with donated eggs or sperm at a clinic in the UK after 1991. They can also ask if the Register shows that they are genetically related to someone they intend to m...
The HFEA Register of Information does not hold information about donor conception treatments which took place before 1 August 1991, which was when the HFEA came into existence as a regulator of UK fertility treatment. However, the publicly funded Donor Conceived Register is a separate voluntary UK register which helps donor-conceived people, donors and genetic siblings make connections with each other using DNA matching and historic information from clinic records.
In known donation and co-parenting situations, disputes can arise about the role or status of the donor/co-parent. This might involve questions about: The frequency of the donor/co-parent's contact The purpose of the contact - is it for the child to have knowledge of his or her genetic identity, or is it to facilitate a parental relationship? The nature of contact -Is it contact together with the parents or unsupervised? Is it visiting contact? Is it overnight staying contact? Whethe...
Whether a known donor is financially responsible for a child depends solely on whether he is the child's legal father. Find out more about the legal parenthood status of known donors and co-parent fathers. It is often a surprise for a donor to learn that no account will be taken of any agreement (written or verbal) that he should be treated as a donor. It is also irrelevant whether the donor has had involvement with the child. If a known donor is the legal father, the child's...
Under UK law, a child's legal mother is the woman who carries and gives birth. Even if she is not the biological mother, the birth mother will have the same status as any other mother including: the right to be recorded as the mother on her child's birth certificate parental responsibility - the legal right to make and be involved in decisions about her child's care, including giving medical consent, and making decisions about education, religion etc financial responsibility - the dut...
Since 6 April 2009, UK law has protected lesbian mothers conceiving together. Where the rules apply, the non-birth mother is her child's other legal parent and has the same legal status as a heterosexual father. Married couples and civil partners A non-birth mother who is married to or in a civil partnership with the birth mother at the time of conception is automatically her child's other legal parent. The rules apply to conceptions after 6 April 2009 which take place through IVF o...
UK law protects heterosexual non-biological fathers conceiving with donated sperm. Married fathers A man who is married to the birth mother at the time of conception is automatically the legal father of his child. The rules apply to conceptions which take place with his consent through IVF or artificial insemination (not sexual intercourse), whether at home or at a clinic in the UK or overseas. A married father is named on his child's UK birth certificate and automaticall...
The law gives protected status to sperm donors, so that they cannot be held legally or financially responsible for any child conceived as a result of their donation. The rules apply only in certain defined circumstances which do not exclude the parenthood of all known sperm donors. Donation through a licensed clinic A sperm donor who registers with a UK clinic and donates his sperm to unknown recipients will not be the legal father of any child conceived. This means he is fully prot...
UK law says that the woman who gives birth is the only legal mother of a child. This gives egg donors protection against financial and inheritance claims, and means they have no parental rights or responsibilities. If the egg donor and parent/s do not know each other, the legal position is straightforward. Egg providers who are involved with the child If the egg provider is involved with the child, perhaps because she is a known donor or the birth mother's same-sex partner, the law...
Nicola's article, published in the journal of the British Infertility Counsellors' Association, discusses the importance of careful planning in known donation arrangements, both through counselling and legal advice
Natalie's article, published in Family Law (journal for family lawyers) in November 2013, reviews the hype around the case of Re G and Re Z and assesses its significance for lesbian parents and other parents through donor conception.
Natalie's article, written for fertility patients and published in the Infertility Network UK magazine in autumn 2013, explains the case of Re G and Re Z and whether parents conceiving with egg and sperm donors need to be worried.
Richard's article, published in Bionews in June 2013, looks at the case of Re E and F (2013), in which a lesbian non-birth mother was held not to be a legal parent of her twin children, because procedures at the clinic had not been followed properly to nominate her as a parent.
Jenni Murray on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour discusses known sperm donation and what can go wrong with Natalie Gamble and Laura Witjens from the NGDT
Natalie's article, published in the Infertility Network UK magazine in autumn 2012, discusses the rights to information available to those conceiving through egg or sperm donation in the UK.
Natalie's article, published in Bionews in February 2012, discusses the risks of known donation arrangements and how the family court deals with them when things go wrong.
Natalie’s article, published in the Infertility Network UK magazine (spring 2011) looks at how things have changed for same-sex parents and families created through surrogacy and donation over the last ten years
Natalie's comment piece for Bionews, published in November 2010, looks at the case of T v B and reflects on why the changes recognising lesbian couples as legal parents are so important.
Natalie's article, published in Family Law (leading journal for family lawyers) in November 2010, looks at the case of T v B which held that a lesbian non-birth mother was not financially responsible for her child.
Natalie's article, published in Ova magazine in autumn 2010, discusses the rights to information available to those conceiving through sperm donation in the UK.
Natalie's article, published in the Infertility Network UK magazine in summer 2010, updates fertility patients on the HFEA's review of UK donation policy.
Natalie's article, published in Bionews in March 2010, discusses the options for single women building families through donor conception
This article written for family lawyers and published in journal Family Law in August 2009, analyses the significance of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, asking whether it really does cater for the full range of diverse modern families.
Natalie's article, published in the Infertility Network UK magazine's for fertility patients in autumn 2009, looks at the changes to the law for lesbian couples conceiving together, which came into effect in 2009, allowing two women to be named on a child's birth certificate for the first time.
Natalie's article, published in medial journal Reproductive Biomedicine in May 2009, looks at the history of fertility clinics' duty to consider the welfare of the child, and discusses the controversy around the removal of the reference to a 'need for a father'.
Natalie's article, published in Bionews in December 2008, explains how the law works for men who act as known sperm donors, and what can be done to avoid problems arising.
Natalie's article, written for family lawyers and published in Family Law Journal in December 2008, anticipates the implementation of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 and looks at what it will mean for same-sex couples conceiving together.
Natalie's article for 3Sixty magazine from December 2008 talks about the changes to the law for gay and lesbian parents.
Natalie's article, published in gay magazine 3Sixty in October 2008, gives a personal perspective on the dramas and controversies of the 2008 legal changes for gay and lesbian parents-to-be.
Natalie's article, written for family lawyers and published in the Review in September 2008, examines the rules on legal parenthood under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.
Natalie's article, published in the Infertility Network UK magazine in summer 2008, explains to fertility patients the controversy around removing the duty of fertility clinics to consider the child's 'need for a father'.
Evan Davies on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme discusses with Natalie Gamble and David Burrows MP the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and whether children need a father
Natalie's article, published in the Infertility Network UK magazine in spring 2008, explains the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill 2008 and its proposed changes to the law, covering same-sex parents, welfare of the child, donor information rights and embryo storage.
Natalie's article, published in lesbian magazine Diva in April 2008, was written while the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was in the midst of its controversial passage through Parliament, and explains the issues being argued about and the proposed changes to the law (which were passed) for lesbian parents-to-be.
In November 2007, Natalie wrote to the Times defending the proposals to introduce legal equality for lesbian parents, in response to the controversy in Parliament. Her letter was the lead letter published in the Letters' page.
John Humphrys on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme fields a discussion between Natalie Gamble and Baroness Deech on the HFE Bill and rights for lesbian parents
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority The HFEA regulates donor conception at licensed clinics in the UK and supports donor, donor-conceived people and their parents seeking information from the Register of Information. The Donor Conception Network The Donor Conception Network is a UK national charity which provides invaluable support, information and resources to donor-conceived people and their families. Their philosophy is to encourage openness about donor conce...
Natalie wrote the legal sections of Stonewall's guide for professionals working with lesbian parents.
Natalie wrote the legal sections of Stonewall's well-known guide for lesbian couples considering starting a family together. It contains useful information on all the things to consider if you are thinking of starting a family.
Gay rights charity Stonewall has produced a guide for gay dads starting a family. We were proud to help write the sections on surrogacy and co-parenting.
In February 2013, we helped write Stonewall's guide for lesbian couples accessing fertility treatment on the NHS.
This was the first case to involve a known donor to lesbian civil partners who were joint legal parents named on the birth certificate. Two sperm donors (who were not legal parents) obtained the court's leave to apply for contact, but were told that their expectation of a full parental role was 'wholly unrealistic'. The case was reported on the front page of the Daily Mail. We acted for the lesbian mothers in this case.
A married woman had met a sperm donor via an Internet matching site and conceived a child. She pursued her child's biological father for child support, and there was a dispute over whether conception took place by artificial insemination or 'natural insemination'. After a fact-finding hearing, the court found that conception had taken place through intercourse and held the donor liable for child support and substantial legal costs.
The High Court held that a lesbian non-birth mother was not a parent after the couple failed to follow the correct procedures at the clinic to nominate her as a legal parent.
The Court of Appeal upheld the position of a known father to a lesbian couple, rejecting the concept of principal and secondary parenting and saying there were no general principles apart from the child's welfare.
This case involved a protracted dispute between lesbian mothers and gay co-parent fathers, in dispute about the fathers' role. The court developed the concept of principal and secondary parenting to describe their roles, and said that the agreement between them should be given weight.
In a dispute over child support between former lesbian partners, the court was unable to make an order for the non-birth mother to provide financial support, because she was not a legal parent and not the birth mother's civil partner.
A known donor to a lesbian couple who was the non-birth mother's brother applied for contact and was given identity contact four times per year.
This was the first UK case to deal with a dispute between lesbian parents and a known donor. The donor was given restricted parental responsibility, and the court said it should safeguard the nuclear family unit comprising the lesbian mothers.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 deals with parenthood law in surrogacy cases. Sections 33 to 53 set out who are treated as the legal parents when a child is born. Section 54 sets out the rules on parental orders.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Code of Practice sets out the rules which UK fertility clinics must comply with when dealing with egg, sperm and embryo donation.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 sets out the rules giving legal parenthood to parents conceiving through assisted reproduction between 1 August 1991 and 5 April 2009.