Want to create a family with two mums but aren’t sure about the legalities of fertility treatment as a lesbian couple? Sarah White, a Family Law Solicitor at Family Law Group, will be taking part in the webinar ‘Safe & successful – options for lesbian couples who want a baby’ on 10 June 2021 – here she answers some of the most frequently asked questions about fertility treatment for lesbian couples.
Q. How do same-sex female couples using donated sperm become legal parents of IUI/IVF babies?
There have been a number of recent law changes which have made it easier to create a family with two mums, and as a result, there has been a marked increase in female couple parents seeking fertility treatment.
Firstly, in April 2009, Part 2 of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 2008 allowed same sex couples (who are married or in a civil partnership) to have the same rights as heterosexual couples, with regards to legal parenthood and registering the birth on birth certificates.
Previously, the ‘non-birth’ mother would have to adopt any children of the family in order to have the same rights as the birth mother. Now, unless she explicitly states that she did not consent to her partner’s fertility treatment, the non birth mother parent can be registered as the second legal parent and acquire parental responsibility.
Q. How does our marital status impact treatment?
Consent to treatment is an important factor for same-sex couples who are not married or civil partners. Both the woman receiving treatment and her female partner who wants to be legally recognised as the second parent, must consent in writing on the correct forms before treatment starts in order for legal parenthood to be properly recorded and recognised.
In my line of work as a family law Solicitor, I would always advise unmarried same sex couples to proceed with fertility treatment via a UK registered reputable fertility clinic. It is essential that the consent process is followed correctly in order to avoid legal entanglements later in a child’s life.
The staff at UK licensed fertility clinics are specifically trained to deal with this important legal paperwork, and the treatment is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
Additionally, from April 2005, both egg and sperm donors can be identifiable and contacted by donor conceived children when they reach the age of 18 (if they chose to do so).
This had several consequences, including:-
- Female couples are reassured that their child can contact with their genetic father if they want to later in life.
- There is a general perception that sperm donation would occur with more thought and consideration that previously, when it was anonymous, and perhaps donors are now more ‘mature’ in their outlook.
Q What are the benefits for a lesbian couple of using a regulated clinic?
Many same sex female couples will weigh up the pros and cons of using a UK licensed reputable fertility clinic as opposed to conceiving at home.
The difference is significant as this can impact upon legal parenthood i.e. the ability to be recognised as a child’s legal parent (distinct from a biological parent) and can impact who is permitted to be named on the birth certificate and acquire parental responsibility.
To make this easier to explain, set out below is a list of the pros and cons:
Conception at Home
+ Less cost
+ Married lesbian couples and civil partners are now considered the legal parents of the child unless conception occurs via intercourse with a male donor or consent is withdrawn.
– There is potential for disputes over legal parenthood and parental responsibility between the biological sperm donor father and non-birth mother, if the lesbian couple is not married.
– If you don’t have the opportunity to consent to legal parenthood, then your partner or co-parent may need to go to court to obtain a declaration of legal parentage confirming that they are the child’s legal parent.
– There is no sperm health screening and a lack of knowledge as to any hereditary health conditions from the donated sperm.
– No access to counselling
– No consideration of any additional fertility issues during the journey to conception.
Conception at UK licenced fertility clinic
+ Experienced medical staff will guide you through the process.
+ Both treatment and the sperm donation and storage is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
+ Professional health screening of donor sperm will reduce risk of any hereditary diseases and/or conditions
+ Consideration of all fertility issues that may arise for the birth mother rather than just provision of sperm
+ Couples are assured they both have legal parenthood of resulting children and the donor has no legal status. They can also reserve sibling sperm for further children and there is a maximum number of families that the donor can help.
+ You can use a ‘known donor’ if preferred.
+ Access to counselling.
+ Access to correct legal forms with regards to consent to treatment by the non-birth mother
– Attending appointments
– Cost. However, a number of funding options are available.