Zoe Worthington offers her commentary on the legalities of lesbian same sex parenting and the question of legal parents.
There is a fundamental difference between ‘a legal parent’ and having ‘parental responsibility’. is therefore important that you and your partner are aware of these concepts prior to conceiving, as the method in which you conceive will ultimately determine what rights you acquire.
What is a legal parent?
A child can only have two legal parents. The birth mother will automatically be the child’s legal parent, irrespective of whether she has used donated eggs. The other legal parent depends on the circumstances in which the child was conceived. We will explore this in more detail later in this article.
Being a legal parent means that you will have financial responsibility for a child. This means that if you and your partner separate, the non-resident parent may be obligated to pay child maintenance.
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is defined as the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority that a parent of a child has in relation to the child. Essentially this means that those with parental responsibility will be involved in important decisions relating to a child’s health and education.
More than two people can potentially have parental responsibility of a child. For instance, a step-parent can gain parental responsibility if those that currently have parental responsibility agree to it.
Using a sperm donor through a licensed fertility clinic
If you are using a sperm donor through a registered clinic the sperm donor will not be your child’s legal parent. The sperm donor will also not have parental responsibility meaning that they are not financially or legally responsible for your child. Both you and your partner will be named as parents on your child’s birth certificate, giving you both parental responsibility.
Using a sperm donor but not through a licensed fertility clinic
If you and your partner are married or civil partners and using a sperm donor outside of a licensed clinic, then the sperm donor will not be your child’s legal parent. However, if you are cohabitees and not civil partners or married, the sperm donor will be the biological father of the child and legal parent. As there cannot be more than two legal parents this would leave the person that is not the birth mother without legal parentage. Parental responsibility could be acquired but only if the biological mother and father agree.
If you need advice on parental responsibility or if you and your partner are separating and you are unsure of your rights, please contact Zoe Worthington.