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Sperm donation and the law - for patients

Becoming a sperm donor is one of the most generous things you could do – it can offer some women and couples their only chance to have a family. 

There are a number of routes to donating your sperm. You can donate:

  • to someone you know or someone you don’t know,
  • at a fertility clinic or through a private arrangement.

Each route has different legal implications which you should think carefully about.

Your options

You can donate sperm to someone you don’t already know by going to a fertility clinic. The child born through your donation can get your identifiable details when they reach the age of 18. Alternatively, you can donate sperm to someone you know or to someone you have met on an introduction website.

You and the woman may either go to a fertility clinic for licensed treatment or undergo a private arrangement (ie, provide your sperm sample directly to her).

Donating at a fertility clinic

Clinics in the UK are regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which ensures that the treatment is safe and that everyone involved is clear about their legal position. You can donate sperm to create up to ten families and can receive compensation of up to £35 for each clinic visit, in line with the requirements set by the HFEA.

If you donate at a clinic you will not:

  • be the legal parent of the child,
  • have any legal obligation to the child,
    be named on the birth certificate,
  • have any rights over how the child will be brought up, or
  • be required to support the child financially.

Donating through a private arrangement

Some donors decide to donate outside of a clinic in a private arrangement. If you donate through a private arrangement, the law on who will be the child’s parent(s) is not straightforward.

The woman who gives birth is always the legal mother. However, it is possible that you will be the legal father of the child with all the parental and financial responsibility this involves.

Who has parental responsibility can depend on:

  • whether the woman is single, married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception,
  • whether the insemination took place through artificial insemination or sexual intercourse,
  • who is named on the birth certificate, and
  • whether you will have established a relationship with the child.

It is important to remember that you cannot opt out of being the legal father of the child, even if the mother agrees to that. Any agreement drawn up to that effect has no legal standing. We recommend that you seek independent legal advice before you donate.

Your role in the child’s life

Have you thought about what role you want to play in the child’s life? Do you want to have no contact with the child or, if you donated at a clinic, no contact until the child reaches the age of 18? Or would you like to play a limited or more active role in the child’s life?

These questions can sometimes lead to disputes. Some people decide to sign a ‘donor’ or ‘co-parenting’ agreement which sets down in writing at the time of conception an agreement between all parties on the role you will play (if any) in the child’s life.

These agreements are not legally binding and you should seek independent legal advice before drawing one up. They do not guarantee your role in the child’s life or your legal and financial responsibilities.

Donor agreements may:

be a good way to set out everyone’s intentions at the time of conception,

help avoid future disputes or misunderstandings,

be reviewed and changed over time, and

be useful if a dispute were to arise.

Becoming a donor is a wonderful thing, whichever way you decide to do it. But it is important to be aware of the legal implications – for the benefit of everyone involved.

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Review date: 22 May 2019