Becoming the legal parents of your child
If you’re not married or in a civil partnership and you’re having fertility treatment with donated sperm or embryos at a licensed UK clinic, it’s very important you both give consent if you want your partner to be a legal parent of your child. Find out more about legal parenthood and why it’s so important.
Who needs to consent to legal parenthood?
If you give birth to a child, you’re automatically their mother and legal parent. If you’re married or in a civil partnership before fertility treatment with donated sperm or embryos, your partner will also automatically be the legal parent unless they do not consent to the treatment.
However, if you’re not married to, or in a civil partnership with, your partner, they won’t automatically be the legal parent unless you both consent before treatment (before the sperm is inseminated or the embryo is transferred) This applies even if you are in a female same sex relationship and your partner is donating her eggs to you for your treatment.
It also applies if you are not in a relationship but have decided to co-parent with someone. If the other person is related to you then you should take legal advice as they may not be able to be a legal parent.
If you’re a single woman looking to parent on your own, you do not need to consent to legal parenthood if you’re having treatment with sperm which has been donated at a UK-licensed clinic; if you give birth to any children you’re automatically the mother and the donor has no legal rights or responsibilities to your children.
There is a lack of clarity in the law regarding the parenthood status of a man who donates embryos, created with his sperm for he and his partner’s treatment, to a recipient who is single and will be parenting alone. We would therefore advise that before starting treatment, single women who are planning treatment with donated embryos should take legal advice regarding the status of the man whose sperm was used to create the embryos that will be used in their treatment.
Sperm donation and the law: for patients
If you’re legally married or in a civil partnership but have ended the relationship and plan to have fertility treatment with someone else it is very important that you inform your clinic about your situation so that they can ensure that all the relevant consents are recorded.
You must consent to legal parenthood before your treatment takes place
Why is legal parenthood important?
Legal parenthood provides a lifelong legal parent-child connection which affects a wide range of areas such as your child’s nationality, inheritance and your financial responsibility for your child. It is also important for your child to be clear about who his or her legal parents are.
Your partner should only be registered on the birth certificate if he or she is your child’s legal parent. If they are not the legal parent of your child, they might not have the right to make important decisions about things like their schooling, medical treatment and religious upbringing.
Okay, how can my partner become the legal parent?
Your clinic must provide you and your partner with information about legal parenthood and what it means, and give you an opportunity to have counselling so you both fully understand the implications of the decision you’re making. Once they’ve done that, you will both need to give consent in writing. We give clinics specific forms for this.
Remember these forms must be completed before the sperm is inseminated or embryo transferred. You cannot complete them after treatment has taken place.
Which forms do we need to complete?
The birth mother, must complete the WP Form
The partner must complete the PP Form
Your clinic must provide you with these forms and should help you complete them. Make sure you ask your clinic for a copy of the forms once completed.
What if we change our minds, can we withdraw our consent?
Yes, you can withdraw your consent to your partner being the legal parent. Your partner can also withdraw their consent to being the legal parent. This can only be done before treatment takes place. In these circumstances, if you go ahead with treatment and give birth, you will be a legal parent but your partner will not. You could consent to another person being the parent before treatment takes place.
If you want to withdraw your consent, or consent to another person being the parent, you should talk to your clinic about this. It is important that you let your clinic know immediately and in writing, before treatment takes place. We give clinics a specific form for this too.
Either of you can withdraw your consent before treatment takes place.
Either of you can withdraw your consent before treatment takes place
What information should my clinic give me?
Before you fill in any consent forms, your clinic should give you information to help you make an informed decision. This includes information about:
- how to access counselling
- the different options in the WP and PP consent forms
- the implications of giving your consent to legal parenthood
- how and when you can make changes to, or withdraw, your consent to legal parenthood, and
- the consequences of withdrawing consent.
If you have not received this information you should ask your clinic to provide it.
What if we have not given consent?
If you do not give consent correctly your partner’s status as a legal parent could be challenged.
Errors might include:
- failing to complete these forms before treatment
- mistakes on the forms
- not giving all of the information requested
- not receiving the right information from your clinic
- the forms getting lost.
If, because of a mistake, there’s a worry that your partner isn’t the legal parent of your child, you will need to discuss this with your clinic and seek legal advice.
Ask yourselves these questions before going ahead with treatment to make sure your partner will be the legal parent:
- Are you clear about whether you and your partner need to provide consent to parenthood?
- Have you received information about parenthood and the implications of providing consent from your clinic?
- Have you been offered the opportunity for counselling?
- Have you carefully read and understood the WP and PP consent forms?
- Have you and your partner properly filled in the forms? It might seem obvious, but make sure you’ve entered your personal details correctly, filled in all the sections and clearly ticked the box confirming your consent. Make sure you've signed all the signature boxes; the date you should put next to your signatures is the date you completed the form.
- Have you completed the forms before treatment?
- Has your clinic given you a copy of your completed WP and PP consent forms for your personal records? You should keep these in a safe place.
Where can I go for help on legal parenthood?
If you’re unsure about any of this information or would like more detailed advice please speak to your clinic. If you are inseminating in a private arrangement or receiving treatment overseas or you live overseas, different rules may apply and you should seek your own legal advice.
From our partners
Become a child’s legal parent (Gov.uk)
Parental responsibility (Gov.uk)
Legal parenthood and LGBT people (Stonewall)
Review date: 16 November 2023