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Contact Orders Granted to Sperm Donors

Friday, 15 February 2013

On 5th February 2013 the High Court made an important decision in relation to sperm donors and their right to contact their biological children despite having no legal parental status.

The judgment opens the door for sperm donors to apply to the High Court for orders in relation to arrangements with children. The ruling may affect thousands of people in the UK who have utilised sperm donors to become parents.

Facts Re G (A Minor); Re Z ( A Minor ) [2013]

The case re G (A Minor); Re Z ( A Minor ) [2013] revolved around the civil partnerships of two lesbian couples who were friends with a homosexual couple. One male in the gay couple was the biological father of the both children from one lesbian couple. The other male was the biological father of one of the children from the other lesbian couple.

The main dispute in the case was whether the sperm donors had an agreement with the legal parents that they would be involved in the upbringing of the children. Originally the men were allowed to contact the children and it was not until they requested more involvement in the children’s life’s that their relationship with the legal parents started to deteriorate. It was at this point that they made formal applications to the court for contact with the children.

Decision Re G (A Minor); Re Z ( A Minor ) [2013]

Mr Justice Barker in his decision was of the opinion that lesbian couples and their children should have the same legal rights as any parent or child. However, in his ruling he stated that it was still open to the court to grant leave to apply for a contact orders after considering all of the relevant legal factors. The granting of leave to apply for a contact order would not necessarily mean an order would be granted though.

This does emphasise the court’s priority on protecting the family unit but the implications of enabling donors to apply for contact orders might be an unnerving prospect for many parents, both gay and straight.

Conclusion

The result potentially affects the application of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (HFEA 2008) where the longstanding principle is that the legal rights in relation to parenthood should be vested in the mothers and their respective civil partners. It therefore underlines the need for mothers to take great care when they select donors and ensure that that a properly drafted legal agreement is entered into before going ahead.

If you would like to discuss the implications of this case or you need advice in relation to other family law issues please contact Melanie Bataillard-Samuel via e-mail MBataillard-Samuel@rollingsons.co.uk or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.

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