What is known donation?
Growing numbers of people are building a much wanted family through known donation, including:
- Single women conceiving with a male friend or contact
- a lesbian couple conceiving with a male friend or contact
- a lesbian couple conceiving with a gay couple
A known donor often has a strong altruistic motivation for wanting to help an individual (often a single woman) or a couple to have a child, but does not seek legal or financial responsibility for the child. A known donor is therefore different from a co-parent, since a co-parent plays an active parental role in the child’s life and holds legal status for the child (which can include legal parenthood and parental responsibility).
Known donation, does, however raise complex legal issues which need careful management.
What are the benefits of conceiving with a known donor?
For some, a known donor represents a ‘known quantity’ and a readily identifiable person as opposed to using an arms-length donor from a donor bank. This can feel like a more personal way of building a family.
A known donor can also represent a friendly figure, who can maintain informal links with the family after conception (although great care is needed over the legal issues and a known donor agreement is strongly recommended).
It is possible to undergo fertility treatment at a licensed fertility clinic in the UK with the involvement of a known donor as opposed to using a donor from a donor bank. Some may also chose to conceive with a known donor by private arrangement or abroad (although this can raise further complex legal issues).
Do I need a known donor agreement?
If you plan to conceive with a known donor, you should first enter into a known donor agreement.
Even if you conceive at a UK licensed fertility clinic and fill in the necessary clinic paperwork confirming your known donor is a donor and not a legal parent, this could potentially be undermined by events in practice after the birth and a legal dispute could arise. A well crafted known donor agreement can be of useful evidential benefit to help protect your parental autonomy (eg if you are a solo mother or parenting a donor conceived child with your same-sex partner) or protect your legal status as a donor and not a legal parent with financial responsibility for the child after the birth.
It is also very important to enter into a known donor agreement if you plan to conceive by private arrangement or abroad. The legal issues then become more complex, since it will not be possible to complete forms at a UK licensed fertility clinic to exclude your known donor’s legal status for the child and they could automatically acquire legal and financial responsibility for your child depending upon your circumstances as a whole. Whilst a known donor agreement cannot necessarily exclude a known donor’s legal status, it can be of useful evidential benefit if a dispute were subsequently to arise.
A known donor agreement will help to:
- clarify the legal position and everyone’s legal status
- confirm the nature of the known donor arrangement
- set some practical ground rules for after the birth
- be of useful evidential benefit if a dispute were subsequently to arise
Can problems arise?
Known donation can raise complex and challenging issues involving legal status, expectations and responsibility for a child. A whole range of factors can influence the success of a known donor arrangement and the extent to which problems and issues will arise, ranging from inadequate agreement at the outset through to a change of heart or a serious life event during the child’s minority. For more information about disputes between parents and a known donor click here.
The English family court has published a limited number of cases concerning disputes between parents and known donors. These judgments are designed to provide help and guidance for donor conceived families in what remains an evolving area of law. Click here to read more.
How we can help
We can help in a number of ways, including:
- advising on how best to protect your parental autonomy as a solo mother or a couple
- advising on how to protect the legal status of your known donor so they are not legally or financially responsible for your child
- advising on birth registration and your child’s birth certificate
- preparing a bespoke known donor agreement for you
- providing specialist Wills advice as a prospective/actual parent
- advising you if a dispute arises with your known donor, including full representation in court
If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or you would like more information about known donation please contact us by email email@example.com or by telephone +44 (0)207 222 1244.