Despite the best of intentions, problems and disputes can arise between parents and a known donor. As increasing numbers of people embrace known donor arrangements as their family building option of choice, inevitably a proportion of these families will experience conflict and relationship breakdown at some point. The English court has recently dealt with a handful of cases involving difficult and emotionally charged disputes between parents and known donors and there are a number of lessons to be learned from these.
The English family court has acknowledged that families created with the help of a known donor are still ‘new territory’ and that conventional family and parenting models do not apply. The English family court has highlighted the importance for all the parties to discuss and agree arrangements for the child at the outset and manage everyone’s expectations. That said, it is difficult to plan for every eventuality and a number of unforeseen events and issues can (and often do) arise which then need to be handled with great care.
In practical terms, it is therefore important to:
- Agree everyone’s identity and role at the outset (i.e who will be the parents and what the status and role of the known donor will be)
- How much involvement and contact the known donor (and his family) will have with the child
- Put in place a well crafted known donor agreement which clarifies the legal issues and records agreed arrangements for the child
- Regularly review arrangements for the child
Although the court does not have to uphold the terms of a known donor agreement and will always look to secure the child’s best interests, it can be important evidence if a legal dispute arises and it can play a key part in determining the outcome of the case. Building a family with a known donor is a big step and it creates a unique family identity. It often raises complex legal issues and it is vital to tackle these with care from the start to ensure maximum protection for your family.
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