High Court affirms legal parenthood without a court hearing – new reported NGA Law

November 1, 2023

NGA Law has secured a judgment from the High Court affirming the legal parenthood of a father through donor conception at a licensed UK fertility clinic. Mrs Justice Theis ruled that the father was his child’s legal father notwithstanding a missing legal parenthood form, and that a declaration of parentage could be made by the court without the need for a formal court hearing.

 This is the latest in a long line of cases in which fertility clinics have made errors with legal parenthood paperwork.  While the facts are similar to those of previous court decisions, the judge was keen to highlight the “far-reaching ramifications” of fertility clinic errors for the families affected, as well as making clear that the court was able to make an order without the need for a court hearing.

 In this case, the parents were a different-sex couple who conceived a child through egg and sperm donation together after a long arduous fertility journey.  Shortly before their child was born, they were informed by their fertility clinic that a paperwork error meant that the father may not in fact be the legal father of his child. This was because, due to clinic error, only one of the two required legal parenthood forms had been properly completed: the mother had signed a valid notice of her intention for her partner to be her child’s legal father, but the father had not signed a reciprocal notice. It was clearly an administrative error – the father had always understood he would be his child’s legal father and he had signed everything he had been asked to.  However, the statute is prescriptive in requiring two notices to be validly signed by each partner prior to embryo transfer in order to confer legal parenthood, and so a question now arose as to whether he was his child’s legal father. 

 There have been numerous other cases in which the court has been able to remedy paperwork deficiencies relating to legal parenthood, and once again the court was asked to do so.  Mrs Justice Theis ruled that, although one of the standard HFEA forms was missing, all the other consent documentation the father had signed could validly stand in its place, and therefore “the court can and should make a declaration of parentage which resolves any doubt and confirms that X is, and always has been, Y’s legal father”.

 The judge also made clear that it was permissible for the court to make an order without a formal court hearing.  The parents did not wish to attend a formal court hearing, and Mrs Justice Theis was satisfied with the evidence filed by the parents and the legal arguments filed by us as their legal representatives.  She said: “The court is able to deal with this application on the papers. It is not opposed. In addition to the material in the court bundle, the court has the benefit of a detailed skeleton argument prepared by Ms Gamble on behalf of X, for which the court is extremely grateful.”

 We were delighted to obtain this outcome for the parents, ending what has been a very stressful period of time as painlessly and conveniently as possible.

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