Parenthood after donor conception: fathers conceiving with donor sperm

row of wellington bootsUK law protects non-biological fathers conceiving with donated sperm. 

Married fathers
A man who is married to the birth mother at the time of conception, but is not the biological father, is automatically the legal father of his child.  The rules apply to conceptions which take place with his consent through IVF or artificial insemination (not sexual intercourse), whether at home or at a clinic in the UK or overseas.  A married father is named on his child's UK birth certificate and automatically has parental responsibility, giving him the authority to make and be involved in decisions about his child's care.

The law applies unless it can be 'shown' that the husband does not consent, something which must be proved as a matter of fact.  In some cases (for example where separated wives are conceiving as solo mothers before their divorce is concluded) it is sensible to collect evidence which can be used to 'show' there is no consent.

Find out more about how the law works if the father is trans.

Unmarried fathers
An unmarried non-biological father is also the legal father of his child from birth if conception takes place at a licensed clinic in the UK. 

For children conceived between 1 August 1991 and 5 April 2009, the father simply needed to be having ‘treatment together’ with his partner at a UK fertility clinic.

For children conceived after 6 April 2009, both partners must complete and sign HFEA Forms WP and PP before conception (and should first have had counselling and been given proper information about the forms). There have been a number of recent cases in which fertility clinics have not managed this process properly, and as a result the legal fatherhood of unmarried fathers through sperm donation has been jeopardised.  Find out more about when fertility clinics get it wrong.

Like any other unmarried father, an unmarried father through sperm donation will be financially responsible for the child.  However, he will only have parental responsibility (the right to make and be involved in decisions about his child's care) if he is registered on the birth certificate (which requires the consent of both legal parents) or if he takes steps after the birth to acquire parental responsibility as a legal parent.

If an unmarried father is not the legal father (for example, if the HFEA forms have not been completed in time, or conception takes place overseas) he can take steps after the birth to apply for step-parent adoption.

Find out more about how the law works if the father is trans.

Have we answered your question? Would you like advice on your personal circumstances?

Email us at or call on 020 3701 5915 and we will explain how we can help.