Parenthood after donor conception: female partners of birth mothers

new born baby sleeping Since 6 April 2009, UK law has protected female same-sex parents conceiving together.  Where the rules apply, the non-birth mother is her child's other legal parent and has the same legal status as a father.

Married couples and civil partners
A woman who is married to or in a civil partnership with the birth mother at the time of conception is automatically her child's other legal parent.  The rules apply to conceptions after 6 April 2009 which take place through IVF or artificial insemination, whether at home or at a clinic in the UK or overseas.  Like a married father, the non-birth mother is named on her child's UK birth certificate and automatically has parental responsibility, giving her the authority to make decisions about her child's care. 

The law applies unless it can be 'shown' that the non-birth mother did not consent to the conception, something which must be proved as a matter of fact.  If the couple are separated and/or the birth mother is conceiving as a solo mother or with a new partner, it may be necessary to collect evidence to 'show' that her wife/civil partner does not consent.

Find out more about how the law on parenthood works where the birth mother’s (or birth parent’s) spouse is trans.

Female same-sex couples who are not married or in a civil partnership
A non-birth mother can also be treated as the other legal parent if she and her partner conceive at a licensed clinic in the UK after 6 April 2009.  Both parents must complete and sign HFEA Forms WP and PP to nominate the non-birth mother as the other parent, before conception and after receiving counselling and proper information about the forms.  It is important to follow the procedure carefully.  In Re E and F (2013), the High Court ruled that a non-birth mother was not a legal parent because the wrong consent forms were signed. Find out more about what happens when fertility clinics get it wrong.

Like an unmarried father, a non-birth mother who is a legal parent is financially responsible for the child.  However, she will only have parental responsibility (the right to make and be involved in decisions about her child's care) if she is registered on the birth certificate (which requires the consent of both partners) or if she takes steps after the birth to acquire parental responsibility as a legal parent.

Find out more about how the law on parenthood works where the birth mother’s (or birth parent’s) partner is trans.

Non-birth mothers who are not legal parents
Non-birth mothers who fall outside these rules are not legal parents from birth.  This applies, for example, to non-birth mothers with children conceived before 6 April 2009, and to unmarried non-birth mothers who conceive through home insemination or at a clinic overseas.  In these cases the non-birth mother can take steps after the birth to secure parental rights.


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