Sperm donors granted leave to apply for contact

In a groundbreaking judgement, the High Court has ruled that sperm donors known to the recipients may apply for contact with their biological children.

Mr Justice Baker yesterday declared that such donors could request contact under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, even though they have no legal relationship with their biological offspring under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008..

The case of Re G; Re Z concerned two lesbian couples and one gay male couple, all in civil partnerships. One of the two men is the biological father of the two children of one of the lesbian couples, while the other man is the father of the other lesbian couple’s child.

The donations were reportedly made on an informal basis, with nothing put in writing, and the friendship between the couples broke down when the two men then wanted more contact with the children than had been agreed.

The men sought legal permission to formally apply for residence and contact with the children. The mothers opposed this, saying it would infringe on their family life.

Mr Justice Baker refused permission to request residence but said they could apply for contact as the men knew the two couples. He stated that when considering such requests, the courts needed to take into account such principles as the person’s connection to the child and how much disruption could be caused by contact. Courts should be cautious and ensure the existing family’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights were protected, he added. Article 8 governs the right to respect for ‘private and family life’.

Legal commentators said the case highlighting the need for anyone planning to use a sperm donor known to them to seek the advice of a family lawyer and draw up the equivalent of a prenuptial agreement, clearly setting out each party’s expectations of the arrangement in advance.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act allows same sex partners to register as the legal parents of a child conceived through donation, regardless of the biological father.

Photo by JosephB via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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