Contact and Residence – Sperm Donors

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In recent times there have been a number of cases where a sperm donor has applied to the Court for Contact and Residence Orders in connection with their biological children. Such applications were previously prohibited under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 as donors were not considered to have any legal relationship with the children. This position has now changed and the High Court have now ruled that where the sperm donor knows the identity of the parent involved then a contact order could be pursued.

In deciding whether an Order should be made, the Courts will have regard to:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the children concerned (considered in light of the child’s age and understanding)
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in his/her circumstances
  • The child’s age, sex, background, and any other characteristic which the Court considers relevant
  • Any harm which a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • How capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the Court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs
  • The range of powers available to the Court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.

Under the Children Act, the Court will only make an Order, if there is a dispute, otherwise no Order will be made. There is also a presumption that the Court should not intervene unless it is in the best interests of the child. When making any decision, the Court's paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. The Court recognises that delay is harmful to the child’s welfare.

In addition to the welfare checklist in such cases where sperm donors are fighting for contact rights, the Court would also have regard to the Parents Article 8 Rights to a Family Life. In some cases the Court will look at the circumstances surrounding the birth of the child for example whether it was intended that artificial insemination would be used as opposed to birth through a relationship with the sperm donor. Any benefits to be gained for the child will also be assessed. In all cases the Courts will make a decision based upon the merits of that particular case. In recent cases, sperm donors have had some success in establishing that they have contact rights even though they may be limited, for example, a sperm donor may be granted visiting rights, but no staying contact or may be granted visiting rights but not a Residence Order. In some cases the Court has considered there is no benefit to the child from having any relationship with the sperm donor.

Whether you are a parent opposing a sperm donor’s application or a sperm donor fighting for contact rights, a specialist family law solicitor will be able to assist you.

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