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End of legal wrangle involving lesbian parents, private sperm donor and surrogate mother

24 September 2012
Appeared in BioNews 674

The High Court has awarded a lesbian couple sole custody rights for a child conceived using donor sperm and a surrogate's egg after a three-year battle over parenthood.

The couple, who are both infertile, are friends with the surrogate and she made no claim for the child. However the sperm donor, given the pseudonym of 'Michael' by the Sunday Times, made a claim for legal parenthood.

'Ann', the wife of the sperm donor, had initially agreed for her husband to donate his sperm, but then became distressed by the news that a child had been conceived. When the child was born dispute over legal parenthood began which pitted Ann and Michael against the commissioning couple.

In the UK sperm donors who donate to licensed sperm banks remain anonymous until the donor-conceived child has turned eighteen, when they can be contacted at the child's request. However, Michael wished to be known to the child and donated privately.

The judgment ends a protracted legal dispute and the Sunday Times focuses on Ann who was 'traumatised' by the entire affair and fears she may never recover. She believes that the wives of sperm donors should receive counselling before their husbands donate sperm, as 'no one ever thinks of the wives of the men who donate and the pain they go through'. Her comments echo a recent claim by a woman who believes that her husband should require 'spousal consent' to donate his gametes (reported in BioNews 671).

Ann says that the experience was not eased by the 'selfish' determination of the lesbian couple to have a child at any cost. Michael told the Sunday Times that for his wife, his fathering a child must be 'like coping with me being unfaithful'.

David Josiah-Lake, a solicitor with a family law firm, told the newspaper that couples need to be aware of legal implications before donating gametes. 'You must always speak to a family lawyer because [the creation of a child] is complex', he said.

Legal quagmire of four parents and their baby 'born to order'
Sunday Times (subscription required) |  16 September 2012
Lesbian couple, surrogate mother and sperm donor in three-year legal battle over right to be child's parents
Mail Online |  16 September 2012
11 May 2015 - by Dr Reuven Brandt 
The type of equipment used and the involvement of licensed medical professionals seem irrelevant to the moral facts that determine which individuals ought to have recognized rights and responsibilities for the children they help create...
10 November 2014 - by Chee Hoe Low 
A six-year legal battle for contact over two girls conceived via known-donor fertilisation has had a 'destructive effect' on the girls' childhood, a High Court judge has warned in his third substantive judgment in the case....
28 May 2014 - by Patricia Cassidy 
An Illinois county court has granted a woman control over embryos created with her ex-boyfriend's sperm, despite his objection to their use....
31 March 2014 - by Ari Haque 
The UK's Court of Appeal has urged two women who were in a same sex relationship to reach an agreement over the custody of their five-year-old twins...
27 January 2014 - by Nishat Hyder 
A Kansas court has ruled that a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple in response to a Craigslist advertisement is the legal father of the resulting child. The decision means the man can be required to pay child support....
3 September 2012 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
A woman has called for legal changes to prevent a man from donating his sperm without his wife's consent....
16 July 2012 - by Ruth Retassie 
A Californian woman is suing the US Food and Drug Administration over its sperm donation policy...
30 April 2012 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Thirteen vials of sperm are to be divided between two women after their relationship ended, a Canadian court has ruled. It ruled the sperm should be treated as property and divided between the former couple as other joint assets were upon separation....
19 March 2012 - by Rosie Beauchamp 
The Court of Appeal in London has ruled unanimously that a gay man who fathered a child for a lesbian couple is not a secondary parent, allowing him greater access to his two-year-old son...
20 February 2012 - by Natalie Gamble 
The family court has been making law on known donors, with a number of recent disputes between known sperm donors and lesbian mothers...
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