It is estimated that around 2,000 children are conceived with the help of a sperm donor every year in the UK (Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority).  Individuals who are thinking about donating their sperm must ensure they are aware of their legal rights and responsibilities.

The facts about sperm donor responsibilities

In the eyes of the law, you are considered to be a sperm donor with a protected financial status in the following circumstances:-

  1. You have donated sperm at a licensed clinic;
  2. You have donated sperm for artificial insemination outside of a licensed clinic AND the birth mother is married or in a civil partnership AND you are not named on the child’s birth certificate.

In these circumstances, you are not the child’s legal parent and do not have parental responsibility for the child.  There is no legal relationship between you and the child and you have no say over their upbringing. The child’s legal parent/s cannot make a claim for child maintenance. They will have no claims against you or your estate, including upon death so they will not inherit from you unless you make a Will leaving a gift to them.

However, if you have donated sperm outside of a licensed clinic in an informal arrangement and the mother is not married, you will generally be considered a legal parent (although you would not have parental responsibility unless you are named on the birth certificate).  You would not have the protected financial status outlined above and it might be possible to make a financial claim against you.

Donating sperm outside of a licensed clinic is more complicated in terms of your legal and financial obligations, and so individuals should be clear about their future responsibilities before proceeding.

I want to act as a sperm donor, what can I do to protect myself from financial claims?

The safest way to act as a sperm donor is to donate through a licensed clinic, regardless of whether you donate to someone you know you will not be a legal parent and will have protected financial status.

If you decide to donate at home as part of an informal arrangement,  make sure that you obtain specialist legal advice about your particular circumstances. This should ensure that there is no way that you would be considered a legal parent of the child and would, therefore, qualify for protected financial status.

What about egg donors?

In the UK, the woman who gives birth to a child is always considered the legal mother, even when using a donated egg.  The egg donor will not be considered a legal parent and is not at risk of financial claims.

Looking for further information?

If you are looking for further information and resources, the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority is the place to start: https://www.hfea.gov.uk/donation/donors/donating-your-sperm/

If you’re considering being involved in a donor arrangement, please talk to a specialist member of our team.

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