Surrogacy, donor sperm and co-parenting

If you are considering having a child through surrogacy, using donor sperm or through a co-parenting arrangement whether as an intended parent, a surrogate, donor, partner of an intended parent or as a co-parent we can help you understand your legal rights and help you take steps to protect your family.

Helping you create and protect your rights for your family

Having a child or helping others to do so is one of the biggest decisions you will take in your life. It’s important that you understand the legal issues involved before commencing any fertility treatment (whether at home or in a fertility clinic). The issue of who is a legal parent impacts on a wide range of areas from parental responsibility to inheritance and financial responsibility for a child to name a few.

Did you know:


  • A surrogacy agreement, although very useful, is unenforceable in the UK.
  • Lawyers who charge for drafting a surrogacy agreement in the UK are committing a criminal offence.
  • If the surrogate is married, this can cause complications because her husband will usually be treated as the legal father of the child at birth.
  • Midwives and hospitals are increasingly likely to ask for legal confirmation of the surrogacy arrangement.
  • If you are involving a fertility clinic, it is vital to complete the right forms, prior to treatment. Not all fertility clinics get this right.
  • A Parental Order is a must, so that both intended parents can acquire legal parenthood for their child, and so that the surrogate’s legal rights and responsibilities are discharged.
  • There is a 6 month time limit from the birth of the child to apply for a Parental Order although in some circumstances the court will approve applications made after this time.
  • A court will need to approve any payments you make/receive other than those for expenses reasonably incurred.
  • Foreign birth certificates or pre-birth/pre-registration orders naming intended parents as the legal parents are not recognised in the UK.
  • Foreign surrogacy arrangements can give rise to complex immigration issues.
  • Currently single applicants cannot apply for a Parental Order although it is hoped the law will change later this year.
  • If for any reason you cannot apply for a Parental Order there are still steps that you can take to protect your position as a parent and as a surrogate.

Donor sperm

  • Even if a donor is not recorded on the birth certificate they may be a legal parent. Whether they are or not will depend on how and where conception took place, the intended parents marital status and, if treatment takes place at a UK licensed fertility clinic what forms the intended parents completed prior to conception.
  • If donor sperm is being used conception should be artificial and not natural. Otherwise the donor will automatically be treated as the legal father.
  • Anonymous sperm donors who donate through a UK licensed fertility clinic will not be treated as the legal parent of any child born.
  • If you are married or in a civil partnership and receive treatment using donor sperm (whether in a fertility clinic or at home or abroad) then provided your spouse/civil partner consents to the treatment they should still be treated as a legal parent. The donor will not be legal parent.
  • If you are unmarried/not in a civil partnership and receive treatment at home using donor sperm then the donor will be treated as a legal parent. This is regardless of whether or not you intend the donor to be a legal parent.
  • If you are unmarried/not in a civil partnership and receive treatment at a UK licensed fertility clinic then it is vital to complete the right forms, prior to treatment, to ensure that your partner will be treated as a legal parent. In some recent cases parents have had to apply for a declaration from the court to confirm their status as a legal parent because of anomalies with the forms that they completed at the fertility clinic.
  • Known sperm donors, even if they are not a legal parent, can apply for the court’s permission to spend time with the child.

Co-parenting arrangements

  • If you are planning to co-parent you can enter into a co-parenting agreement to set out everyone’s expectations about what will be involved and ensure you all agree about what will happen. Although the agreement is not enforceable it helps evidence your intentions if the arrangement subsequently breaks down.
  • Who is a legal parent will depend upon how your child was conceived – see the information about surrogacy and donor sperm above.

  • If there is a non-legal parent who is part of a co-parenting arrangement they can still apply for the court’s permission to spend time with the child.

We can provide focused and cost effective legal advice on the surrogacy, donor sperm and co-parenting arrangement from experts in our nationwide familyhealthcare and immigration teams. We can also help where your existing arrangement has gone wrong.

Our lawyers

  • We have one of the largest national family law teams in the country with specialists in child law, surrogacy, donor sperm, co-parenting and adoption. We are highly rated by both our clients and other professionals for our expertise in family law and we regularly deal with cases with international elements.
  • We advise intended parents, surrogates, sperm donors, partners of intended parents and fertility clinics.
  • We have acted in reported cases in the High Court including representing a fertility clinic where the intended parents applied for a declaration of parentage and representing a surrogate where the relationship between the intended parents had broken down during the pregnancy (Re F v M v SM [2017] EWHC 2176 (Fam)).
  • Our national healthcare team regularly works with the NHS and fertility clinics.
  • Six of our family lawyers are Fellows of the International Academy of Family Lawyers and we are used to working with lawyers and clients from all over the world.

Our family lawyers are highly rated in both the Chambers UK and Legal 500 directories. Comments about our family lawyers from peers and clients include the following:

  • "The team at Mills & Reeve are all very friendly, approachable and committed to the clients they work with." (Chambers UK)
  • A "very capable, personable team which provides a very good quality of service to clients. " (Chambers UK)
  • "A dynamic firm that has really excelled in the last few years. It is a rising presence, regularly comes up against the big names, and matches, if not exceeds them." (Legal 500)
  • "A remarkable practice that is grasping the changes across the family market and has ensured that its practice offers what the clients want and needs." (Legal 500

Legal resources you may find useful

  • Explore our new collection of surrogacy case studies to help you understand some of the legal implications of surrogacy.