One major concern in all of this was the legal issues surrounding parentage of the child and my rights as nonbiomum. This is one of the major ways in which the UK differs from the US and makes a lot of the US-centric sites and books of very little use at all.
biomum and I are in a civil partnership (soon to be upgraded to a marriage) and so, provided insemination of biomum is artificial (either in a clinic or by home insemination), we will both be listed on the birth certificate. Our child will have no legal father and the donor will not be listed anywhere on the birth certificate. Obviously if biomum was to have intercourse with the donor this would be different – it would be exactly the same as any straight couple conceiving and donor would be listed as the father. That isn’t going to happen of course, and thus my legal position as second parent to our child is secure.
The law in the UK is based largely on whether biomum and I are in a civil partnership and how the insemination takes place. Female-female civil partners using artificial insemination are both the legal parents of the child – the law does state that the non-birth mother must consent to the insemination but it also presumes consent unless demonstrated otherwise.
Non-civil partnered lesbians have a more interesting time. In this case for both women to be the legal parents from the outset, insemination must take place in a UK clinic and both parties must sign election forms agreeing that the non-birth mother should be treated as a legal parent. There is no option for home insemination here – this would lead to the non-birth mother having to legally adopt the child. Once again – when the child has two legal mothers they do not have a legal father.
The impact on the donor differs depending on the method of insemination. If this is done through a clinic the donor has legal protection against financial and parental responsibility automatically. If the insemination is done at home there is no such automatic legal protection and so drawing up a contract protecting both donor and recipient from any legal challenges is so highly recommended it’s not even funny. Seriously, do it. Even if your donor is a good friend, all parties need to have their rights protected. Talk about it with your donor, get the wording right and get it witnessed. This doesn’t prevent a legal challenge but it does act as document of intent and it is likely that even a non-notarised document would be upheld in court. Unfortunately a lot of the sample donor documents are from the US and cover specific donor-recipient situations but they can be altered to suit your own needs. We found this one to be most useful but altered it to match our own situation. A lawyer will draw up a contract for you but for a fee – though depending on your relationship to your donor you might want that extra level of protection.
A good resource on the legalities of donor insemination for same-sex couples is Stonewall – the ‘Pregnant Pause’ pdf linked from their site is excellent reading for lesbians trying to conceive and they lay out the legalities in a clear and concise way.