Child contact and sperm donor fathers

Under the Children Act 1989, “any parent” of a child can apply to the Court by right for a contact order to have contact with the child. 

The child’s natural mother and father are its parents.  Under further legislative provision, where a child is conceived via artificial insemination using donor sperm, the status of legal parent will be bestowed upon the husband/civil partner of the child’s mother (or non-married partner of the mother if conception occurred at a licenced clinic) to the exclusion of the donor.  However, an excluded biological father in this regard can still apply to the Court for permission to bring a contact application.

Two such cases that have come before the Court this year.  In both cases, the Court granted permission for the natural father to make an application for a contact order (though this does not mean that contact will be ordered).  In both cases, the mother had already allowed some early contact between the natural father and child.  In one of the cases, the Court referred to evidence of a connection between the child and the natural father.

In reaching its decisions, the Court emphasised that while considering all the factors of the case, the child’s welfare being paramount, the risk of disruption to the established family unit and resulting harm to the child were “manifestly material considerations”.  The Court underlined the importance where a known donor is involved of ensuring that before conception the parties’ intentions are clearly discussed and recorded to agree future roles and responsibilities in the child’s upbringing and life.

For further information and advice, please contact our Family team –