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Donor case paves the way for agreements
Article date: 22/08/2013
A leading Midlands law firm says a new court ruling over the rights of sperm donors highlights some key issues in this area of the law and the importance of getting agreements in place in advance.
Higgs & Sons says the ruling - in which an online sperm donor was ordered to pay nearly £300,000 legal costs as well as maintenance after a judge decided he was a child's biological parent - proved the importance of getting specialist advice before entering into any agreement.
Hannah Nicholls, a solicitor in Higgs & Sons' family division, said the case underlined the legal complications surrounding sperm donation and why it was important to get expert advice.
Under the ruling the donor - identified only as Mr F - was ordered to pay the bulk of £300,000 legal costs after fighting the mother's claim that the two-year-old child was born by natural intercourse and not artificial insemination, as he claimed. He is also liable for maintenance payments as the child grows up.
Mr F had been a licensed donor since 2000 and registered on a website in 2003 to offer his services either through artificial or natural means. He has fathered 30 different children.
Hannah said she would urge anybody thinking of using the services of a sperm donor to proceed with caution, particularly in cases involving natural intercourse.
"Obviously in these circumstances there is a very real danger that feelings can become involved, which is likely to cloud the judgment of all involved.
"The case highlights important considerations for both the people enlisting the help of a sperm donor and the sperm donors themselves. It really shows the importance of entering into such arrangements properly and after having sought specialist legal advice about the implications on such issues as maintenance and contact.
"It is extremely important to set boundaries before the arrangement is entered into and both parties may wish to enter into a sperm donor agreement. This would set out in writing how the arrangement will work and outline issues such as the extent of financial responsibility of the donor, the contact that the donor will have with the child once born and the role that the donor will play in the parenting of the child. The agreement can be used as a way to limit the legal responsibility of the donor.
"From the perspective of a donor, it may in their best interests to donate through a licensed clinic and then his responsibilities are automatically limited. For example, he will not be named on the birth certificate and will not be asked to support the child financially."
Higgs & Sons works from two offices in the Black Country - Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill and Kingswinford. The firm employs more than 200 people, which includes over 100 specialist lawyers.
For specialist advice on all aspects of family law contact Hannah on 0845 111 5050 or email Hannah.email@example.com