Legal Parentage and Parenthood

Legal parentage creates an enduring legal relationship between a parent and a child under English law and legal relationships between wider family members (e.g. grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins).

Legal parenthood creates financial rights and responsibilities, including inheritance rights. It dictates birth registration and birth certificate arrangements. It can give rise to a claim for citizenship, nationality and a passport.

Increasing demand for assisted conception (e.g. IVF, egg and sperm donation, surrogacy and co-parenting arrangements) continues to disconnect the relationship between biological and legal parentage and parental responsibility in law. Furthermore, there is no international harmonisation of assisted reproduction law as it applies to legal parenthood.

Growing popularity of direct-to-consumer DNA tests are also increasingly raising questions and complex issues about legal parentage and parenthood, birth certificates and family relationships. They can lead to unexpected discoveries about conception, maternity and paternity and previously unknown genetic relatives. Whilst they can have positive outcomes, they can also cause distress and have a significant impact on individuals and families in the absence of expert management.

As such, legal parentage can raise complex legal issues and practical difficulties for parents, children, donors, surrogates, carers and modern families under English law, including:

  • Lack of legal parenthood for a child (e.g. non-birth parents, problems with HFEA consent forms at a UK fertility clinic).
  • International conflicts of law about legal parentage and parenthood (e.g. following adoption, surrogacy or fertility treatment).
  • Legal parentage dispute (e.g. with a known donor, co-parent, surrogate, former partner, step-parent).
  • Issues about biological and legal parenthood following a direct-to-consumer DNA test.
  • Dispute about paternity or legal parentage and financial provision for a child or individual.
  • Legal parentage and parenthood in blended family cases (e.g. issues around a new partner acquiring legal parenthood or status for an existing child).
  • Issues about legal parentage and posthumous conception following death of a loved one.

We provide advice, assistance and legal representation to acquire, protect or defend legal parentage and parenthood in respect of a child under English law, including:

We deliver bespoke legal solutions. Our preeminent legal expertise delivers innovative and cutting-edge results.  We work closely with you recognising every situation is unique.

If you require legal assistance or wish to discuss your situation contact us.

 +44 (0) 20 7965 8399

How we can help

Our legal services include:

  • Legal packages
  • Bespoke legal advice tailored to your situation, needs and wishes
  • Preparation of legal documentation
  • Legal support and representation in court proceedings

Package One

Legal parentage and UK fertility treatment for people with complex personal situations and legal issues - legal review

This provides initial expert legal advice on legal parentage and parenthood for people undertaking fertility treatment at a UK fertility clinic with complex personal situations and issues.

Package Three

Legal parentage dispute – legal review

This provides initial expert legal advice on family and fertility law in the UK in the event of a legal parentage/parenthood dispute with a known donor, co-parent, surrogate, former partner, step-parent or other adult).

Package Five

Parental order for intended parent/s undertaking overseas surrogacy – legal review

This provides expert English surrogacy law advice to intended parent/s or surrogate/s undertaking an international surrogacy arrangement.

Package Seven

Legal parentage for lesbian couples undertaking donor conception and fertility treatment overseas – legal review (not civil partners/not married)

This provides initial expert legal advice to support lesbian couples (who are not married and not civil partners) undertaking overseas fertility treatment and donor conception.

Package Nine

Legal parentage for single woman undertaking assisted conception with a known donor – legal review

This provides initial expert legal advice to support single woman conceiving artificially with a known donor by private arrangement, at a UK fertility clinic or overseas.

Package Eleven

Legal parentage for lesbian couples undertaking donor conception by private arrangement – legal review

This provides initial expert legal advice to support lesbian couples (married, civil partners or cohabiting) undertaking donor conception by private arrangement.

Package Two

Legal parentage following UK fertility treatment where HFEA consent forms were not completed, lost, contained errors – legal review

This provides initial expert legal advice to support people who need to rectify and secure legal parentage for a non-birth parent after fertility treatment at a UK clinic

Package Four

Parental order for intended parent/s undertaking UK surrogacy - legal review

This provides initial expert English surrogacy law advice to intended parent/s or surrogate/s undertaking a UK surrogacy arrangement.

Package Six

Adoption order – legal review

This provides expert English legal advice on adoption law for prospective parents, step-parents, family members and others looking to privately adopt a child.

Package Eight

Legal parentage for unmarried heterosexual couples undertaking sperm donation and fertility treatment overseas – legal review

This provides initial expert legal advice to support unmarried heterosexual couples conceiving with donor sperm overseas.

Package Ten

Legal parentage for co-parents conceiving artificially with competing or conflicting status or wishes – complex legal review

This provides expert legal advice for co-parents seeking to understand, manage and secure legal parenthood for a prospective child (including cases involving more than 2 adults, civil partnered and married couples).

Package Twelve

Legal parentage and status for a new partner in a blended family – legal review

This provides expert legal advice for blended families seeking to explore and confer legal parentage and status upon a new partner or step-parent for an existing child.

News and Commentary

Louisa Ghevaert regularly commentates on fertility and family law issues, including legal parentage:

“Declaration of Parentage: Will This Rectify My Birth Certificate?” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 13 May 2024).

“Declaration Of Parentage: Will This Resolve My Personal Identity, Legal And Biological Parenthood?” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 29 December 2023).

“Fertility Law Reform In The UK: How Much Change Do We Want?” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 14 December 2023).

“Sperm Donor Fraud: One Year On From Netflix’s Documentary ‘Our Father'” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 14 May 2023).

“Declaration of Parentage Applications: The Significance of Legal and Biological Parenthood” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 14 March 2023).

“UK Adoption Order granted to a single non-biological mother for a child born through a Californian surrogacy arrangement”, (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 3 March 2023).

“Our Father, DNA testing & what do we mean by ‘parentage’? (by Louisa Ghevaert for Fertility Help Hub, a fertility lifestyle platform, 24 August 2022).

“Declaration of parentage: the importance of identity, status and parentage” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 19 July 2022).

“DNA testing, parentage disputes and the law” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 15 June 2022).

“Declaration of parentage: confirming family ancestry and biological parentage following adoption” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 8 June 2022).

“Netflix’s Our Father: DNA testing, paternity disputes and questions about biological and legal parentage”, (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 16 May 2022).

“International surrogacy law: existing conflicts unresolved” (BioNews, comment piece by Louisa Ghevaert, 14 March 2022).

“Declaration of Parentage: resolving family ancestry, questions about parentage and birth certificates”, Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog (30 November 2021).

Apple podcast with Speak From The Body with Avni Touch entitled “Fertility law for modern families with Louisa Ghevaert” (26 February 2020).

“Legal parentage disputes: modern families and the law”, Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog (18 November 2020).

“The global legal identity gap”, Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog (21 August 2020).

Click here to read more about our media and commentary work in relation to family and fertility law, policy and practice.

Leading Cases

Louisa Ghevaert has dealt with numerous leading legal parentage and parenthood cases in the UK, including:

X v Y [2022] EWFC 77, representing the applicant in a complex application for a declaration of parentage in the English High Court following an ancestry website search and a 35-year quest to find her biological father to resolve issues relating to her identity and her birth certificate. In granting the application, the court highlighted the fundamental importance relating to identity, status and parentage and the re-registration of birth certificates to provide properly maintained records not just for the benefit of individuals but for the public as well. In doing so, the court navigated complex legal issues and drew inferences from the respondent’s refusal to undergo DNA testing.

Re X,Y and Z (Children: Parental Orders: Time Limit) [2022] EWHC 198 (Fam), an important legal ruling where the English High Court stepped in and granted parental orders for 3 surrogate born children following complex international conflicts of law between the US (California & Oregon), Denmark and the UK, extending the six-month statutory deadline for issue post birth and carefully navigating complex legal issues associated with the collapse of a US surrogacy agency, a pending criminal charge of assault against one of the intended parents and serious legal difficulties in Denmark where Danish authorities threatened to deport the children.

AB v CD, EF, GH & IL [2018] EWHC 1590 (Fam), representing an intended mother in international contested assisted reproduction and modern family law proceedings in the High Court concerning 2 surrogate born children. This case marks a legal first in the treatment of blended families in the UK following assisted reproduction, divorce, re-marriage, serious allegations of domestic violence and abuse as well as the legal status, parentage and identity of two surrogate born children, their biological, intended and social parents and arrangements for the children’s care and upbringing.

In the matter of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (Case V) [2016] EWHC 2356 (Fam), obtaining a declaration of parentage in the High Court for a woman in a same-sex relationship for a child conceived through fertility treatment at a UK fertility clinic licensed by the HFEA.  The HFEA Consent Form WP was missing from the clinic file. The case for the first time gave guidance on the practice of making interim costs orders in favour of patients to fund litigation and access to justice following errors in the completion of consent forms at UK fertility clinics.

In JP v LP & Ors [2014] EWHC 595 (Fam), acting for the intended father in a high profile complex UK surrogacy dispute case following marriage breakdown and divorce. This case established for the first time a legal framework for cases where the legal criteria for a parental order cannot be met, including wardship, and featured in The Telegraph, BBC News and Mail Online (6 March 2014).

In Re C [2013] EWHC 2408 (Fam), obtaining a parental order (legal parentage) for intended parents who conceived a child through a Californian (USA) commercial surrogacy arrangement. This case redefines the English Court’s approach to the authorisation of commercial payments in view of the UK public policy restriction against commercial surrogacy.

In Re IJ (a Child) [2011] EWHC 921, obtaining a parental order (legal parentage)for British parents whose surrogate born child was born stateless and parentless in Ukraine. The case highlights the legal difficulties associated with foreign surrogacy and the importance of expert legal advice.

In Re L (a minor) [2010] EWHC 3146 (Fam), obtaining a parental order (legal parentage) for British parents who conceived a child with a US surrogate mother (in Illinois, USA). The case marks a legal watershed ruling that the welfare of the child is decisive over the public policy ban on commercial surrogacy in the UK except in the clearest cases of abuse of public policy and featured in The Telegraph (8 December 2010).

In Re X and Y (foreign surrogacy) [2008] EWHC 3030 (Fam), being the first case in UK legal history to test the law for British parents conceiving through an international commercial surrogacy arrangement in the Ukraine and which involved complex and ground-breaking legal issues in successfully securing a parental order (legal parentage), featured in BioNews (January 2009)

Read more in our Well Known Cases section.

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