Legal Parentage & Paternity Dispute

Legal parentage and parenthood is important because it creates a 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). It also underpins and informs legal status of parents, children, co-parents, known donors, step-parents, surrogates and family members.

Legal parentage and paternity disputes can raise complex legal issues about the circumstances of conception, the basis of fertility treatment, the results of a direct-to-consumer DNA test, birth certificates, financial provision for a child, the upbringing of a child, biological and legal identity, citizenship and passports.

Modern expectations about family building and family life also continue to challenge and outpace legal frameworks. The global nature of the fertility sector is not matched with harmonisation of assisted reproduction law. This can create legal parentage gaps, problems with birth certificates and a lack of legal parental responsibility powers for parents to safeguard their children’s upbringing.

A dispute about an individual or child’s legal parentage and paternity can arise in a range of modern family and assisted reproduction situations including:

  • Problems with completion of patient HFEA consent forms at UK fertility clinics (e.g. missing or errors), calling into question the legal parentage of a non-birth parent for their child.
  • Dispute about legal parentage between parent/s and a known donor or co-parent following assisted conception.
  • Dispute between a parent and a former partner about legal parentage for a child.
  • Dispute between a parent and a surrogate about legal parentage for a child.
  • Dispute between a step-parent and a child’s legal or biological parent in a blended family situation.
  • Dispute about legal parentage following a foreign adoption.
  • Dispute about legal parentage following a direct-to-consumer DNA test.
  • Dispute about legal parentage and posthumous conception following death of a loved one.

As such, legal parentage and paternity disputes require expert understanding and navigation of the legal, practical and wider issues under fertility and family law from the outset.

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

Legal Packages

Package One

Legal parentage dispute – legal review

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

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

 +44 (0) 20 7965 8399

Leading Cases

Louisa Ghevaert has dealt with numerous leading legal parentage and paternity 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 (legal parentage) 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).

Click here to read more about our leading cases.

News and Commentary

Click here to read more about our media and commentary work in relation to family and fertility law and cases with a genetic aspect:

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

“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 (14 March 2022).

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

“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).

In the News

Father and toddler

Twitter updates

Follow Louisa on Twitter for latest industry updates

Read More

Our latest news

Read our news on fertility & modern family law

Read More

Our blog

Louisa discusses her opinion on different topics

Read More