The importance of legal parentage

13 July 2020

The significance of legal parentage should not be underestimated. Legal parentage establishes a legal parent-child relationship in law and it confers status, as well as various important legal rights and responsibilities. It does not always follow biological parentage or birth registration. Furthermore, the law can be complex, particularly in cases involving assisted conception and modern family forms, and challenging to resolve when disputes arise.

The advent of assisted reproductive technologies and the growing uptake of assisted conception (e.g. IVF, egg and sperm donation, surrogacy and co-parenting arrangements) have increasingly led to a disconnect between biological and legal parentage in law. As such, legal parentage can become a minefield depending upon the circumstances of conception as well as the operation of English common law or statute.

Legal parentage is important because it governs financial responsibility for a child and inheritance rights. It confers legal status and identity upon a parent and a child. It can inform the involvement of a parent in the child’s life. It also governs a child’s citizenship and nationality.

Issues and disputes about legal parentage can arise in a variety of situations, including:

  • As a result of a direct-to-consumer genetic test.
  • A dispute about legal parentage with a former partner, step-parent, known donor, co-parent or surrogate.
  • Problems with HFEA consent forms at a UK fertility clinic resulting in a lack of legal parenthood for a child.
  • Unwanted legal parentage and financial responsibility for a child following known donation.
  • Complex international conflicts of law and lack of legal parentage (e.g. following overseas adoption, surrogacy or fertility treatment).
  • Issues around a new partner acquiring legal parenthood or status for an existing child in a blended family setting.

Resolving issues and disputes around legal parentage and the status, rights and responsibilities that flow from this can require careful and expert navigation of complex fertility and family law and can take the form of:

  • A declaration of parentage.
  • An adoption order under English law.
  • An order recognising a foreign adoption under English common law.
  • A parental order for a surrogate born child.

Need a legal parentage lawyer or a family lawyer? If you would like to discuss your situation or you require specialist fertility and family law advice and assistance please contact Louisa by email  or by telephone +44 (0)20 7965 8399.

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