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Grandparental contact with sperm donor child

View profile for Stephanie Bellchambers
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Much has been rather sensationalised about the recent case of G (A Child) [2018] EWCA Civ 305 which dealt with whether the parents of a sperm donor could have contact with their biological grandchild. Whilst this has been granted, it is in a very limited way of twice per year.

The now 5 year old child was born to a same-sex couple via artificial insemination using the sperm of a friend. The sperm donor is not a legal parent as he was not registered on the child’s birth certificate, but he is the biological ‘father’ and he had regular contact with the boy for the first three years of his life on a weekly or fortnightly basis. He states that it was agreed the boy would know him as his father and that he would have regular contact with him. The parents state that it was agreed he would see their child no more than children of other friends.

The legal parents separated in 2013. The women continued to co-parent the boy, but they claimed that the presence of the sperm donor in their child's life was becoming increasingly 'burdensome and troubling' to them. In 2015, contact broke down and the donor did not see the child for 18 months. Although contact was resumed in May 2017, the donor's parents were excluded despite his objections that they had come to know and love their grandson. 

In June 2017, Judge Jessica Pemberton agreed that the donor could see the child seven times a year for two hours at a time in the presence of the legal parents. Judge Pemberton ruled that his parents should be able to join in on two occasions per year and be able to send birthday and Christmas cards. She stated that the child had a lifelong link with his paternal family and contact was vital to sustain his 'sense of identity'.

The parents appealed the decision stating that contact with his biological grandparents was not essential for their child. Although they did not criticise the donor's parents, they argued that the family court decision was an unwarranted interference in their parental autonomy.

However, Lord Justice Peter Jackson dismissed their case, stating that the judge's initial ruling was 'admirable'. He added that while he had 'some sympathy' with the couple's stance, he said contact with his grandparents would foster the boy's welfare. He concluded that: 'Whatever the state of the relationship between the adults, they once cooperated to create this boy, a much-loved child. They owe it to him to try to recapture something of that spirit…both sides must now make the contact order work for the boy's benefit.'

It is clearly a difficult case for all parties concerned. The parents want their right of autonomy to parent their child how they wish. The sperm donor had a relationship with the child and saw him regularly and did not wish to give that up. Equally, his parents wished to maintain their relationship. What the judge wanted to emphasise was that we have a child in the middle of these difficulties. What we would always suggest is that before embarking on assisting to create a family, or requesting assistance to create a family, particularly with a known donor outside of a licensed UK clinic, you take advice. We would recommend that a donor agreement is put in place to cover all parties’ intentions regarding the child/ren as to the level of involvement of each party. Most parties we speak to think they have had all of the discussions they need to have, but it is only when prompted by a lawyer to think about these issues ‘outside of the box’ that they can make informed decisions and record those decisions in writing to try and prevent difficulties in the future.

Seek advice from one of our fertility specialists on 02392 370634.