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IVF sector errors led to doubts over legal parental status

Judgment was handed down in the family division of the High Court in England and Wales on 11th September in a case where seven couples, who had assisted reproduction through sperm donor, issued proceedings for a declaration that they were the legal parents of their offspring.


The case arose after it emerged that written consent forms, which are signed by couples who are not married or in a civil partnership to ensure legal parentage before treatment begins, had not been properly completed by the fertility clinics involved.  The mistake meant that women using donated sperm had not formally agreed that their partner would be the child’s legal guardian. 


The Court criticised the IVF regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which licences IVF clinics, for its failure to properly regulate the sector.  It said that the sector’s ‘incompetence’ had forced couples to come to court and reveal ‘intensely private’ details in public.  Whilst this case involved seven couples, it is understood 85 other couples could have their parentage called into doubt because of the administrative errors. 


The Court granted the declarations ruling that the couples had given their written consent to be parents to the clinics, even if it was not on the specific form required by law.

Family Law