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If you are considering extending your family through donation/insemination, co-parenting or surrogacy, it is vital to obtain specialist advice prior to commencing the process, in order to ensure that the right people have the right status, and everyone knows where they stand once a child comes along. The expert family solicitors at JMW are here to help.
Problems most commonly arise in alternative families when the legalities of their situation do not align with their intentions, or when there is disagreement between the adults involved as to how any children should be raised.
Should you need advice or guidance, or to talk to someone about the next steps, do not hesitate to get in touch with our solicitors who specialise in the law on building families and fertility law. Simply call us on 0800 652 5577 or complete our online enquiry form and we will give you a call back at a convenient time.
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There are a number of different strands to 'parenthood'. Sometimes, these strands are all provided by one person, however in many modern family structures, the strands are distributed between several people. It is important that anyone looking to extend their family understands:
- The legal implications of their arrangements
- The difference in legal status between various types of parenthood
- The rights attached to each type of parenthood and how they interact
The three forms of parenthood are:
- The legal parent
- The social or psychological parent
- A biological parent
It is entirely possible for a person to be one, two or all of these things to a given child. Very different legal rights and responsibilities attach to each.
Legal parenthood is assigned by the strict operation of law, regardless of the intention. Whichever method you use to extend your family, it is important that all of the necessary criteria are fulfilled to ensure that the right people obtain legal parenthood either at birth, or subsequently by way of adoption or parental orders.
A child can only have two legal parents. In England and Wales, the birth mother is always a legal parent. This is still the case even if she is not biologically related to the child, and even if pre-birth orders have been obtained in another country transferring parenthood. Whether there is a second legal parent and, if so, who this is depends on the circumstances. If a child has been conceived through intercourse then the second parent will always be the biological father.
Legal parenthood is separate from parental responsibility. A legal mother always has parental responsibility, but whether or not the second legal parent does depends on the circumstances. It is a lot easier to assign parental responsibility than legal parenthood, and there is no statutory limit on how many people can hold parental responsibility. For more information on who can acquire parental responsibility and how, click here.
Legal parenthood is important because:
- It enables the most important people in a child's life to be fully recognised by the law and wider society
- Having a secure legal foundation for your family unit helps to ensure that decision-making in relation to any child can be undertaken efficiently, by the right people, and without the need for unnecessary intervention by the court
- The child's sense of self and their developing identity is reflected in the legalities of their parentage
This is not a formal legal status so much as a description of an actual relationship between an adult and a child. A social or psychological parent is an adult who has taken on a parental role in relation to a child regardless of whether or not they are biologically related or legally recognised as their parent.
Social or psychological parents could include grandparents who are acting as the main carers of their grandchildren with greater or lesser involvement from their biological parents. The partner of a child's parent who has for many years been known to the child as "mum" or "dad" would also be considered a social or psychological parent, even though the relationship may not be recognised in law.
A biological parent is a man or woman whose gametes (reproductive cells) have been used to conceive a child. Put another way, a biological parent is a parent to whom a child is 'genetically' related.
In many cases this will simply be the child’s birth mother and father. However, a child's biological parent could also be an anonymous or known donor of sperm, an egg donor or a surrogate who it is intended will not act as a parent to the child after their birth.
The family law team at JMW has the experience and expertise necessary to advise you of your best options when it comes to extending your family through either surrogacy, donation/insemination or co-parenting.
We will provide the guidance you need and support you throughout the legal process, giving you the very best opportunity to secure the outcome you are after and which can make a real, positive difference to you and your family.