Parental status of co-mothers

Since 1 April 2014 it has been easier for a co-mother to become the legal parent of her female partner’s child. Before that date, this was only possible through a legal adoption procedure. Now the co-mother can become the child’s legal parent without recourse to the courts. Either she is automatically the child’s legal parent from birth or she can acknowledge the child. Acknowledgement is a simple procedure that can be completed with the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships.

Becoming a legal parent automatically

If the child was conceived through an anonymous sperm donation under the terms of the Human Fertilisation (Donor Information) Act, the co-mother can become the child’s legal parent as soon as the child is born, since the biological father will clearly play no part in bringing up or supporting the child.

For the birth mother’s female partner to automatically acquire legal parent status when the child is born, the following conditions must be met:

  1. When the birth is registered, a declaration by the Artificial Fertilisation Donor Information Office is submitted to the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships, indicating that the pregnancy is the result of insemination by a sperm donor under the terms of the Human Fertilisation (Donor Information) Act and that the donor’s identity is unknown to the woman who has been inseminated.
  2. The mother and co-mother are legally married to each other or are registered partners.

A co-mother cannot automatically become the legal parent of a child born before 1 April 2014. However, she can legally adopt or acknowledge the child.

Becoming a legal parent through acknowledgement

If two women are married or registered partners and one of them becomes pregnant by a known donor (such as a friend, acquaintance or family member) as opposed to an anonymous donor under the terms of the Human Fertilisation (Donor Information) Act, the co-mother can become the child’s legal parent through acknowledgement. This procedure can be completed with the Registrar of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Registered Partnerships or by notarial act. The acknowledgement procedure may also take place before the birth. In that case, the co-mother is the baby’s parent as soon as it is born.

If the sperm donor is the first person to acknowledge the child before its birth, then only the birth mother will have parental responsibility and the co-mother will not. By acknowledging the child, the donor acquires the legal status of parent, making it impossible to meet the condition that there is no second parent. If the donor acknowledges the child after the birth, he cannot acquire parental responsibility.

If the two women are not married or in a registered partnership, only the birth mother has parental responsibility. The co-mother can acknowledge the child and after that apply to the courts for joint parental responsibility with the birth mother.