Parenting: Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 2008

Both partners in a same-sex couple undergoing fertility treatment can now be named on their child's birth certificate.

The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act received Royal Assent on 13 November 2008. The Act includes welcome provisions for same-sex parents. The new laws were introduced to bring civil partners in line with married couples and same-sex couples not in a civil partnership in line with unmarried couples.

Stonewall believes that it is critically important for any child to be raised in a stable and loving home. Many same-sex couples already raise children in just such an environment, almost always with significant mindfulness of the importance of appropriate role models in or close to their family units.

When did the laws change?

The first legal changes took effect on 6 April 2009. Same-sex couples who conceived on or after 6 April can now name both partners on their child's birth certificate when their child's birth is registered.

Most of the new legislation was introduced on 1 October 2009, including changes to the 'need for a father' requirement.

The Act will also introduce welcome changes to parental orders in April 2010 affecting same sex couples who enter into surrogacy arrangements. From April 2010, same-sex couples will be treated on an equal basis to opposite-sex couples.

How do the laws benefit same-sex couples?

  • Legal parenthood

From Monday 6 April 2009 new laws mean that same-sex couples, including civil partners, are legally recognised as parents of children conceived during their relationship from the moment of conception. Previously, same-sex partners were required to formally apply to adopt any child born in a relationship, in order to become a parent.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act applies to both same-sex and heterosexual couples who conceive using donor sperm or embryos, giving same-sex couples the same rights to parenthood as heterosexual couples when registering their child's birth.

  • The 'need for a father' test

A previous legal requirement upon fertility clinics to consider the 'need for a father' before granting treatment routinely encouraged lesbians to make informal arrangements outside the safety and protection of formal healthcare. From 1 October 2009, clinics are required to consider the need for 'supportive parenting'. This will help to ensure lesbian couples are not unfairly discriminated against.

For more info see the Parenting section of our website.

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