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More and more individuals are using the internet and more specifically, co-parenting websites, to locate others to conceive a child with them. Usually, via artificial insemination.
Websites such as Co-Parents.co.uk, Co-ParentMatch.com and PollenTree.com specialise in introducing couples who can’t or haven’t had the opportunity of conceiving naturally. The various websites now have thousands of members who are looking for a platonic relationship with someone who can mother/father their child.
The websites also cater for those women who want a sperm donor rather than an involved “co-parent”. Unlike obtaining donor sperm via a fertility clinic, the woman would get to meet the donor in advance as there would be no constraints as to anonymity. This approach is becoming more common as women are putting their careers before marriage and starting a family. If they feel the pressure of their body clock but have not yet met a partner, finding a donor on a co-parenting website may look like an attractive option.
The platform is a little like a dating website, whereby members upload their profile, sometimes including a picture, and some information about themselves.
There is a degree of scepticism and criticism surrounding such arrangements. Harry Benson, the research director at the Marriage Foundation said it is “spectacularly selfish to time-share a child like some designer appendage”.
There are also legal implications to consider, and it is concerning that many individuals using these websites do not take legal advice in advance or before conception. For example, whether a male is treated as the father of a child may depend on whether the couple underwent artificial insemination at a licenced clinic, and in particular, whether the couple followed certain steps in signing parentage forms or not. Clearly, the intentions of both parties needs to be discussed at the outset so that they are both aware as to whether the father wishes to be classed as a legal father, with all of the parental rights and responsibilities which come with that.
By contrast, if the insemination takes place at home, for example, by using a home insemination kit, both parents would have equal parental rights, despite their intentions. Some of the websites actually offer to provide a home insemination kit as part of the service. Therefore, the single woman who wants to start a single parenting family, may end up in a situation where the father seeks to exercise his legal parenting rights at a later stage, which she did not anticipate.
It is highly important for anyone considering using the co-parenting websites or using artificial insemination as a method of conception to seek legal advice at the earliest possible stage, to limit the potential for disputes in the future.
The family law solicitors at Myerson LLP provide specialist advice on co-parenting, artificial insemination and surrogacy. Please contact 0161 941 4000 to speak to one of our solicitors.