Donating to sperm banks can be a selfless means of helping a same-sex or infertile couple or a single person to have a baby, where they otherwise would struggle or be unable to. More recently, donations to female same-sex couples have seen an increase. However, some men who might consider donating their sperm may have decided not to because they feel unclear on what the legal implications for them might be.
Whether using paid or free sperm donors, if the donation is done through an HFEA licensed clinic, then the donor has no legal or financial rights or responsibilities for any child that is conceived using their sperm. On the flip side, many donations to same-sex couples or single women come from a male friend or acquaintance who offers to help on an informal basis. In many of these cases, there has been no legal arrangement put in place.
For female same-sex couples, there is also some confusion over who has parental rights to the child borne from a donation. If the couple have entered into a civil partnership before conception, both women are legally considered to be parents. However, when there is no civil partnership, it is only the woman bearing the child who becomes a legal parent.
When couples enter into a private arrangement with a donor, everyone might have verbally agreed what the conditions of that arrangement were to be. However, once the baby arrives, the donor (and/or the couple) might have a change of heart, so it is important to enter into such an arrangement knowing the full legal implications and rights of each party. In order to ensure that the situation is and remains clearly defined between all parties, an arrangement should be put in place that would be admissible in a court of law.