Practical Tips on Lesbian and Gay Co-Parenting

Breastfeeding for Co-Mothers

Both mothers in a lesbian couple can nurse their child. More in this blog post.

When lesbians and gay men create children together, the men sometimes acts as a mere donor; in other cases the adults agree to co-parent. Please consider the new rules for paternity after sperm donation.

Please note that a child can only have one or two parents under English law, never three or four. The rules do therefore often not reflect the reality of the situation.

On this page you will find some free practical tips on the following scenarios, all based on the assumption that conception will take place without intercourse:

Man is donor: mother is married or in a civil partnership

In this case, English law provides in most cases that the mother and her civil partner are the only parents (unless the wife or civil partner did not consent). However, there may be an evidential question because this depends solely on the question of whether the child was conceived through intercourse or through artificial insemination. If the insemination takes place in a clinic, there should be sufficient evidence. However, as is often the case, if the insemination take place at home, one or the other party could later claim that intercourse took place: the man could apply for contact with the child, for instance, or the mother could apply for financial provision or maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service.

Therefore we recommend in these cases that clear contemporaneous evidence is collated at an early stage so that this cannot happen later on. Please contact us before the first attempt to conceive and as early as possible to discuss the options.

Man is donor: mother is cohabiting with her partner

In this case the man will be the legal father of the child unless the conception takes place through a UK licensed fertility clinic. Therefore, if the intention is that the man should have no involvement, we recommend that the mother and her partner consider:

  • getting married or registering a civil partnership before the first attempt to conceive or
  • using a UK licensed fertility clinic or
  • if the mother has already conceived or the child has already been born: step-parent adoption at a later stage – please note that there is no guarantee the court will grant an adoption order and that the process is costly and intrusive.

We recommend that you contact us as early as possible to discuss the options with us.

Co-parenting: mother is married or in a civil partnership

In this case the mother and her wife or civil partner are legally the parents, unless the child was conceived through sexual intercourse or the wife or civil partner did not agree to the conception. In English law it is then not possible for the biological father to be the legal father. Assuming intercourse is not an option and the intention is that the biological father should have parental responsibility, we recommend that the adults consider applying to the court for a child arrangements order that the child live with all of them. In addition to the two mothers this will give the biological father parental responsibility, but it will not make him the legal father of the child. Please note that his makes an important difference.

In any case you should contact us to obtain legal advice as early as possible on your individual situation and the benefits and drawbacks of each option for you.

Co-parenting: mother is cohabiting

In this case the biological father is also the legal father of the child, but will not have parental responsibility unless he is on the birth certificate issued in England or Wales after 1 December 2003.

You will find more information on this on the page about parental responsibility in the children section of this website.

If you want to mother’s partner to become a legal parent of the child, the only way to do so would be by way of a later adoption, which is an intrusive procedure and there is no guarantee that the application will be granted. In any event, it would end the father’s paternity altogether. It would therefore not be the right course of action if the father is involved in the child’s upbringing.


18 May 2016 by Andrea Woelke