A child can only have two legal parents under English law. This does not, however, preclude others from acquiring alternative legal rights and status for a child to include: parental responsibility, child arrangements order, guardianship.

Legal parenthood provides a legal parent-child connection which governs: inheritance, financial provision for a child, citizenship, bringing and defending court proceedings in relation to a child and a child's legal identity. Legal parenthood is different from parental responsibility.

Legal parenthood raises complex legal issues for modern family forms, particularly families created through assisted conception for example:

  • a solo mother conceiving with a known donor may not have sole legal parenthood for her child 
  • a known donor may have unwanted legal fatherhood and financial responsibility for a child
  • a surrogate mother and spouse will be a surrogate born baby's legal parents at birth
  • an intended parent may not have legal parenthood for his/her biological child at birth
  • a non-birth lesbian mother may not have legal parenthood for her child at birth
  • a co-parent and biological parent may not have legal parenthood for their child at birth

How we can help you

We provide innovative and specialist legal advice on:

  • acquisition and protection of legal parenthood (e.g. to protect non birth lesbian mothers, co-parents, solo mothers and fathers, same-sex couples, intended parents through surrogacy)
  • managing a dispute about legal parentage for a child
  • an application for a parental order following surrogacy
  • an application for an adoption order
  • acquisition and exercise of parental responsibility for a child
  • financial provision for a child
  • content and preparation of a co-parenting agreement 
  • content and preparation of a known donor agreement
  • preparation of "specialist family proof" wills

To find out more about our legal services click here.

Find out more about children and family law in the UK in our resource hub.

Gain an understanding of wider issues in the development of and current issues surrounding children and family law in the UK and internationally. Click here to visit our Media and Publications section. 

Arrange a meeting with Louisa Ghevaert, Partner and Head of the Fertility and Parenting Team at Michelmores: email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com or telephone +44(0)207 7886382.


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