Fertility, parenting and family law in the world of on-demand fertility services

The pathway to parenthood is rapidly changing. The proliferation of websites and on-demand apps for smartphones and tablets aimed at fertility patients and prospective parents gives more choice than ever before. 'Tinder-style' apps like the London Women's Clinic sperm donor app and Just A Baby are now a reality.

The fertility sector has a global online and on-demand presence that is changing the face of parenthood and families. These websites and apps continue to break new ground. Their aim is to save people time, effort and make it quicker and easier to have a baby. The trend towards a technology driven, on-demand fertility sector is underway.

However, the needs and expectations of fertility patients, prospective parents and others using these services will continue to grow. Selecting a clinic, fertility treatment, partner, egg or sperm donor, co-parent or surrogate is the very first step along the journey to parenthood.  Conception and pregnancy is just the start. 

Becoming a parent is a lifelong commitment. Parents, children, donors, surrogates and families need legal clarity and protection. Law is evolving but it doesn't automatically meet the needs and expectations of modern families. There continues to be a 'disconnect' between law and practice.  Specialist fertility, parenting and family law advice is as an integral part of the parenthood journey but it risks being overlooked in this rapid on-demand approach to family building.

You don’t buy a home without legal advice so why take risks when creating a family? These are two of the biggest steps in life. Both raise legal issues about rights, responsibilities and access. Both need legal protection. Both require tailored specialist legal advice. You enter into a formal agreement when you buy a house so why wouldn't you draw up a tailored legal agreement with a co-parent, known donor or prospective parent? Why wouldn't you want specialist advice on surrogacy law when surrogacy contracts are not legally binding in the UK?

Undergoing fertility treatment is a big commitment. Patients are expected to give informed consent to treatment at UK clinics. They must sign consent forms governing their legal status and rights and responsibilities for their future children and family. Why leave these matters to doctors and nurses who are medically trained not legally qualified? Why would you pay for and store precious eggs, sperm and embryos without ensuring you fully understand the legal issues, implications and rights to use them in future treatment?

Modern families involving known donors, co-parents, surrogacy and assisted conception create added layers of legal complexity and potential problems. Added to this, the UK is among the highest rates of family breakdown in Europe. Cohabiting couples account for 19% of all couples but 50% of all breakdowns. Relationships can be strained by the demands of children and family, financial pressures, work, ill-health and lack of quality time together. Against this backdrop, why wouldn't you consult a specialist fertility, parenting and family lawyer to understand what will happen legally, financially and practically if family life doesn't go to plan, to mitigate the risks or restructure your family following relationship breakdown?

The world of online and on-demand fertility services seeks to make it quicker and easier to have a baby and create a family. Expert fertility, parenting and family law advice is an integral part of the parenthood journey.  It is not an 'add-on'.  It provides much needed clarity, protection and peace of mind. 

If you would like to discuss your situation or find out more about UK fertility, family and parenting law services contact Louisa Ghevaert by email: Louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com or by telephone +44 (0)207 7886382.