Parents saved after being told they weren’t legal parents of their child
A decision by the President of the Family Division of the High Court has thrown a lifeline to parents who had children by artificial insemination, but who were then told that due to administrative errors in the paperwork, they could not be legally recognised as the child’s parents.
Having heard evidence that he described as “some of the most emotionally challenging that I have ever heard as a judge”, Sir James Mumby made orders to rectify the errors made by a number of fertility clinics.
Clinics are required by law to compile specific details and obtain written consents at critical points in the process to ensure that parents can secure recognition in law. An audit by the regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, revealed that almost half the clinics it checked had made administrative errors, including forms being lost or incorrectly completed, despite previous warnings as to the serious consequences of such mistakes.
The judge referred to the devastating effect on parents who, after long periods of treatment, were able to have a baby but were then told they were not legally the parents. He referred to the situation as “alarming and shocking”.
The law on assisted pregnancy has become increasingly complicated as medical science advances the ways in which parents can be assisted to have children. Parents in such situations are understandably focused on the medical, rather than the legal, issues. This case highlights the crucial importance of obtaining clear legal advice on any form of assisted parenthood.
By Ian Downing, Partner