Updated: Dec 6, 2020
We are met with great interest when we talk about our family setup, especially by other lesbian couples who want to use a known donor. Our daughter has a great relationship with her donor. We are usually asked about the legalities and details of the setup, and how we have come to an arrangement that we are all happy with. In order to do this, we compiled a known sperm donor agreement between the three of us, prior to conceiving.
We asked our daughter's dad to be a donor about a year before we actually started trying- at this time we were part way through building our house and so didn't want to get pregnant too soon (I've heard it's not the best idea to go up ladders when pregnant!), and we also wanted to make sure we all had enough time to properly think it through before we started trying. We were so happy when he said yes, and started looking into the legal side of things.
In the UK, as long as the lesbian couple were married at the time of conception, the donor would not be on the birth certificate, and would therefore have no legal rights over the child*. This is what we all wanted- the donor (rightfully!) didn't want us to have a case to ask for money from him, and we didn't want him to be able to legally take our child from us. There was also the option of second parent adoption- where we would have the baby and then my partner (Nat) would have registered to adopt- my worry was that, if something happened to me before this adoption was granted, legally, the donor would be the child's legal parent, and that scared us all!
We didn't particularly want to get married at that time, and our minds and our money were all geared towards the house and the baby, so a wedding would have just added more to our stresses- so instead, we decided to enter into a civil partnership. We originally didn't want to tell anyone (because if we did that, we'd have to tell them we were trying, and we didn't want people to know that and stress us out asking if we were pregnant yet), but we eventually caved and told our close friends and family. We had a really basic ceremony, with just two witnesses. Legally, we were now all covered.
There was still doubt over how the actual relationship would be between the child and the donor- what would the donor be comfortable with? We were happy to facilitate their relationship, and we didn't really feel threatened by him- people have capacity to love 3 kids, so surely our child would have capacity to love 3 parents? We still wanted to iron out some of the uncertainties to prevent awkward conversations when we did fall pregnant- so we wrote up a known donor agreement.
The actual process of writing this agreement helped us to all work together, as a team, to work out what we felt would be best for everyone- including (and mainly prioritising!) the child(ren). Writing this agreement as a team really helped us all. We also tried to think about everything (although that's impossible!)- there were some details in the agreement that seemed insignificant at the time, but once our daughter arrived, turned out to be more significant. Open communication between all parties has been vital, not just at the agreement stage, but at every stage, particularly as the donor has continued contact.
I've written down a few things to consider that will hopefully help other when writing up a known sperm donor /coparenting agreement:
If either of you are planning on breastfeeding, you may not be in a position for the donor to have the child away from you, until a certain period of time has passed and breastfeeding has been established. It is hard to predict how breastfeeding, or expressing, will progress, and so you may need to consider this within the plan. We added in to our agreement that the first 9 months of contact would be assisted visits for this reason.
Relocation- if either of the parties are considering, or may consider in future, relocating, this should be talked about as soon as possible prior to conception. This could have a big impact on the decision that is being made (for us, this would have meant we wouldn't have gone ahead with our donor, as it was very important for us that our child would have a relationship with him).
Laws in your country / state- here (in the UK), at the time of our daughters conception, if a couple is married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception, both of them can be listed on the birth certificate. There are different laws in different countries, and some vary by state. We made this sperm donor agreement to iron out the details, the agreement (for us) was never intended to be legally binding (but if anything did come up in court, hopefully the agreement would help!). We trusted our donor, and he trusted us, enough to not have a legally binding agreement approved by solicitors, but I would advise to get a solicitor involved just to be safe.
You can read the agreement here- feel free to take a copy for yourself and make it work for you and your family!
*This was the law as at the time of our research, please check the current laws for your area