ITV This Morning: The CSA & Sperm Donors

Children|Family Law|November 1st 2012

Earlier this week, I blogged about the gay man who twice donated sperm to help a lesbian couple have children, and who has now been ordered to pay child maintenance by the CSA.

Today I appeared on ITV This Morning alongside Mark Langridge, the man in the middle of this story, to discuss his circumstances and the law with presenters Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford. I was pleased to receive a tweet from Child Maintenance Options, the free advice service provided by the Department for Work and Pensions, afterwards:

Here is Mark Langridge’s case in summary. The mother of his biological children was not in a civil partnership and not married. It is therefore the case that he is considered to be the legal parent along with the birth mother.
Back when both children were conceived, unless the conception had taken place at a licensed clinic, he would still be judged their biological and legal parent. That remains the case today. However, at that time the clinics were required to consider the desirability of a male being part of a child’s life and therefore many clinics were able to refuse treatment to single women or lesbian women with partners.

However the law has since changed in those respects and in others too. Civil partnerships and adoption by cohabiting couples – gay or straight – and adoption by couples in a civil partnershipwere all introduced into law in December 2005. In April 2009 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act  (HFEA) 2008 also came into force. This permitted registration of same sex couples, in certain circumstances, as parents. Mr Langridge benefitted from none of these changes because the two women concerned never entered into a civil partnership, and never applied to adopt the children. The “second parent” never did acquire parental responsibility or adopt the children and was able to leave the relationship without liability to the children. So he remains in law, their father. Unfortunately, too, as I explained on the programme, the law cannot be applied retrospectively.

A child’s legal parents remain that child’s legal parents, even if the relationship between them subsequently breaks down.

If Mr Langridge were to donate sperm tomorrow, to two people who are married or in a civil partnership, then the birth mother and her civil partner or husband would be considered the legal parents of the child, not Mr Langridge. If, however, the arrangement remained a private one, taking place between a cohabiting couple, he would still be the father. Only if conception took place at a licensed clinic in accordance with the HFEA Code of Conduct would he be treated as a mere donor and not the father. He might however be identified as the donor father when a child reaches 16 because the clinic must disclose all details it has about him, and at 18 this includes his name and address.

As to the involvement of the CSA on the application of the mother, which caused Mr Langridge such concern, the Child Maintenance Group at the Department for Work and Pensions has contacted me this week, to provide further clarity on the legal position:

“The law has been updated to include new rights and responsibilities for same-sex couples who choose to have children together. If certain circumstances are met, both female partners can now be treated as the parents of a child – and therefore responsible for paying child maintenance after a separation.

“In those limited circumstances a man donating sperm to the couple should not be treated as the father for legal purposes. The case in question dates from before the legal changes in 2009, when only anonymous sperm donors at licensed clinics were exempt from being treated as the father. The changes in the law cannot be applied retrospectively.

“It is still vital that anybody considering sperm donation should take independent legal advice on the possible consequences of their actions.”  

For additional information about donation and the law, visit the Stonewall website, which is an extremely useful resource for would-be donors and parents. A Guide For Gay Dads leaflet (PDF) can be downloaded here, with an excellent diagram on pages 26-27, setting out the various scenarios and their legal implications.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. DT says:

    So sad. I know the law has now changed, but through no fault of his own, Mark has found himself in an invidious position. Poor guy.

  2. Mrs Sarah Lewis says:

    I was appalled by the biased, prejudiced piece on sperm donation on yesterday’s episode of this morning. The implication of the discussion was that if you are an altruistic donor you will have to pay maintenance to any children produced. Whilst the legal information was factually correct in this particular case, the tone of the conversation was that it was true for all altruistic donors.
    It’s unfortunate that Mr Langridge is in this difficult position, however as you know the law cannot distinguish between this, and say a couple who had a brief affair, as the conception occurred at home. So while CSA payments may be sought for those who have ad-hoc arrangements, it is certainly not the case for altruistic donors who go through HEFA regulated clinics. I myself have donated my eggs in this way and it gives me great joy to know I have brought happiness to a woman who cannot use her own eggs. It’s disappointing to see the gift of altruistic donation poorly portrayed, when actually it is a wonderful and rewarding act.

  3. jenni says:

    hi my husband has son age 12 and we pay over £200 month to the ex for the son my point is SHE dose not maintaine him as he stays with his gran her mother , which is only few streets away .
    this is very frustrating as WE no shes not maintaing him , food wise ,clothes ect but maintaing her drink problemwe have been on to csa buut they say its up to the gran to put a claim in .
    is there anything else we can do ??
    as i dont see why she should be geting this money .

  4. Name Witheld says:

    Hi i will start with the fact i am a father of two and have aways payed for my kids for the first few years it was cash to my ex then after my sister sugested that was wrong due to her claiming income support i contacted the csa in 2009 MY GOD WHAT A MISTAKE handed over all my details and then the nightmare started i have 2 kids from my marrage not the two kids that i am bound by law to pay for that are adoped and were in 2006 my ex wife caimed money that she was not entitaled to it took the csa 1 year to sort out then when they did they gave half of it to my ex saying it was the money that was owed i got 260 pounds back I have not seen my kids for nearly 3 years HOW IS THAT FAIR all i here is how hard dunby the single mums are but never the fathers that want to pay

  5. mr neil haines says:


  6. Colin Mckenzie says:

    I have a daughter age 11 that I have to a previous relationship (& she means the world to me)& I pay £200 per month. I have 2 daughters that live with my wife & I am a car salesman. The CSA say the more I earn the more I have to pay my ex so if I want the good things in life for my family I can’t have them. But my ex who is also married to an electrician can go on the holidays they want while we have to scrape by. They say she can be a millionaire & not need the money but I would have to give everything. They take nothing in to account to do with the ex but the other family has to suffer. CSA have no common sense or morals & this bully & dictator is allowed to continue doing what they do even after men have killed themselves over this very thing. I hold no hope of our government stepping in & making it reasonable for both party’s.

  7. Tristan says:

    It’s pretty outrageous that no means test is applied to a relatively well-off parent with care and that an obnoxious agency, the CSA, can unjustifiably squeeze an NRP’s income in this way. Such obvious injustice while politicians stand idly by if they’re not actually shouting feckless!

  8. Andrew says:

    I would advise any young man, however altruistic, not to do it even at a licensed clinic. He will run the risk that twenty years alter his life will be disrupted by a youngster turning up at the door and saying Hi, Dad. There will be no legal claim but I can imagine the man being the victim of moral blackmail – and it will only take one high-profile case of a wealthy donor and an impoverished youngster and the law will be changed, quite possibly retrospectively.
    I knew a man conceived by donation over sixty years ago who was one of the campaigners for the abolition of anonymity. He told me that what what had been achieved (which was the the children of future donations should be entitled to know who the donor was at 18) was good but not enough. He wanted it retrospective, at least where records exist – an idea which I found then and find now appalling.
    If you want to do something altruistic with your body, become a blood donor and carry an organ-donation card. Don’t give your gametes.

  9. Andrew says:

    I cannot resist adding this. On the South Coast there are a great many TEFL schools – and the young men who attend them are all very successful with the ladies, and very fertile, especially Poles with long names in their last weeks there. How so?
    I was told by an official of the CSA as was that every little accident born within ten miles of that coast is blamed on a boy from one of these schools who’s gone back to Poland now, she doesn’t know his address, and she couldn’t say his name, it was long and all z’s and x’s, so she just called him Mike . . . checkmate for the CSA!

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