From April 6th, lesbian couples will automatically have both their names added to the birth certificate of children conceived following fertility treatment.
Currently, for heterosexual married couples undergoing IVF, the husband is automatically recognised as the legal father of any children born as a result of the treatment.
The change in the law means the same principle will apply for lesbian civil partners, so that the partner of the woman who gives birth will automatically be recognised as the legal second parent.
Part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, the changes will affect who can be registered as a child’s legal second parent, allowing anyone who gives their consent and is not a blood relative to be named on the birth certificate.
New consent forms will be used at clinics from this date and those allowing themselves to be named on the certificate as second parents agree to take on legal and financial responsibility for the child.
Consent must be registered before embryo transfer or insemination takes place.
The Act covers patients undergoing any fertility treatment that involves the use of donor sperm, embryos created using donor sperm or donor embryo, including donor insemination and IVF using donor sperm.
For lesbian couples using donor sperm, the law will recognise the woman who gives birth to the child as the legal mother, regardless of whose eggs were used.
If one partner donates eggs, she must register as a donor and sign a donor consent form.
The partner of the woman who gives birth to the child will be automatically added to the birth certificate as the second parent if the couple are in a civil partnership, unless the partner has explicitly stated she did not consent to the treatment.
Female couples who are not in a civil partnership may both register as legal parents as long as both consent to this.
However, the new law cannot be applied retrospectively and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has advised lesbian couples to postpone IVF treatment until April 6th to take advantage of the changes.
The law does not apply to women who are not married or in a civil partnership who choose to conceive with donor sperm at home.
The current changes will only affect women, although from April 2010, it will be possible for male couples who have a child through surrogacy to apply to the courts for a Parental Order which, if granted, will allow the birth to be registered showing both men as the parents in the Parental Order Register.