On this page we provide an overview of:
- The fertility journey
- Fertility treatment and genetic testing
- Donor conception and known donor disputes
- Pre-conception agreements
Sometimes families are created with a little bit of help.
Over the last couple of decades, Assisted Reproductive Technologies (such as IVF, surrogacy and donor conception) have played a major role in helping people to become parents.
Such treatments are most commonly known for their use by same-sex couples having problems conceiving. Their uses, however, are much wider than that. They are also commonly utilised by:-
- Single people who wish to become parents without a partner
- Patients diagnosed with cancer who are preparing to undergo rounds of chemotherapy, and
- Those who wish to avoid passing on hereditary conditions.
No matter what your reasons are for using assisted forms of conception, the worries faced by those involved are always the same. Waiting to find out if the process has been successful, the stress and physical toll of the treatments themselves, almost always combined with the worry about the costs involved.
Here at BTO Family Law we understand that you have more important things to think about during your fertility journey than what the law says. But what if your new family falls out with the current scope of the law? What if you need to take some extra steps to make sure your new children are adequately protected if something happened to you? What if you need to make sure you have parental rights and responsibilities when the child is born? Can you take time off work to attend appointments and what employment rights do you have?
Our specialist team are here to guide you through your fertility journey and can provide ongoing advice as matters progress so that you can navigate the legal landscape with ease.
At BTO we love modern families, and firmly believe that everyone should be able to create the family they desire. We support and fight for all families, no matter their make-up.
Getting early legal advice will allow you to be confident that you are on the right path every step of the way with one of our specialist fertility lawyers guiding you. We are the only firm in Scotland to offer a Fertility Fixed Fee Package which allows you to meet with us for an initial consultation in our Glasgow or Edinburgh offices (or over telephone or Skype/Zoom if you prefer). These initial consultations allow you to ask all of the questions you have about your journey and receive specialist advice tailored for your new family.
Fertility problems are estimated to affect one in six couples in the UK – approximately 3.5 million people and Scotland is a world-leader in acknowledging the impact of infertility on people’s lives.
Thanks to advances in reproductive technology, there are now many treatments available for couples experiencing difficulties in conceiving. There are also techniques available to prevent hereditary conditions being passed on to children (known as “genetic testing”).
Although there are a number of different treatments available, those most commonly utilised are:-
In Vitro Fertilisation (“IVF”) and Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injections (ICSI)
IVF is possibly the most well-known fertility treatment. It is a procedure in which a doctor will remove one or more eggs from the ovaries of the female patient and then fertilises them inside the embryology laboratory with sperm from an intended father or donor. Once successfully fertilised the embryos are then transferred to the uterus with the hopes of a successful pregnancy
More recently technologically advanced clinics have been utilising Intracytoplasmic sperm injections (ICSI) as part of the IVF procedure. ICSI is an additional step in the process where the embryologist injects a single sperm into the cytoplasm (the middle) of each egg. Once successfully fertilised and the embryo matures properly, the embryos are then transferred to the uterus with the hopes of a successful pregnancy. This treatment has been ground-breaking in treating male factor infertility cases.
IUI is often used by single women or same-sex female couples who are not directly experiencing infertility per se, but rather a lack of sperm. This involves tracking the development of the egg that is naturally released during a menstrual cycle and then introducing the donor sperm at the right time.
IUI can also be used by heterosexual couples where full IVF is not required. You may require to take medication alongside the treatment to encourage more eggs to be released simultaneously.
Frozen Embryo Transfer
Where required, it is possible to cryopreserve embryos for use at a later date. This is quite common for couples who require genetic testing (see further information below) or patients who have undergone chemotherapy or another course of medical treatment which runs a risk of leaving them infertile. Once ready the clinic can perform a frozen embryo transfer to allow a pregnancy to proceed.
For some, becoming pregnant is not the issue which they face on their fertility journey but ensuring that the resulting child is born healthy.
Many conditions which result in miscarriages or stillbirths are as a result of defects which occur during pregnancy. For a number of years, the UK has been at the forefront of using reproductive technology to establish ways to pre-screen embryos in at-risk patients prior to IVF implantation in order to reduce, or in some cases, completely eliminate, the risk factors.
These treatments allow doctors to analyse the embryos before they are implanted, making sure that the selected embryos are free from the inherited condition. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) dictates which conditions are allowed to be tested for. You can find the list of authorised conditions PGD Conditions.
When starting out on your fertility journey you may be wondering whether the law supports your new family. For information about your specific circumstances please see our parenthood sections or make an appointment to speak to one of our Family Law experts here. You can also obtain tailored advice from both our Employment and Private Client teams.
Every year, around 13,500 fertility treatments in the UK use donated sperm or eggs.
If you experience a complete lack of sperm, you can still achieve a pregnancy using donor sperm. Using donor sperm through treatment at a licensed UK fertility clinic carries very little risk with it. Due to the regulations in place, the donor will have had a number of medical checks completed. Licenced clinics are also able to import sperm from abroad.
If you are choosing to use donated sperm from a friend or family member they will also require to go through the same checks when donating through a licenced clinic so you can be sure that everything is safe. Using a clinic to do this means that not only is your donor tested for any underlying medical issues, but they will also be supported by the clinic’s counsellors and professionals who will explain the entire process to them. This helps to prevent things going wrong further down the line.
In the UK, it is illegal to pay a donor for anything other than expenses. The limit for sperm is £35 per donation or clinic visit.
We would always recommend going through an HFEA licenced clinic if you require to use donor sperm. There has been an increasing number of dubious websites which offer to match women with sperm donors without attending a clinic. Tempting though it may be to impregnate yourself without the use of a clinic to save costs, or any other reason, this course of action brings with it huge risks both legally and medically.
Using donor egg treatment is somewhat more complex than sperm donation in that it is required as part of an IVF procedure and cannot be done at home. This makes it legally less risky, as you will require to have the treatment performed in a licenced fertility clinic.
It is possible to use a known donor. It is important to remember that it is illegal to pay a donor for anything other than expenses. The limit for eggs is £750 per donation or clinic visit.
When a known donor is involved it is important that all parties involved are clear about each other’s expectations before the process begins. Where those expectations diverge (for example, if the donor expected to be involved in the child’s life when the parents did not anticipate that) you can end up in the middle of a dispute with them about this issue.
We always recommend involving a solicitor at the very start of the process in order to minimise the chances of disputes arising in the future.
We are able to provide pre-conception and known-donor agreements for a fixed fee which set out the framework which all parties are agreeing to, in order to minimise any potential for future court disputes.
Where matters have already escalated to the point of a dispute taking place, then we have a team of fertility law specialists who are all experienced litigators when required. We offer our fertility fixed fee package for all initial consultations regarding known-donor disputes.
Special Offer: Pre-Conception Agreement
Are you about to use a known donor to help make your family a reality? Do you want to make sure that everyone is clear about each other’s expectations?
Every day we deal with cases like yours either over the phone or via our offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh. We understand the process and pitfalls and can guide you through the entire process, making sure that your particular set of circumstances are considered and that nothing is presumed, overlooked or left unconsidered.
Don’t be fooled by cheap rates from online services.
We understand the process in detail and can complete the necessary paperwork quickly and accurately for you. No stress, no hassle.
Yes you can quickly download various agreements from online websites but do you really want to find out halfway with through the online process that there is something you’re not sure about or that you need more clarification?
We will get all the necessary information from you beforehand, complete the paperwork for you and you can tick the box ‘job done’ and look forward to your bundle of joy, knowing that everyone is clear about what is about to happen.
Our costs are very competitive and give you the peace of mind knowing that your case is being handled by fertility law experts who understand Scottish law intimately, meaning that you come out with the outcome you need, with no complications cropping up further down the line.
If you value your own time and want your agreement to accurately reflect your needs, we are able to offer this service for a fixed fee. The fee will cover meeting with you and obtaining your instructions; drafting an Agreement for you (the terms of which you shall have agreed in advance with your donor); sending the agreement to them for signature and having you sign same. Any additional work or negotiation of the terms of the agreement with your donor or their solicitors will incur additional fees.
If you have any other family law queries, please contact us to discuss how we can assist you.
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