Gay Parenting: The Most Common Questions Answered

Thankfully we now live in far more enlightened times and there is no reason why gay and lesbian couples should forego the pleasure and satisfaction that parenting can bring.

Having a child to look after and watch develop is one of life’s greatest joys and if the opportunity exists and the circumstances are right, it should be grasped eagerly.

Being a parent is not always easy and for a gay couple there may be issues that would not be experienced by a heterosexual couple. There are also choices regarding the way in which a gay couple can have a child that have legal implications.

Before you embark on parenthood, however this is achieved, what are the likely issues and questions you might need to address?


Portrait of two young female lesbian couple with their baby


How can a gay or lesbian couple have a child?

  • Alternatively, sometimes one partner may already have a child or children from a previous straight relationship that has ended.

What is donor insemination?

  • This is when a woman is inseminated with donated sperm. However, using sperm from someone that you do not know can be risky. Therefore, it is best to use a licensed clinic or established sperm bank where the semen will have been tested for genetic disorders and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • If a couple are civil partners when the child is conceived the baby will be regarded in law as being “their” child and both will have parental responsibility.
  • The same will apply if non-civil partners use a fertility clinic licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, however, the arrangement must be formalised before conception takes place.
  • If the insemination arrangement is private, when the child is born only the birth mother will have parental rights if there is no civil partnership in force. The other partner will have to go through an adoption procedure to obtain parental rights.

What is co-parenting?

Co-parenting is a parental partnership where the two parties have no romantic attachment and will not be cohabiting or married. In some cases this can be two friends that agree to become biological parents. Alternatively, sometimes a gay person wanting a child will take to the Internet to search for a suitable co-parent. This method is growing in popularity and many websites now exist to help find an ideal parent.

Even for very liberal minded people this whole business can be difficult to come to terms with or understand, however, this is not just about the gay community.

Heterosexual individuals of both sexes are joining these websites because their biological clock is ticking and the chance of becoming a parent through meeting and forming a romantic partnership seems more unlikely as time passes.

Many individuals of both sexes are also busy pursuing a career and one day they realise that they are in their forties with no partner, no children and little prospect of becoming a parent. For them, co-parenting can be an ideal solution.

Co-parenting can also apply where one of the partners is bisexual or straight. The male is the sperm donor and upon the child’s birth, both parties will share the responsibility of raising the child and will have equal custody and rights.

What’s the best advice for successful co-parenting?

Before embarking on co-parenting it is advisable to check the legal implications. This can be a complicated business, as a co-parent is not regarded as having sole custody rights.

Much needs to be considered and discussed. How will the costs be met between the two parents and what part will the father play in the child’s upbringing? Decisions have to be made, such as what name will appear on the birth certificate; how will the child be educated, how will his or her health needs be catered for, do the parents agree on discipline methods? All of these points need to be thought about at the earliest stage possible.

Drawing up a formal parenting agreement is also advisable. This has no legal standing but it can be useful if a partnership breaks down and a court has to make decisions about a child’s future.

There are also psychological aspects to co-parenting that must be taken into consideration. Both parties must be fully aware of the implications of their arrangement if problems are to be avoided further down the line.

Can a same sex couple adopt a child?

  • In the UK it is legal for a same sex couple to adopt.
  • The normal application process applies via either an adoption agency or a Local Authority.

What is surrogacy?

  • When a couple have been unsuccessful in conceiving a child, another woman can act as the birth mother. She will conceive after insemination by the male partner’s sperm.
  • With a gay couple a choice will have to be made as to which partner is to act as the sperm donor.

Gay Parenting

In whatever way gay parenting is achieved it is a joyous event. There is no reason whatsoever why gay partnerships involving a child should be less stable or less loving than a heterosexual couple.

Love is, as is so often the case, the key element here. If there is plenty of love then the experience will be a joy, not only for the parents, but also for family and friends. The child, the most important person in all of this and they will grow and flourish in a loving and caring relationship.

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