It is very important to understand the law in relation to legal parentage and the status of donors. Victorian law is clear that a donor is not a parent, but it also emphasizes children’s right to information about their donor origins.
A donor is not a legal parent
If you are a donor, even if you plan to have a high level of contact with the family and child/ren, you are not a legal parent or father. Victorian law, through the Status of Children Act, defines a child’s legal parent as the birth mother and her partner (if she has one). They are the only people who can be listed on the child’s birth certificate. To list anyone else is to make a ‘false declaration’. The exception is if the child was conceived via sex between you and the birth mother, in which case you are both legal parents, and the non-birth mother (if there is one) is not. Children cannot have more than two legal parents.
As a donor, you will not be held liable for child support or maintenance, and children have no rights to your estate, superannuation or insurance (except in very limited circumstances). Recognition of lesbian parents includes couples who were together when a child was conceived, but separate prior to or after the birth.
Legal recognition of your role in a child’s life
Victorian law strongly recognizes children’s right to information about their donor origins. Your role in the child’s conception must be recorded with the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. For children conceived via a clinic, the clinic gives this information to BDM for storage in the Central Donor Register. For children conceived via home insemination, you and the mother/s inform BDM. The mother/s fill in the Birth Registration Statement, and you write a letter, providing your contact details and proof of identity (see Donor information and registers). You are responsible for keeping your contact information up to date with the Registry.
In addition, Australian family law recognises and protects the relationships a child has with people other than their legal parents. Your role (and that of your partner, if you have one) in the child/ren’s life can be recognised and legally protected if you all wish. It is a good idea to make your own agreement about the role you (and your partner, if you have one) will have in the family’s life, although such agreements cannot be legally binding. You also have the option of formalising your arrangements by seeking a court order by consent (that is, without a dispute arising), to cover things like the agreed level of contact. There are costs, and many donors and families are happy with their own informal agreement, including a process for negotiating changes if needed, and for resolving any conflicts that may arise. See Thinking about it and making an agreement for ideas on what it might include.