Like any new parents, same-sex couples are obliged to provide information about their child’s parentage after birth. Birth certificates and donor records for children born prior to the current laws can now be amended to reflect the reality of their legal parentage and donor information.

The Central Register records information about the people who are connected to births resulting from donation, including:

  • the donor/s
  • the woman who underwent treatment using donated gametes (egg or sperm) or a donated embryo, and her partner (if any), and
  • the donor-conceived person.

Information held about these people is specified in the ART Act regulations, and may include details such as their full name, date of birth and medical history, etc.

The Voluntary Register records a wide range of information that eligible people wish to lodge about themselves, including information like that held on the Central Register. Eligible people include the above parties, along with other people associated with a birth resulting from donation, such as half biological siblings of donor-conceived people and descendants of donor-conceived people. The application form for lodging information on the Voluntary Register includes questions, but the law does not prescribe the nature of information required. Each person who lodges details on the Voluntary Register decides what information to include and what information they want released.

Who lodges the information?

For children conceived using Victorian fertility services, BDM (Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages) receives their donor information from the treating doctor or clinic, and stores it on the Central Register. Those who conceive via home insemination (without involving a clinic, for example to provide screened, stored sperm from their known donor) must give BDM this information themselves. It is then recorded as part of the child’s birth record in the Registry, but not listed on their birth certificate.

When your child is born, you as their parent/s must register their birth with the Birth Registration Statement (BRS), which the hospital or midwife gives you. If you are a lesbian couple together at the time of conception – and thus both the child’s legal parents – you list both of you on the BRS. You will both be listed on the child’s birth certificate, the birth mother as ‘mother’ and the non-birth mother as ‘parent’. Prior children of the relationship can also be listed as siblings.

You send the BRS to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, along with a letter from the child’s donor/s addressed to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages. This letter must give the following details for the donor/s: full name, date of birth, place of birth, postal address, daytime phone number and email address. The donor/s must sign the letter and supply one proof of identity document (as listed in the BRS). Their details will not appear on the birth certificate. It is also up to donors to ensure their contact details remain up to date at the Registry.

Anyone associated with a birth resulting from donation can lodge information with the Voluntary Register, including donors, parents of donor-conceived people, donor-conceived people, half biological siblings and descendants of donor-conceived people.

Registering surrogate births

Following the birth of a child to a surrogate in Victoria, the surrogate and her partner, if any, must register the child’s birth with the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. As outlined in Options for prospective gay male parents, at the child’s birth the surrogate and her partner (if she has one) are the legal parents. Legal parentage must be transferred through a substitute parentage order: the commissioning parent/s apply to the County Court of Victoria at least 28 days, and no more than 6 months, after the birth of the child. If the Court approves the application it will issue a substitute parentage order to the Registry. The Registry will cancel the existing birth record showing the surrogate and create a new record showing the commissioning parent/s as the child’s parent/s, in accordance with the substitute parentage order.

For children conceived before the ART Act

If your children were conceived through a clinic before the ART Act came into effect in January 2010, their donor information is on the Central Register. The Register was then managed by the ITA, and is now managed by BDM. Thus, BDM are now responsible for managing your child’s donor information.

If your child was conceived outside a clinic (via home insemination) before the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment (ART) Act 2008 came into effect in January 2010, you should now provide information about their donor origins to BDM, even you have not previously done so.

If you listed your donor as ‘father’ on the certificate, he is currently assumed to be the legal parent. However, Victorian law, through the Status of Children Act, and federal law are clear that a donor is not a parent. Legally, the birth certificate should reflect the reality that you are the legal parent/s (and have parental responsibility) and the donor (however much contact he has with your family) is not a legal parent or father.

You can remove the donor’s name (and insert the non-birth mother’s name, if there is one), but will need a court order to do so. Your donor’s permission is not required. You cannot list all three of you, as children cannot have more than two legal parents. We strongly advise that you speak with BDM before taking action. See Recognising pre-existing families for information. Once the certificate is corrected, donor’s details will be held by the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriage, but will not appear on the child’s birth certificate.