Judge slams Sheffield clinic for telling dad he must adopt his own baby

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A SENIOR judge has criticised a Sheffield fertility clinic after an administrative blunder left a man forced to go to court to be legally recognised as the father of his child.

Sir James Munby, the country’s most senior family judge, said it had taken CARE Sheffield months to apologise for the couple’s needless suffering.

The High Court in London heard that the parents, who have not been named, filled out a consent form in February 2009 but a change in the law, which came into force before the IVF treatment began in April 2009, meant it was no longer valid.

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This put in doubt the man’s right to call himself his child’s legal parent.

CARE Sheffield wrote to the couple in 2014 to highlight the issue - saying the said the only remedy was for the father to apply for an adoption order.

The man said he felt “total devastation” and was “numb and shocked” when he was told.

The judge added that the mum had been “beside herself” and “physically sick” after being finally notified.

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He ruled that the dad should now be formally recognised as the child’s father, ending his need to formally adopt the child.

The judge slammed the clinic, who took months to apologise to the couple, for their lack of support towards the couple after the error had been unearthed.

He said: “Unhappily, the couple did not receive from the clinic the support they were entitled to look for.”

The mother recalled being told by the clinic that her partner’s name should never had been placed on the birth certificate and the child’s father should have been put as “unknown”.

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The judge said: “They are critical of the clinic’s handling of the problem which, after all, it had created.”

The child’s court-appointed guardian said the clinic’s reaction to the blunder “appeared defensive and insensitive”.

Sir James said: “She described the comment about the birth certificate as ‘not only factually incorrect but most terribly hurtful’.”

The judge added that a letter sent by the clinic in June 2014 “contained not a single word of apology or regret”.

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The clinic in January 2015 issued what the judge described as an “anaemic” apology had happened.

The judge added: “The clinic’s behaviour is by no means the worst I have seen.

“But it was, nonetheless, seriously deficient and, in my judgment, deserving of the criticisms voiced by the couple and by the guardian”.

The judge ruled that the consent form signed by the couple in 2009 was sufficient enough to recognise the dad as the child’s legal parent.

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A statement from CARE said: “The change in the consent process in 2009 for couples using donor sperm or donor embryos for assisted conception has led to a number of legal parenthood issues across many clinics in the UK including CARE.

“We are sorry for the upset this has caused a small number of parents who have been impacted by this, are working hard to correct the administrative errors made and have reviewed our current processes to make them as robust as they need to be.

“We have supported those parents that need to seek a declaration of parenthood through the courts and are working closely with the Courts and the HFEA to facilitate this as quickly as possible.”