Surrogacy is a viable option for parents who want to have children but who are unable to do so. Family law solicitors are seeing a rise in the number of intended parents and surrogates seeking legal advice. UK family law is not always clear on where both parties stand if there are disagreements during the pregnancy or after the baby is born, especially if the surrogate lives abroad.
Surrogacy is when a woman falls pregnant and carries a baby and gives birth for a couple who are unable to do so themselves. She may donate her own egg and be inseminated with sperm (known as partial surrogacy), or she may have an embryo created from the egg and sperm of the intended parents or other donors inserted via IVF.
Parents may choose surrogacy if the mother is unable to carry a child to term due to a medical condition, or if she has suffered multiple unexplained miscarriages. There are also a rising number of gay male couples using a surrogate mother to enable them to have children. Surrogacy may appear to be the perfect arrangement on the surface, but there are some ways in which agreements can fail, so it is best to seek family law advice before proceeding.
Legal Steps in a Surrogacy Arrangement
Unlike adoption, surrogacy is not a legally binding arrangement. Although you can have a surrogacy agreement drawn up before proceeding with the surrogacy – and family law solicitors recommend that you do – it will only help clarify expectations and help a judge reach a decision if a surrogacy dispute goes to court. It is for this reason that you should consider surrogacy and all its potential pitfalls very carefully before deciding if it is the right course of action for you.
It is illegal for a third party to profit from surrogacy in the UK, but the intended parents and the surrogate can agree on any fee they believe is appropriate. Most surrogates in the UK receive somewhere around £15,000 which aims to cover all expenses relating to the pregnancy. All costs are assessed and signed off by a court at the time the intended parents apply for the Parental Order which will make them the legal parents of the baby.
What if one Party Changes their Mind?
Under UK family law, the surrogate has the right to keep the child even if she is in no way biologically related to it, has signed an agreement, and has had all her pregnancy-related expenses paid for by the intended parents. Until a court agrees the intended parent’s request for a parental order, the surrogate is the child’s recognised mother with all legal rights that go along with that status.
Benefits of a Specialist Surrogacy Family Solicitor
There is a variety of ways which a surrogacy arrangement can fall apart. It is always best to seek legal advice to protect your interests. You will need to know the implications if your surrogate is married, as the surrogate and her spouse will the child’s legal parents until you obtain the Parental Order. You also need to understand the immigration laws that apply if your child is born to a surrogate who lives abroad.
A family solicitor who specialises in surrogacy will help make sure you are aware of your rights regarding surrogacy whether you are the surrogate or intended parents.
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