Court warns of informal surrogacy dangers

Children|Divorce|Family|Family Law|March 6th 2014

A DIY surrogacy arrangement which resulted in an extended legal tussle has been dubbed “a cautionary tale” by the High Court.

The case concerned a woman unable to have children of her own. A friend agreed to be artificially inseminated with sperm provided by the husband of the first woman. The friend felle pregnant but doctors became suspicious when she checked into hospital to give birth, the Telegraph reports, and asked to see a formal surrogacy arrangement.

The couple’s relationship broke down shortly after the birth of a boy, now aged three. They also failed to register the first woman as the child’s legal mother within the six months required by section 54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

Without a parental order, the woman was left with no official role in the life of the child. The surrogate mother and the first woman’s husband are his legal parents.

At a High Court hearing earlier this week, Mrs Justice Eleanor King said she could not grant the woman a parental order because the six month time limit was “mandatory”, also ruling out adoption. The woman could never become the boy’s legal mother, the judge declared.

Instead the judge granted the woman and her former husband a residence order, saying that there were avenues available to provide her with some “security and recognition of her status”. Nothing else could be done, she said.

Mrs Justice King noted that the former couple had agreed to shared care arrangements “after several years of bitter recriminations and a complete inability to pull together for the sake of this much wanted child”.

The surrogate mother is still a family friend and regularly visits the boy. There was no immediate reason to believe she would use her legal parental responsibility for the child in an inappropriate way, the judge declared, but still ruled that the friend would require court permission to exercise those rights.

The boy would remain a ward of court. He could, said the judge, “now look forward to a secure and happy future with his care being shared between the two people he does and will continue to regard as his parents”.

The case highlighted the “real dangers” of informal and illegal surrogacy arrangements.

Photo by melfoody via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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