All cases involving parental orders for children born abroad must be allocated to the High Court, a judge has ruled.
Re Z concerned a commercial surrogacy arrangement between a British couple and a woman in India. Following in vitro fertilisation, non-identical twin girls were born in May last year. The commissioning couple then applied for a parental order transferring the legal status of parent from the surrogate mother to them, as required by section 54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.
However, due to problems with the twins’ travel documents, the couple were unable to bring them back to the UK until May this year, and the delay was partly attributed to the fact that their case had not allocated to a High Court judge.
The couples were eventually granted their parental orders in July, but the accompanying judgement has only just been published. In this, Ms Justice Russell included guidance on handing cases of a similar nature in the future.
In addition to stating that such cases must be handled by High Court judges, she declared the child’s welfare must be properly assessed by a court official through a face-to-face meeting with the commissioning couple in each case, unless there is a sufficient quantity of independent evidence available or some other significant reason why a meeting cannot take place.