As another high-profile couple choose to expand their family through surrogacy, we asked Bethan Cleal from our Winchester office to join us on the blog to look at surrogacy and the law in the UK.
Bethan, who recently joined Stowe Family Law, is a specialist in domestic and international surrogacy arrangements.
I was pleased to hear the news last week that Robbie Williams and Ayda Fields have expanded their family through a surrogacy arrangement. Their baby girl, Coco, is biologically linked to both Robbie and Ayda but was carried by a surrogate. They are not the only celebrity couple to have built their family in this way, with Tom Daley and Lance Black welcoming a little boy earlier this year by way of a US surrogacy arrangement.
It is great to see an increase in awareness about surrogacy, and it is important to know that surrogacy is not just an option for the super wealthy and famous. There are lots of different destinations which are accessible to UK parents and these range from the US to Ukraine, but there is also the possibility of going through surrogacy in the UK and the budget required for each of these options varies significantly.
The important thing to understand is that no matter where in the world a child is born through surrogacy and the legal position in that jurisdiction, the law in the UK still applies to UK intended parents (i.e. the couple who are commissioning the surrogacy arrangement). The woman who gives birth to a child is the legal mother, which means in a surrogacy context, the surrogate will be recognised as the child’s legal mother until such time her parental status is discharged. If she is married, her husband or wife will be recognised as the child’s second legal parent. This means that the intended parents are left in a legal limbo in which they are caring for their own biological child that they do not have a complete legal relationship with.
The UK legal solution to this position is a parental order. This is a post-birth court order which completely extinguishes the status of the surrogate and her husband and reassigns parenthood to the correct individuals: the intended parents. The courts in the UK take the parental order process seriously. They are faced with removing parental status from one couple and permanently transferring it to another. As a result, the court process does take some time, usually between 4-12 months and there is no get-out for the celebrities. They too will have to attend court for 1 or 2 hearings and have a parental order made by a family court judge.
Parental order hearings are lovely occasions and are often incredibly emotional. By the time they have got to this point, couples have usually been planning this for many years and there are often very sad stories behind why surrogacy has become necessary.
It is always sensible to get legal advice from an early stage when thinking about surrogacy, as there are several criteria you will need to meet to be eligible to apply and a large number of documents the court will need to see to enable them to make the parental order.
Get in touch
If you are considering a surrogacy arrangement, or if you have already started your surrogacy journey, please do not hesitate to contact Bethan at Bethan.firstname.lastname@example.org
We would be very happy to support you in a way that works best for your growing family.