You might have read Bethan’s blog last Friday looking at fertility treatments and the law in the UK, in honour of National Fertility Awareness Week, a cause that rightly deserves the spotlight.
Fertility and relationships
Fertility treatments are a sensitive subject. It is said to affect 1 in 6 of us and raising awareness is a positive step to ensure that individuals impacted by it don’t suffer in silence.
As a specialist family law solicitor, fertility is something I have seen put pressure on an individuals relationships and marriages. Without the right knowledge and support, this can lead down to a breakdown in the relationship, particularly if one party is keen to have children.
Considering other options is a wise approach as IVF is not the only road to go down. I hope through this blog I can share some ideas to couples, or individuals, who are struggling with fertility.
Other options to IVF – fertility treatments
I have sadly seen failed fertility treatments or disagreements about having children quoted as reasons for a breakdown in a marriage.
When we think of difficulties with fertility, the majority of us think of IVF, which Bethan explored in her blog, but what other options are there?
There are medicines that can be given to help with ovulation, or surgical procedures such as fallopian tube surgery, laparoscopic surgery to assist those with endometriosis, fibroids or PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome).
There is assisted conception by way of IUI (Intrauterine insemination) and egg/sperm donation. We would advise that if you wish to consider any of these options you speak to your GP first.
There are, however, two options that are often forgotten about which we can advise you on, surrogacy and adoption.
Adopting a child
Last week was National Adoption Week and we saw Victoria, an Adoption Law specialist at our Esher office, talk about this process here. It is reported there has, in recent years, been a decrease in the numbers of adoptions in the UK. This is likely due to an increase in IVF success and surrogacy arrangements.
Adoption, however, is an option for those who want to give a home to a child, who for whatever reason, cannot be with their parents, or family members.
The other option we have here in England is surrogacy; one that is increasing in popularity, perhaps due to advancements in IVF and an increase in awareness, often bought about through celebrity cases hitting the headlines.
Parental orders made following a surrogate birth in the UK have tripled from 121 in 2011 to 368 in 2018 although the true number may be higher as there is no legal obligation to seel a parental order.
The legal process of surrogacy
A surrogacy arrangement can’t be put into a legally binding document in England (like it can in other countries such as America).
Under the current law when a child is born the surrogate mother is recognised as the legal mother and if she is married, her husband as the legal father. The intended parents (those who the surrogate has agreed to carry the child for) do not have any legal rights over the child when he/she is born. To gain legal responsbility they must apply for a parental order and this can take up to 6-12 months to be obtained. Read more on the surrogacy process here.
It is often agreed that the intended parents will care for the child from birth before the legal paperwork is put in place, but with no legal rights, if there is any medical treatment needed, they are unable to consent to this and would still require the signature of the surrogate mother/and father. Read more about parental orders.
The law on surrogacy in England is clearly out of date and needs to be updated. It was not until January this year that a single parent could make an application for a parental order.
Whether fertility is causing difficulties in your marriage, or you wish to consider one of the alternative options to make children part of your family, it can be extremely stressful. We always advise clients to get advice early on, therefore before you proceed with one of these options.
Get in touch
At Stowe Family Law, we have expert fertility, adoption and surrogacy legal specialist teams. Each team offers a personalised approach to help clients to build or extend their family whether that be with the assistance of a donor, adoption or surrogacy, both in the UK or overseas.
If you would like any advice on surrogacy, adoption and fertility law, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers here.