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Frequently Asked Questions
Fertility & Surrogacy

If you are going through assisted reproduction or you are involved in the surrogacy process, you are likely to have lots of questions. These are some questions that our clients frequently ask. 

Surrogacy raises complex questions about British nationality and immigration law. UK immigration law applies to those who are resident in the UK, regardless of whether they are British citizens, EEA nationals or permanently resident in the UK. There are various ways a surrogate born child can obtain British nationality and a British passport to include: by birth, by descent, registration as a British citizen, upon the grant of a parental order in certain circumstances.

Modern families and those built through assisted conception, donor conception, and surrogacy create complex legal issues under English law. The law is not always a ‘good fit’. It does not always legally protect parents, children, donors and surrogates in their home or destination countries. This can create unforeseen issues and outcomes and generate international conflicts of law, possibly leaving parents and children without legal status and recognition.Vardags can support you with specialist legal advice on citizenship, nationality, and immigration law in the UK, and legal parental status (legal parenthood and parental responsibility) if questions are raised by a doctor, health visitor, nursery staff, teacher, or border official.

If circumstances change during a surrogate pregnancy, it is important to proactively manage the legal and practical issues as soon as they come about. Circumstances can change at any time for a variety of reasons, such as relationship breakdown between intended parents, change of heart by a surrogate, communication problems and expectation differences between the parties, illness or medical complications, professional or financial difficulties.We understand how difficult this can be, and acknowledge the need to act quickly and carefully. We can provide specialist tailored legal advice on surrogacy law in the UK and internationally, family law advice for modern families created through surrogacy and assisted conception following relationship breakdown (including divorce and financial proceedings, cohabitation law, and civil partnership dissolution), and preparation of a ‘family proof’ Will.

Co-parenting is generally understood as a parenting arrangement in which the parents are not romantically involved. As a child can only have up to two legal parents in English law, this can create issues around who will obtain legal parenthood in multi-adult cases and who will be named on the child’s birth certificate. Legal problems can also occur around the acquisition and exercise of parental responsibility for the child, which governs decisions for the day-to-day welfare and upbringing of the child.A written co-parenting agreement, tailored to your situation, is an important tool if you are entering a co-parenting arrangement. It will establish the ground rules for helping manage the complex legal aspects in practice, as well as the expectations involved. Whilst the court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child, a co-parenting agreement can be of important evidential benefit of what was intended, understood and agreed between the parties.

Fertility add-ons are treatments offered by UK fertility clinics claiming to boost the chances of having a successful pregnancy or baby. They are optional extras that are offered on top of normal fertility treatment and usually at an additional cost. Add-ons are highly controversial because, despite being emerging techniques with little or no proven evidence of success, the use of them in clinical practice has increased exponentially. These can range from £50 for a single screening blood test to as much as £8,000 for egg freezing packages.

The donation of eggs or sperm by a family member is known as inter-family donation. It provides a genetic link between the recipient and the child (unlike conception with arms-length donated eggs or sperm), which can be an important driving factor in some cases.To prevent consanguinity (incest), there are legal restrictions as to the mixing of eggs and sperm between close relatives. However, inter-family donation is permissible in some cases at UK fertility clinics.

Conception with donor eggs creates a range of medical, legal, emotional, financial and practical issues which require careful consideration. Specialist legal advice is an important safeguard in the fertility treatment and family building process. We can provide bespoke and comprehensive legal advice on all egg donation law, in the UK and internationally, including where your personal circumstances are complicated (including egg swapping as a same-sex couple, relationship difficulties or breakdown, change of circumstances and international aspects). We can also prepare a ‘family proof’ will following egg donation.

Donor sperm can be used to conceive in various ways, including at a UK fertility clinic, by private arrangement or at a fertility clinic overseas.The law is complex and can apply differently depending upon your relationship status (whether you are single, married or in a civil partnership at the point of conception), how you conceive (artificial inception or sexual intercourse), where you conceive (at a clinic or at home), and who is named on the child’s birth certificate.

If you conceive with a sperm donor by private arrangement outside of a UK fertility clinic, the donor could be considered the legal parent of the child with all the rights and responsibilities that flow from this. Complex legal issues also arise if you conceive privately through a straight surrogacy arrangement (where the surrogate conceives with her own egg). The law can apply differently depending on your relationship status (whether you are single, married, or in a civil partnership at the point of conception), how you conceive (artificial conception or sexual intercourse), who is named on the child’s birth certificate, and whether the donor will have/has an established relationship with the child. Given all of these variables it is important to obtain specialist legal advice.

The decision to embark upon treatment at a fertility clinic is not risk free. Although many experiences lead to positive outcomes, fertility treatment can create complex legal and medical issues, such as: problems with consent forms (incorrectly completed, lost or mislaid) which govern the procurement, storage, and use of eggs, sperm and embryos; loss, destruction, or wrongful use of eggs, sperm, or embryos; problems with fertility treatment, tests, and medication; refusal, restrictions, or delay in providing treatment.Vardags can provide you with experienced and specialist legal advice on resolving a fertility law dispute with a clinic, expert witness services for fertility, parenting, and surrogacy law following clinical negligence, and fertility treatment law in the UK.

When difficulties or disputes arise between an egg or sperm donor and the recipient, it can create a range of legal, medical, and emotional issues. This might lead to you wanting to withdraw consent to their use of eggs, sperm or embryos. A dispute could also develop during treatment, pregnancy or after the birth of the child, and could lead to contested court proceedings over the care and upbringing of them.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) issues guidance to UK fertility clinics which requires them to ensure you understand the issues and give informed consent to fertility treatment. In order to comply with their licence requirements, UK fertility clinics can therefore require you to obtain specialist fertility, donor conception, surrogacy and family law advice to understand the complex legal issues, implications, and outcomes before offering treatment.In line with this, Vardags can provide sensitive, experienced, and tailored legal advice on family building law advice for fertility patients in the UK internationally (including family building options, fertility preservation, IVF law, donor conception law, and surrogacy law), and fertility treatment law in the UK (including informed consent to treatment).

Women are born with a finite number of eggs that decrease in quantity and quality with age, which can make it difficult to conceive in later years. Egg freezing can help a woman try to preserve her fertility, however, it does not guarantee a baby, and it can create complex legal issues. If you are considering this route, expert legal advice an important safeguard in the fertility treatment process.

Conception with a known donor can provide a more personal dimension to your family building arrangement, however, it can also create risks in practice because the parties are known to each other. Changes of heart, disagreements and changes of circumstances can have an impact on your overall legal position, particularly after the birth if the donor has established a relationship with the child.To protect yourself against these risks, you should seriously consider entering into a carefully written known donor agreement. If you do, the English Family Court can take this into account if a dispute arises. Whilst the court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child, your known donor agreement can be important evidence, clearly illustrating what was intended, understood, and agreed between you and your donor.

There are a number of ways to donate eggs including: to a donor egg bank, to a female relative, friend, contact or as a straight surrogate (who donates her own egg as well as carries the pregnancy). We know that, as an egg donor, you are entering into an intricate and emotional situation. In a number of cases there are added layers of complexity, for example, where you are a known donor, engaging in an egg-swapping arrangement as a same-sex couple, or where there is an inter-family donation.

The law surrounding sperm donation is complex in the UK and can apply differently depending on a number of different factors, such as whether the woman who is conceiving is single, married, or in a civil partnership at the point of conception, whether conception takes place artificially or via sexual intercourse, whether conception takes place at a UK clinic or by private arrangement, who is named on the child’s birth certificate, and whether as a donor you will have an established relationship with the child.

When your relationship is in its early stages with a new partner, it can raise complex issues about legal status, day-to-day arrangements, and care of your existing or future born child. It is important to consider a number of questions with regard to legal parental autonomy, legal parenthood and parental responsibility, as well as financial and emotional issues. In addition, you should undertake a legal risk analysis as well as other proactive steps to ensure a strong legal basis for the future.

Under UK Surrogacy law, legal parenthood and parental responsibility for a surrogate born child initially fall on to the surrogate and her spouse. As an intended parent, you must therefore apply for a parental order to reassign this legal status from the surrogate and her spouse to yourself and to extinguish all of the legal status of the surrogate and spouse. This is the bespoke legal solution for surrogacy in the UK.

Posthumous conception is legal in the UK, but it is highly complex and needs to be dealt with carefully. There are stringent legal requirements governing the procurement, storage and use of eggs, sperm and embryos following death, especially with regards to consent.English law expects you to have secured written, signed consent for the storage and use of eggs, sperm, and embryos after death. Ideally, you should proactively complete a series of consent forms that are available at all UK fertility clinics because consent cannot usually be obtained retrospectively after death.

Co-parenting is generally understood as a parenting arrangement in which the parents are not romantically involved. When a relationship with a co-parent becomes strained or falls into dispute it can create complex legal issues under assisted reproduction and family law in the UK. It can trigger a wide range of questions about legal status, identity, and parenthood for a child, acquisition and exercise of parental responsibility, care, upbringing, and financial provision for a child. Relationship difficulties can also highlight differences in outlook and expectations in life, and communication problems.A tailored co-parenting agreement can help you to identify and manage these complex legal issues and can be of important evidential benefit in the event of any subsequent court proceedings. We can provide you with sensitive and specialist legal advice on co-parenting law in the UK and internationally, and the merits, content, and preparation of a tailored co-parenting agreement.

When a relationship with a donor becomes strained or falls into dispute, you should take careful consideration and management of the legal and wider issues involved. At this stage, an understanding of donor conception law in the UK and its application internationally, including the legal status of your donor, is particularly important. It is also important to understand and proactively manage the legal issues associated with the care and upbringing of any donor conceived child.

When relationships with family members become strained or fall into dispute it can create complex legal and emotional issues, particularly where children, inter-family donation and financial matters are involved. It is important for you to understand the legal issues so that you can carefully manage relationships and ensure the best outcome for you and the child.

When a relationship with a parent falls into difficulties or dispute it can create complex legal issues about current and future arrangements for a child, particularly following assisted conception, donor conception, and surrogacy. This can include problems surrounding a child’s legal identity, legal status of the parents and child, acquisition and exercise of parental responsibility for the child, financial provision for the child, and arrangements for the day-to-day care of the child.We can provide sensitive and specialist legal advice on resolving a family and fertility law issue or dispute with a parent, and arrangements for the care and upbringing of a child including child arrangements order, specific issue order, prohibited steps order, special guardianship, wardship, and adoption.

When surrogacy arrangements fall into dispute it can be immensely distressing. We can secure and protect legal status for a surrogate born child through legal proceedings including assisting you with obtaining court orders such as parental orders, child arrangements orders, wardship, conferral and restriction of parental responsibility, specific issue, prohibited steps, special guardianship, adoption, and financial provision orders.Vardags can provide you with sensitive, experienced legal advice on managing and resolving legal issues or a dispute with a surrogate, legal parenthood, and acquisition and exercise of parental responsibility for a child conceived through surrogacy.

Surrogacy is a legal but restricted practice in the UK. Surrogacy contracts are not legally enforceable in the UK and arrangements are based on trust and goodwill. Some foreign countries ban surrogacy and others permit it on a commercial basis with legally enforceable surrogacy contracts. The legal issues and process differ depending upon whether you enter into an altruistic UK surrogacy or a commercial surrogacy overseas.We can discuss options with you and provide sensitive, experienced and bespoke legal advice and assistance on family building law advice for those considering or embarking upon a surrogacy arrangement with assisted conception in the UK or abroad. We can also advise on how to navigate a safe path home after the bird of a surrogate child overseas, how to apply for a parental order for a surrogacy born child, and what to do in the absence of a parental order.

Specialist fertility, parenting, and family law advice can help you in a number of ways, including managing and mitigating the legal risks and issues involved, helping you to understand what would happen legally and practically if family life doesn’t go to plan, and legally restructuring arrangements for your family following relationship breakdown or a change in circumstances.

There are no international agreements governing surrogacy arrangements. This creates international conflicts of law and a legal patchwork effect around the world which can be compounded when intended parents and families formed through surrogacy have an international lifestyle or multi-jurisdictional aspects to their personal and/or professional situations.English law applies its own law on surrogacy and does not automatically recognize foreign parentage orders or foreign birth certificates naming intended parents as the parents of their surrogate born children. This can make a surrogate born child ‘stateless and parentless’ without recognised legal parents and status in a country.

There is no international harmonisation of law, policy and practice. Some countries will not provide fertility treatment or surrogacy to same-sex couples and single women. Some countries do not allow fertility treatment with donor eggs or sperm. Furthermore, law and policy on surrogacy differs widely, with some jurisdictions prohibiting it whilst others enable it on a commercial or altruistic basis.

The law applies differently depending upon whether you conceive naturally or by assisted conception. Every person’s situation is different and requires tailored legal advice on the legal issues, implications and outcome in their case.Legal and practical issues can arise at any point for families created through assisted conception, whether this be at the point of conception, at the point of birth, when crossing international boundaries, upon relationship breakdown, upon death, or as a result of changes in law and policy.For aspiring families this can be immensely daunting, which is why we offer family building law advice sessions for those at the beginning of their journey. Vardags provide specialist legal advice on the full range of options available to you, such as fertility preservation law, IVF law, donor conception law, surrogacy law and co-parenting law.

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