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The UK Surrogacy Process

Surrogacy occurs where a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another person or couple. It is legal to be part of a surrogacy arrangement in the UK, however, any surrogacy agreement that is entered into between the relevant parties is not enforceable if the parties do not agree to voluntarily proceed with the arrangement at any point.

The woman that carries the baby is known as the surrogate. The parent(s) that are wanting to have the baby are known as either the intended or commissioning parents(s).

If you need advice or representation on any Children or Surrogacy Law matters, click below for a free initial consultation with one of our expert Children solicitors .



Who would consider surrogacy?

Surrogacy can be used by a couple who are having difficulty in conceiving a baby or where the woman is finding it difficult to carry a baby to term. Those that have had repeated in vitro fertilisations (IVF) that have not been successful may also consider surrogacy. It is also often used in situations where it would be a risk to the health of the woman to become pregnancy.

Another reason why surrogacy may be considered is for single people who would like to start a family but do not have a partner or same sex couples.

There are different possible arrangements for surrogacy, depending on whether the egg and sperm are going to be used from the couple wanting to have the baby.

Partial surrogacy

Partial surrogacy is where the surrogates egg is used and this is then fertilised by the sperm of (usually) the intended father. In this case the surrogate is the genetic mother. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority recommends in this situation that treatment is performed at a licensed UK fertility clinic.  This type of surrogacy is also known as gestational or host surrogacy.

Total surrogacy

Total surrogacy is where the egg that is to be fertilised is from either the intended mother or a donor. The egg is then fertilised, commonly by the intended fathers sperm. There is no genetic link with the surrogate mother in this case. This type of surrogacy is also known as traditional or straight.


Is surrogacy legal?

In the UK, commercial surrogacy arrangements are illegal, however, the surrogate mother does need to be reimbursed for any expenses associated with the pregnancy, such as maternity clothes, travel expenses to appointments and also any loss of earnings. Therefore, in addition to the costs of the actual IVF treatment, the intended parents will usually have to spend at least £10,000-£15,000 in expenses for the surrogate.


Do you need a surrogacy agreement?

This is not strictly necessary though it can help to have everyone agree their expectations in a written record. Whether or not the surrogate will be involved in the babys life after birth is something that can be considered and documented in this agreement.

However, such an agreement is not enforceable and the surrogate can change her mind and keep the baby, even if the baby is not genetically hers. Any money paid in expenses does not have to be repaid. The Family Courts can become involved to decide what is in the best interests of the child. It is also possible for the intended parents to change their mind. Both these cases are generally rare.


What are the rules surrounding parental responsibility?

Those with parental responsibility for a child are able to make decisions about the childs education, medical care, religion and lifestyle, as well as travel internationally. The surrogate mother, irrespective of whether she is genetically related to the child, is treated as the childs legal mother with parental responsibility.

If she has a spouse or civil partner, they will also have parental responsibility for the child and treated as their parent in the eyes of the law. The exception here is where it can be proved that the surrogates husband did not consent to the insemination.

The intended father that is the donor of the semen is the same as the position of a known artificial insemination donor. He is the genetic father of the child, but does not have parental responsibility if the surrogate has a partner. The intended (and possibly donating mother) does not have parental responsibility for the child.

If the surrogate is single, then the donor father becomes the second parent automatically at birth. However, if the donor is not the intended father then it is possible for the surrogate to nominate a second parent (this could be the intended mother or father). This must be done before the medical process begins.

How can parental responsibility be transferred?

There are two routes by which the court can secure the permanent transfer of parental responsibility from the surrogate mother to the intended parents. The first is by making a parental order under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. This is the most common route.

The criteria for a parental order to be made are:

  • The intended parent(s) must be over 18 years old
  • The intended parents must be married, in a civil partnership or living as partners in an enduring relationship. Since 3 January 2019, single intended parents can also now apply
  • The surrogate, and her partner if they are married on in a civil partnership, must give consent (no earlier than six weeks after the birth of the baby);
  • The child must have been conceived artificially and be genetically related to one of the intended parents, or the single intended parent if an individual applicant
  • The child must be living with the intended parent(s)
  • The intended parent(s) must apply within six months of the birth of the child
  • At least one of the intended parents in a couple, or the intended parent if an individual applicant, must be domiciled in the UK
  • The surrogate should be paid no more than reasonable expenses, unless authorised by the court

The courts paramount consideration is the childs lifelong welfare. The court will ask Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to provide a parental order reporter to help it make this decision.

If the application is granted, then the intended parents become the childs legal parents and the surrogate (and her partner) are no longer legal parents. A new birth certificate is then issued.

Where the above route is not possible, for example neither of the intended parents are genetically related to the baby, then it will be necessary to apply instead for an adoption order.

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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