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I’m considering having a child via assisted reproduction and I want advice on my options.

Choosing the right option for assisted reproduction is difficult, and will depend on a range of factors. Often people overlook the legal complexities, but it is important to get these right and to consider them from the outset. Failure to do so could have serious ramifications for you and your children.

The type of assisted reproduction you choose will have different legal requirements and implications, all of which could be important to deciding the route to take. Sometimes these may be limited by your own circumstances. You will also have to bear in mind the complexities which can lie ahead, including making sure your child is properly registered and all necessary paperwork is in place.

As a top family law firm, incorporating world-leading expertise in fertility and family law, Vardags can help you steer you through this complex process. We can advise you on the legal implications and procedures for different types of assisted reproduction and help you to lay proper foundations for your journey.

We have helped a range of couples and individuals in all manner of circumstances, providing vital family building information for those at the very start of their journey towards assisted reproduction. Whether you are clear in what route you wish to follow, or unsure about the whole process, we can provide impartial, effective advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

OUR Fertility & Surrogacy TEAM

Is Vardags Right For You?

We offer a free consultation to qualifying individuals. Please call our confidential enquiry line on 020 7404 9390. Lines are staffed 24 hours.

When you contact us a member of our client relations team will take the full details of your situation, assess whether we can assist you, and if so, determine the best team for your case. 

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