Uncompensated surrogacy is legal in the UK and often much more achievable than people realise. Some intended parents engage a friend or relative as their surrogate; others engage with someone previously unknown either independently or through a non-profit surrogacy agency.
Compensated surrogacy (where the surrogate is paid more than out-of-pocket expenses) is outlawed if carried out in the UK and it is an offence to advertise that you are looking for a surrogate mother. Surrogacy arrangements are also unenforceable under UK law, although in practice they rarely go wrong.
UK citizens can conceive through an international surrogacy arrangement, with common destinations including certain US states, the Ukraine and India. Although foreign surrogacy arrangements can be easier to arrange at the outset and have some advantages, the legal issues need to be managed carefully.
English law does not automatically recognise your status as the legal parents even if you are named on a foreign birth certificate or court order.
You need to
· check what nationality status your child has at birth
· check what you need to do to secure the right paperwork to come home
· understand the steps to become the legal parents under UK law
· understand what your rights are in your destination country.
This is an increasingly well trodden path.
Things can get more complicated if you are
· in a multinational relationship
· are not British but intend to live in the UK
· are British and living or working outside the UK.
In such cases you need to determine your eligibility to apply for Parenting orders in a UK court, the impact on your child’s nationality status, and how best to manage the legal issues in all the countries with which you are connected. Careful planning is recommended.
Legal parenthood and birth certificates
Your surrogate mother is your child’s legal mother under English law, regardless of where in the world you conceive and regardless of what any foreign birth certificate says.
Who is treated as your child’s father/second parent is complicated, and depends on the circumstances, including biology and your surrogate’s relationship status. In some circumstances, the biological father might have no legal status under English law. It is also now legally possible for English law to treat an intended mother as the child’s second legal parent from birth in certain circumstances.
The following lawyers specialise in surrogacy-related matters
Natalie Gamble Associates (Natalie Gamble)
Dawson Cornwell (Ann-Marie Hutchinson)
Michelmores (Louisa Ghevaert)
Surrogacy Lawyers (Harjit Sarang)
A City Law Firm (Andrew Spearman)