Surrogacy: How it works and the legal aspects

The number of children being born through surrogacy each year has increased dramatically, almost quadrupling over the last decade and that number is expected to continue to rise. 

Disappointingly however UK surrogacy law is considered very much out of date and is now under review.

Currently the law is particularly complex and so it is crucial that anyone thinking about surrogacy takes legal advice early on to ensure they understand the process before getting started.

In her first article for the firm, Family Associate Olivia Le Masurier looks at how surrogacy works and the legal aspects.

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is an arrangement where a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a baby for an individual or couple who are unable to conceive or carry a child themselves. 

The natural birth mother is called the surrogate and the individual or couple are referred to as the intended parent(s).

How does surrogacy work?

There are two types of surrogacy, traditional and gestational.  Traditional surrogacy is where the surrogate’s egg is fertilised by the intended father’s sperm.

Gestational surrogacy is where the egg of the intended mother or egg donor is used and there is no genetic connection between the baby and the surrogate.

It can be difficult to find a surrogate in the UK and you may wish to ask a close friend or family member or alternatively you may decide to look abroad. 

There are non-profit agencies which can help with the matching process.  Using an agency is a good idea but you should do your research as not all agencies are equal in their service or performance. 

Once the child is placed with the intended parent(s), they will need to apply to the family court for a parental order, transferring legal parenthood to them from the surrogate.

How long does the surrogacy process take?

Surrogacy can be a long and complicated journey so it is important to be realistic about the time you will need to dedicate from the outset.  Typically it will take around 18-36 months from start to finish but be prepared for it to take longer.

What are the legal requirements for surrogacy?

Surrogacy involves numerous different stages, and there are strict legal requirements at each stage. In the case of international surrogacy, you will be subject not only to the relevant  family and immigration laws of England and Wales, but also the law in the country where your surrogate resides.

It is important to get legal advice right from the outset not only in the UK but also in the country where the surrogacy is taking place and in any other jurisdiction you may have citizenship. 

Read the full article, including the legal risks, rights, details of surrogacy agreements and more, here.

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