What if another woman carrying your child was your only option?
Jo Clarke and Jenny Shepherd have recently questioned whether women can have it all. Jo highlights the difficulties women face when trying to juggle a successful career with having children but, as Jenny points out, some people face difficulties in conceiving children at all.
The recent increase in the number of women receiving fertility treatment is only one form of assistance women are turning to. For some women IVF and other forms of fertility treatment are not enough.
Some couples and individuals are seeking the assistance of a surrogate as a way to fulfil their desire for children. Surrogacy could never be deemed the easy choice. It comes with huge emotional and psychological challenges as well as legal risks, so it is often a last resort for people facing conception difficulties.
UK surrogacy law
Under UK law, the woman who carries the child is the legal mother, regardless of who is the biological mother. If she is married then her husband is the legal father.
Therefore, after the jubilation of becoming “parents” the intended Mum and Dad have to overcome legal hurdles before they can become the legal parents of the child and gain the rights and responsibilities other parents take for granted. This can be a lengthy and expensive process at a time when all these new parents want to do is be parents.
This assumes that the surrogate mother adheres to the agreement made and hands the baby over when born. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that this will happen, and under UK law the surrogate mother is legally the parent of the child.
That being said, there are only two reported cases of surrogates refusing to hand over the child following a domestic surrogacy agreement. Considering that over 900 successful surrogacy agreements have been reported, this figure is reassuring, but still another thing for people entering into surrogacy arrangements to think through.
International surrogacy law
Internationally in countries such as India or some states in America the intended parents are awarded parental status before the birth, so as soon as the baby is born parental rights and responsibilities are automatically awarded to them. At no time does the surrogate mother have any parental rights in relation to the child.
This may make international surrogacy seem like an “easier” option. However, under UK law your international surrogate would still be deemed the legal parent of the child and so an application would need to be made to the UK court before the couple become the legal parents in the UK.
Neither international nor domestic surrogacy is without risk and neither could ever be considered easy options for starting a family. But, for some people it may be the only viable option.
The Lester Aldridge family team deal with these and other issues on a regular basis.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of divorce, separation, arrangements for your children or wish to protect your assets prior to getting married, contact the family team on 01202 786161 or email [email protected].
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