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Facts of life – what you need to know about surrogacy

James Watkins - Law on the Web

  1. 08 September 2015
  2. Family
  3. 0 comments
Pregnant woman

Surrogacy is a method of having children in which the foetus is cultivated inside a woman on behalf of another couple (or a single parent), due to the would-be parents’ inability to conceive naturally.

In a surrogacy arrangement, the woman who carries the baby is known as the Surrogate, while those who will become the child’s parents are known as the Intended Parents.

Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but the law regarding it is complex – jumping in without considering it carefully (or considering other options, such as adoption) could have serious consequences.

How do I find a surrogate mother?

There are restrictions on how prospective surrogates and intended parents can find each other. Willing parents are not allowed to advertise for someone to act as a surrogate for them, and vice versa.

Fortunately, there are organisations who work to match surrogates with intended parents, such as Brilliant Beginnings and Surrogacy UK. As well as helping to set intended parents up with surrogates, these organisations can provide you with support and opportunities to talk to others who have been in your situation.

It is illegal for organisations to offer these matching services for profit – the two organisations mentioned above do so on a non-profit basis.

Can I pay my surrogate?

Strictly speaking, payment for surrogacy is only allowed to cover “reasonable expenses” – expenses that the surrogate has faced due to their pregnancy, such as travel costs, clothing, and medication.

Sometimes, these payments are made for itemised lists of expenses. However, it is more common for the surrogate to receive a lump sum, set from the beginning of the arrangement (usually at around £12,000-£15,000).

Additional expenses can be added to this lump sum, particularly if there are complications (the surrogate ends up giving birth to twins, for example).

If the surrogate is paid more than what is considered reasonable expenses, the additional payment will need to be authorised by the family court when the intended parents apply for a parental order.

However, according to Brilliant Beginnings, it is highly unlikely that a family court would refuse to authorise those payments, due to the negative impact this would have on the child. This could complicate matters when the child is born though, so bear this in mind before agreeing on payments to your surrogate.

Who will be the legal parents of the child?

The surrogate will always be registered as the mother of the baby regardless of any agreement, even if the baby is the product of an egg from the intended mother.

If the surrogate is married, her husband will be registered as the second parent – however, if the surrogate is unmarried, a male commissioning parent who is genetically related will be treated as the baby’s father.

The non-biological commissioning parent does not acquire legal parenthood or parental responsibility until the relevant order is made.

Legal parenthood and parental responsibility can only be transferred to the commissioning parents by an adoption order or parental order of the court.

I’m single – can I be an intended parent?

Surrogacy is only possible or workable for single parents in very limited circumstances, as parental orders are only granted to couples.

This doesn’t mean it is impossible for you to have a child through surrogacy – however, it may be that other routes would be better for you. Get in touch with a surrogacy agency to see if they can help you find a way.

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