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Surrogacy for single parents and your legal rights

Recently The Times reported on the story of David Watkins, one of the first men to become a single father by choice in the UK after the surrogacy laws were reformed in 2019. The change ended a restriction over providing surrogacy services to couples only, so that now single parents can also apply for parental orders to become the legal parent of a child born through surrogacy.

Surrogacy is when a woman agrees to be a gestational carrier and then gives birth to a child for another person, or couple, who will then raise the child as their own.

While surrogacy is legal in the UK, a surrogate parent cannot be forced to give up their child, even if there is a surrogacy agreement in place, so it is important that you understand your legal rights before deciding to conceive a baby this way.

‘This is fantastic news for single people who want to fulfil their dream of becoming a parent.  But whether a friend has volunteered, or you are thinking of using a professional service, you should seek advice on the legal implications before you make a decision or come to any agreements.’ says Linda Pope, family law solicitor at Miles & Partners in London.

Legal rights when using surrogacy

Under UK law, the woman who gives birth will automatically be the child’s legal parent at birth. If the surrogate is married or in a civil partnership, their spouse or civil partner will be the child’s second parent at birth, unless they did not give their permission.

However, legal parenthood can be transferred by a parental order or by adoption after the child is born.

If there is disagreement about who the child’s legal parents should be, the family court will decide based on the best interests of the child.

Parental orders

You can apply for a parental order with a partner or on your own. For a single parent, you must be genetically related to the child – as the egg or sperm donor.

You must also:

  • have the child living with you; and
  • reside permanently in either the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man.

As of 4 July 2019 you must apply within 6 months of the child’s birth.

Surrogacy agreements

The intended parents and surrogate mother can record how they want the arrangement to work in a surrogacy agreement. You cannot pay someone to be a surrogate for you, but you can discharge any expenses they incur as part of the process. A specialist family law solicitor can advise you on drawing up a surrogacy agreement. However, it is important to note that surrogacy agreements are not enforceable under UK law, even if you have a signed document with your surrogate and have paid their expenses. So, it is even more vital that the agreement reflects the wishes of all those involved and that you fully understand your rights and legal position before entering into a surrogacy agreement.

How we can help

For more information on your legal rights when using surrogacy, please contact Linda Pope 020 7426 0400 or email lp@milesandpartners.com.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

Linda, Miles & Partners Solicitors, London

Linda Pope

Associate Solicitor

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