Babies born by surrogacy have nearly quadrupled in the last 10 years, with 413 parental orders (used to transfer legal parental responsibility from the surrogate to the intended parents) reported in 2020. This is a rise from 117 reported in 2011.
Two-thirds of parental order applicants are mixed-sex couples in their 30s and 40s, as discovered in a report by the University of Kent and My Surrogacy Journey.
UK law on surrogacy has remained unchanged since 1985. But with surrogacy rates on the rise, it leaves experts concerned, calling the law outdated and with the potential to leave surrogates and intended parents vulnerable.
Under UK law, intended parents will not automatically be the legal parents; instead, the surrogate mother automatically has ‘parental responsibility’ for the child, no matter the baby’s genetics or any agreements in place. Intended parents must apply for a parental order, which can take months to approve.
Surrogacy is often used to start a family for those unable to carry a pregnancy themselves, often due to health-related issues or because they are men in a same-sex relationship. However, it is illegal to advertise surrogacy, leaving those wanting to become parents often struggling to find a match unless approached by a surrogate.
In line with the law, non-profit organisations and groups have been created to help those wanting to become parents find their surrogate match. However, many want the law changed.
Professor Nick Hopkins, the Law Commissioner for property, family and trust law, said, "When we asked whether surrogacy law needed review we received one of our largest volume of responses. The law does need updating” as reported by the BBC.
If you are looking to expand your family via surrogacy, it is vital that you completely understand everything you need to know about it, including the current UK surrogacy laws.
How does surrogacy work in the UK?
In the UK, surrogacy can be done in two ways:
The embryo will be created using either both of the intended parents’ genetics or one of the intended parent’s genetics and donor sperm or egg. Once created, it will then be transferred to the surrogate via IVF.
Straight surrogacy will use the surrogate’s own eggs to conceive the baby, meaning that they will share 50% of their genetics with the babies. The surrogate will be classed as an ‘egg donor’.
The surrogate will do this using artificial insemination, by either an insemination kit or with a clinic using IUI or IVF.
If you are considering surrogacy, SurrogacyUK can provide further information on the process to help with your decision, as well as providing support and a community of surrogates and intended parents.
What is parental responsibility and how does this apply to surrogacy?
When someone becomes a parent, they have legal rights and responsibilities for their child until they turn 18, such as providing a home, protecting them, providing education, etc.; this is known as ‘parental responsibility’.
For intended parents who go through surrogacy to start a family, they are not automatically given parental responsibility. Instead, the surrogate mother has those rights at the child's birth.
If the surrogate mother is married or in a civil partnership, that person will be classed as the second parent at birth. This applies even if the surrogacy is gestational (where the surrogate mother is not genetically related to the child).
If the surrogate is not married or in a civil partnership and one of the intended parents is the sperm donor, they will be considered the legal father and can obtain parental responsibility and be named on the birth certificate.
Anyone planning to become a parent via surrogacy must apply for a parental order to obtain parental responsibility for their child, however, this can take months to complete.
How do you find a UK surrogate mother?
Finding a surrogate in the UK can be challenging as the UK laws are different from those globally. It is against the law to advertise for a surrogate; instead, they must approach you first.
There are various ways that you can find someone who wants to be a surrogate mother for you, and these can include:
- Surrogate websites
- Social media
- Surrogacy events
How long does surrogacy take?
It is essential to realise that surrogacy isn’t just the length of a pregnancy; it also accounts for the time taken to arrange the process too, including:
- Creating an embryo
- Finding a surrogate match
- Establishing a relationship with the surrogate
- Creating an agreement
- Surrogate getting pregnant
- The pregnancy
- Legal processes
The average time that surrogacy takes is at least 18 to 24 months, although this could take longer depending on the circumstances around your surrogacy.
How much does surrogacy cost in the UK?
In the UK, paying a surrogate for anything other than reasonable expenses is illegal.
However, there are also other costs that are involved in surrogacy which can make it quite an expensive process for intended parents; these include:
- Fertility treatment costs
- Agency or organisation fees
- Legal fees
On average, the total cost of surrogacy is between £20,000 and £60,000.
Can a surrogate refuse to give you the baby?
Yes, a surrogate can refuse to give you the baby if they decide they want to keep it. This is because the surrogate mother legally is the mother until a parental order has been made to transfer parental responsibility to the intended parents.
The surrogate mother’s consent is needed for this parental order and they cannot be compelled to give this, so if they refuse to give up the baby, the intended parents may have few options.
Get in touch with our family law solicitors in Maidstone, Kent
When it comes to legalities in surrogacy, there are three aspects you should consider having a family law solicitor for, the surrogacy contract, pre-birth order and adoption or post-birth legal procedures.
Our family law solicitors in Maidstone have assisted clients in many similar cases and are well experienced in legal matters surrounding surrogacy.
Call us on 01622 673081 if you need our help. Alternatively, complete our Contact Us form, and we will be in touch as soon as possible. Please let us know if you are in a particularly sensitive situation and, if so, when and via which method it is best to contact you.
For further information, please call to speak to one of our experts on 01622 673081.