Surrogate Children A ‘Legal Timebomb’

A High Court judge has warned that unregistered children born from surrogacy agreements are in danger of becoming “stateless and parentless”.

Dame Lucy Theis expressed concern that applications are not being made for surrogate births. An estimated 2,000 UK children each year are born from surrogate mothers, but there were only 241 applications made for parental orders in 2014.

If a child born from a surrogacy agreement is not registered, there may be complex legal problems in the future. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act states that a parent has a six-month limit within which to register the birth of a surrogate child.

The aftermath of surrogacy agreements are particularly complicated if the arrangement is not straightforward. For example, when there are cases of family members becoming surrogate mothers for each other, or if an informal surrogacy agreement is made and then a host mother decides to keep the child.

Most cases, however, involve a surrogate mother carrying the fertilised embryo of a couple. The majority of surrogate mothers for UK couples live overseas and are paid around £15,000. This can be problematic if parents are unable to return home due to passport restriction on them and their child.

The surrogate mother of an unregistered child will be recognised by the law as the mother, rather than its new parents. There may be obstacles when inheriting property and assets in the event of a death and the renewal of passports is an area where problems may arise.

A parental order would recognise the new couple as the child’s legal parents and remove the rights and responsibilities of the surrogate mother.

Mrs Justice Theis said parental orders are in the best interests of the child, ensuring its rights are protected.

She added that judges are keen to make prominent cases public in order to raise awareness of the importance of registering a child born to a surrogate. There have been a number of such cases in recent months, leading to calls from lawyers and judges for clearer legislation around surrogacy.

Macks Solicitors family law specialist Amanda Adeola said: “The law on surrogacy is very complex and it is important for both the surrogate mother and the intending parents to know their rights and what can happen if certain procedures are not followed.

“It is important for the welfare of the child and to avoid any problems in the future that the intending parents apply to adopt the child or apply for a parental order to transfer the rights and obligations of parentage to them within six months of the birth of the child. “I agree with Mrs Justice Theis that parental orders are in the best interest of the children born through surrogacy and legal advice should be taken if you are unsure about the process.”

Macks have family solicitors in Darlington who are experienced in children matters. Our sympathetic and pragmatic family law team aim to keep the process as amicable as possible between separating couples and encourages resolving matters outside of court where possible. You can contact Macks family law solicitors in Darlington on 01325 389 800 to arrange a consultation about your separation or divorce.

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