Q: I saw recently on the news that the current surrogacy laws are to be updated. Can you advise what changes will be made and when, as my husband and I have been unable to conceive naturally and are considering surrogacy as an option.
A: There has recently been talk as to whether laws surrounding surrogacy should be updated or reformed, but it will be some time before any changes come into effect.
The current laws governing surrogacy arrangements, which have been in place since the 1980’s, state that a baby born to a surrogate mother will legally be the child of that surrogate, together with a surrogate’s spouse or civil partner if there is one.
For intended parents to obtain parental responsibility they must apply to the Court for a ‘Parental Order’. This cannot be done before the child is six weeks old and, once an application is made to the Court, it is not always a simple or straightforward process. The Court must carefully consider the circumstances of the matter before extinguishing the surrogate’s parental responsibility of the child, which is an extremely serious decision and can take some time.
Until the intended parents obtain an Order, the surrogate will need to be involved in the usual formalities after the child’s birth, such as registering the birth or making important decision if, for example, the child needs medical treatment.
It is proposed that a new system be introduced whereby the intended parents would be the child’s legal parents immediately after birth, unless the surrogate did not agree to this. This can however be a very complicated area, and it is important that surrogates, and intended parents, are aware of the law. You should obtain independent legal advice before making any decisions to ensure that you are fully aware of the implications of the same.