Many of you joined us on Tuesday to explore the legal and practical aspects of a surrogacy arrangement for single parents.
Embarking on a surrogacy journey as a single parent has never been prohibited under UK law, yet it is a common misconception that such an option has not been available to UK parents. Under the current law, a parental order (the legal solution for securing parentage after surrogacy) is only available to couples. This has meant that single parents with children born through surrogacy have been left in a ‘legal limbo’ as they have not been able to secure their parental status as their children’s sole legal parent. The good news is that the government has confirmed that this position will be changing and the parental order will soon be available to both couples and single parents.
On Tuesday evening, we teamed up with our sister organisation, NGA Law, to explore the government’s recent announcement that a ‘remedial order’ will be put forward to Parliament for their consideration. Once passed, the remedial order will allow single parents to apply for a parental order (provided they are a biological parent and meet the other application criteria). In light of this, we wanted to hold a seminar to discuss the effects of the remedial order for single parents and below are some of the questions we explored with you on the night.
What will the changes mean for single parents?
As the woman who gives birth, your surrogate is your child’s legal parent and has ‘parental responsibility’ in the UK (irrespective of the law in the country where your child is born and whether or not she has a biological link to your child). Once granted, a parental order will extinguish her responsibilities and you will be your child’s sole legal parent.
The current law states that couples must apply for a parental order before their child is six months old. The government has recognised that this deadline would exclude single parents whose children have already been born and so have included a specific retrospective provision in the proposed new law which confirms that there will be a six month window of opportunity to apply once the law changes (and we can keep you posted as to when the application window is set to open). We are expecting the law to change later this year.
How difficult is it to find a surrogate in the UK as a single parent?
The UK’s surrogacy legal framework is woolly which means that there is an ongoing shortage of UK surrogates (for couples and single parents) and so it can be difficult to find a surrogate quickly. If you are waiting to be matched with a surrogate through a UK non-profit surrogacy agency (currently Brilliant Beginnings, COTS and SUK) there is no certain matching time. We are currently seeing an average 18 month match wait, although this is certainly getting easier.
What surrogacy destinations are available to me as a single parent?
Many parents go overseas for their surrogacy journey. This can be for a number of reasons but it is usually due to a wish for legal security, and to access professional surrogacy services and the larger numbers of surrogates. The most well established destinations for single parents include the USA, where surrogacy is the most well-oiled process, and Canada. Greece is a newer option available to single women (although this is still being explored and is not yet a clearly established option). We also see unregulated destinations pop up (and subsequently disappear soon after) and these currently include Nigeria, Kenya and Laos. We would not recommend going to an unregulated destination, and if you do we would advise that you tread carefully and use great caution.
My child was born in India and I haven’t been in touch with my surrogate since it closed as a surrogacy destination – how do I get her consent for my parental order application?
To obtain a parental order, the intended parent(s) must satisfy the court that the order is in their child’s best interests and that they meet all the criteria. One of the requirements is that the surrogate (and her spouse) fully, freely and unconditionally consent to the application. If you cannot find your surrogate (or if she is incapable of giving consent) then you must show the court that you did everything possible to find her. The court may be able find a way around this (and could possibly waive her consent) however we would encourage you to seek expert legal advice to explore this in more detail.
Does UK law recognise my child’s US birth certificate that has my name recorded as her sole legal parent?
Sadly, there is no international harmonisation of law on parenthood (or nationality) in surrogacy cases and so your foreign court order will not be recognised here. Your surrogate (and her spouse) will still be treated as your child’s legal parents under UK law, even though she is not treated as your child’s legal mother in the country where your child was born, and so you will need to make an application to the High Court (in London) for a UK parental order because of the international element. Once a parental order is made, your child will be issued with a new birth certificate (with you named as their sole legal parent) and as long as you are British on the day the order is made, your child will also acquire your British nationality.
How much does the parental order application cost and how long does the process take?
Some parents choose to run their parental order application themselves (and without the assistance of solicitors) and so the costs of the application may only include the court fee (which is currently £215) and expenses such as travel costs for your court hearing and translating consent documents if your surrogate’s first language is not English etc.
Some parents choose to instruct solicitors to assist/run their application for them and so costs may include the court fee, expenses and solicitor fees. At the end of the day, the overall cost of the process will depend on the level of support you need for your application and your budget.
The court process can take between 6 – 12 months (from the date your application has been filed with the family court) for parents who are representing themselves and anywhere between 4 – 6 months for parents who have instructed solicitors to help run and speed up the process.
Please do keep an eye out on our website and our social media sites for information on our upcoming seminars. If you would like further information on surrogacy destinations that are available to you and would like to talk through the practicalities of a surrogacy arrangement in more detail, please do contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like more information about the parental order (and the criteria) and would like to be kept updated with the progress with the law change, please email the legal team at NGA Law on email@example.com.