Natalie Gamble was joined by hundreds of prospective parents at the Alternative Families Show in Covent Garden last Saturday where she was a key note speaker. The event, in its second year, showcased every aspect of conceiving by alternative methods and was tremendously well attended. Under the banner of the London Women’s Clinic, Natalie outlined the legal implications of surrogacy and donor conception and the numbers attending the talk underline the fact that this is no longer just an option for the few but is now very much in the mainstream of our culture.
One of the key issues raised was in relation to the need for a parental order and the often complex (and expensive) process that a family may need to undergo when opting for International Surrogacy. Our advice is always to look at your options for pursuing an arrangement in the UK first – it is a myth that surrogacy is illegal here. Following a domestic arrangement, and assuming that you stick within the criteria, intended parents can expect a relatively straightforward (and inexpensive) parental order process. In terms of pursuing an international arrangement it is vital to obtain a parental order once back in the UK as both parents will lack ‘parental responsibility’ (and therefore the authority needed to make decisions on behalf of their child here in the UK) and at least one (if not both parents) will lack status as the legal parent. There is a strict 6 month deadline (beginning on the child’s date of birth) during which a parental order can be applied for and if this is missed intended parents will lose the opportunity for this bespoke legal solution forever. Getting legal help with this can range from help from behind the scenes all the way to full representation – depending on budget and what you feel comfortable dealing with. We always recommend that those planning surrogacy get initial advice, as this alone could save you in the long term.
Another hot topic at the show was in relation to donor and co-parenting agreements where singles/couples/groups are considering the best approach and whether to have something in writing. Our advice would be that, although not strictly legally binding, agreements are often extremely valuable in the setting up of such arrangements. They provide an excellent opportunity to air (and hopefully iron out) the underlying issues and intentions of everyone involved. If a dispute does arise in the future the court may well give any such agreement weight as part of its exercise to establish exactly what everyone’s intentions were at the outset. In our experience, those that have gone into their donor/co-parenting arrangements carefully and have considered all the possibilities at any early stage, such as through the medium of an agreement, do not encounter significant difficulties later on.
The Alternative Families Show was an outstanding event and we look forward to next year!
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