When considering surrogacy, one of the first questions you may stumble on is where to pursue an arrangement. Online search engines provide a plethora of seemingly-attractive options – but which are safe, tested and well-established? And which provide legal security for you and your family?
For completeness, it is important to state that the easiest and most secure option, if you can make it work, is to stay in the UK.
Although our legislation is struggling to keep up with the increasing rise in alternative parenting methods, ultimately surrogacy is legal in the UK and there is well-trodden provision and process for parents to secure their legal status after birth. In addition, there are dedicated surrogacy organisations that exist to match surrogates and intended parents and many fertility clinics, which now boast a wealth of surrogacy experience.
Though the process involves many hurdles, there are measures you can take to ensure that things run smoothly. In fact, the most challenging aspect of UK surrogacy usually lies in the set-up of an arrangement, since finding a suitable surrogate can be the hardest part. On the basis that you do so responsibly and with due consideration from a legally-informed perspective, the legal side can be very straightforward, making the UK a sound choice.
Often advertised as a more efficient pathway to surrogacy (and realising your dream of having a family), going overseas can seem an attractive option for intended parents. There are many destinations offering surrogacy services, but not all will be secure, well-established or available to you as a foreign citizen.
The biggest issue to be aware of is new or emerging destinations. Often such countries offer surrogacy services in the absence of a supportive legal framework – meaning that you (and your surrogate and child) will be vulnerable to potentially catastrophic legislative change throughout the process.
In addition, agencies can disappear as quickly as they appeared, before having fulfilled their promise to set up an arrangement; often leaving intended parents high and dry (and sometimes thousands of pounds out of pocket).
Beware also of agencies and clinics that claim to work around the legal restrictions in places such as Thailand and India (until recently very popular surrogacy destinations which were accessible to UK parents) by outsourcing surrogates and/or fertility treatment.
However, in countries with a robust surrogacy history, it is possible to join a professional agency that will match with you a surrogate, an egg donor (if necessary), facilitate your treatment and arrangement as a whole and hold your hand until you have your longed-for child. These destinations, for British intended parents, are now few and far between.
The USA, the Ukraine, Georgia and Canada are among the top overseas surrogacy destinations for UK parents. Each has its own particularities (not least because not all States in the US are surrogacy friendly) and a large choice of agencies and clinics that will handle each aspect of the process for you.
Although these are amongst the most secure and well-established countries, it is still crucial to do your research before selecting an agency and signing up to an arrangement. It is also vital to seek legal advice, both locally and in the UK, to ensure that your proposed arrangement does not breach any legislation and to set you up for the process ahead.
By nature, pursuing a surrogacy arrangement outside of the UK will cost more. However, for some parents, the efficiency and professional nature of overseas agencies and arrangements is desirable.
But it is important to remember that, whatever the legal position in your destination country, you will still need to engage with the UK legal system on your return home (just as you would following a UK arrangement – by way of the parental order).
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