Is surrogacy legal in the UK?

One of the biggest surrogacy myths is that it is illegal in the UK to pay a surrogate mother. However, surrogacy has been a viable family-building option here for decades, with most surrogates receiving some sort of remuneration.

How do you get started?

If you are considering surrogacy as a way to start or build your family, you are not alone. Hundreds of UK parents pursue a surrogacy arrangement here every year. The hardest part is often getting started.

If you know someone who is willing to carry a pregnancy for you, whether she is a friend or a family member, it is perfectly legal to create an arrangement with her. You will then have the option of conceiving through a clinic or informally at home, depending on whose gametes will be used. 

If you are not lucky enough to know of anyone personally, you might consider joining one of the UK’s surrogacy organisations, with the intention of meeting or being matched with a potential surrogate.

It is always wise to be cautious of online-only surrogacy forums, since they are entirely unregulated, with neither surrogates nor intended parents receiving any kind of structured support – a crucial part of any arrangement.

Can you pay your surrogate?

In short, yes.

Surrogacy is shrouded by misinformation about payments and whether these must only be made to cover expenses in UK arrangements. It is not illegal to pay your surrogate over and above her reasonable expenses, however, paying a commercial sum is discouraged in this country.

Ultimately, it will be the family court who will review and determine the payments you have made to your surrogate; albeit after the event, once your baby has been born and you have applied for a parental order.

Whilst this process is made easier if you have stuck within a ‘reasonable expenses’ framework, over the years the family court judges have developed a routine of accepting lump sum figures as representing a surrogate’s reasonable costs (without too much scrutiny as to individual payments).

In the worst case scenario that intended parents are found to have instead paid their surrogate a commercial sum, the case has to be referred up to the High Court where a more senior judge can review the facts and decide whether to authorise the payments made so that a parental order can be granted. This is invariably the case, making the issue of payments not the bar to pursuing an arrangement in the UK that many think it is.

What do you need to know about the law?

There are several important legal aspects that you will need to be aware of; not least the fact that surrogacy contracts are not legally binding in the UK, making all arrangements subject to implicit mutual trust.

In addition, your surrogate will automatically be treated as the legal mother of your child (whatever the biology) from birth, making it necessary to apply for a parental order to reassign this status.

However, despite our unstructured system and outdated laws, surrogacy can work really well in the UK.

In our experience, the key to pursuing a successful arrangement is to gauge a sound understanding of the law, including the criteria and process for a parental order, at the outset so that you know what to expect and to ensure you know your surrogate well and consider things carefully together before going ahead.

Are you considering pursuing surrogacy abroad? Download our free guide and find out all you need to know.

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