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The Fertility Show


 

Change to UK law allows same-sex couples to become legal parents

29 March 2010

By Ailsa Stevens

Appeared in BioNews 551

New legislation allowing same-sex couples to become the legal parents of children born following surrogacy will come into force next week. The change to the law means that couples using surrogacy no longer need to be married to be named on their child's birth certificate and is intended to afford unmarried and same-sex couples using any form of assisted reproduction the same rights to legal parenthood. It forms the final stage of the implementation of the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

Natalie Gamble, of the fertility law firm Gamble and Ghevaert, said that the new law would help ensure equality for same-sex parents. 'These changes bring the law up to date with the realities of modern 21st-century life and recognise that increasing numbers of same-sex and unmarried couples are having children together', she told the Guardian newspaper.

The law states that the woman who carried the child is automatically considered to be the legal mother. Previously, the only way that lesbian and gay couples could become the legal parents of a child born following surrogacy would have been to undergo a lengthy adoption process, as same-sex couples were not eligible to apply for parental orders - legal orders that transfer parental status onto the commissioning parents provided certain criteria are met.

The new law addresses this problem by allowing all couples who use a surrogate to apply for a parental order after the birth, regardless of their sexual orientation. Requirements for obtaining a parental order include that the couple are in a stable relationship, have entered into a surrogacy agreement without payment beyond expenses, and that at least one of the couple has a biological link to the child. According to principles of family law, an order can only be made if it is in the best interests of the child to do so. If all the conditions are met, a parental order will be issued allowing both intended parents to be named on the birth certificate, and making them legally and financially responsible for their child. The child will be able to trace their biological mother when they reach 18 if they wish, but the names of their legal guardians will be listed on the birth certificate.

The new change will have particular significance for gay men, says Natalie Gamble: 'Lesbian couples and unmarried couples usually have other routes available to them if they want to have children, but surrogacy is particularly important to gay men, so they will get most out of this change in legislation'.

Although the updated law helps to bring much-needed clarity to the law around surrogacy, there are still issues that urgently need addressing. 'There are particular pitfalls for single parents and those going abroad. In the latter case, a couple returning to England with a surrogate child find that the law does not recognise their right to parenthood. It can cause immense distress. There are a lot of aspects of surrogacy that now need to be addressed urgently', said Natalie Gamble.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

09 January 2012 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A Florida court has granted equal parental rights to two lesbian women who created a child using the eggs from one of the women, while the other carried the baby to term. It ruled that egg donors may acquire parental rights to children resulting from their gametes under the Florida and US Constitution....
08 November 2010 - by Natalie Gamble 
A lesbian couple who had conceived a child together through donor insemination at a UK clinic recently ended up in the High Court after their relationship broke down. Their dispute involved a ten-year-old child, and the issue was whether the non-birth mother (who the court had already given legal decision-making status as a parent) should be ordered to make financial provision for her child...
01 November 2010 - by Ben Jones 
Stonewall has released the first guide advising gay men on how to become a father. A Guide for Gay Dads provides practical and legal advice on various routes to fatherhood including adoption, co-parenting, surrogacy, sperm donation and foster care...
21 June 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
The ex-partner of a lesbian cannot be forced to pay child maintenance for the couple's donor-conceived child because they never entered a civil partnership, a High Court judge has ruled...
30 April 2010 - by Louisa Ghevaert 
Birth certificates have been a hot topic in the UK in recent weeks. There has been much controversy, confusion and misunderstanding, aptly shown by Caroline Gammell's article in The Daily Telegraph newspaper and Colin Fernandez's article in the Daily Mail on 19 April incorrectly hailing the advent of the first lesbian couple to both be named as parents on their baby daughter's birth certificate, born 31 March this year. Lesbian couples have not in fact had to wait until the beginning of April...

01 March 2010 - by Dr Elly Teman 
Regulation is important, but we are not discussing the most fundamental issue at hand: the human experiences that make or break surrogacy relationships. What common factors can be identified behind the small number of surrogacy cases that wind up in court?...
27 October 2009 - by Natalie Gamble and Louisa Ghevaert 
Of all the prospective parents conceiving through assisted reproduction, those in surrogacy arrangements often face the most difficult legal issues. The surrogate and usually also her husband will be treated as the child's legal parents at birth, leaving the commissioning parents with no legal connection with their child whatsoever, even where both are the biological parents....
07 September 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
The UK's Department of Health last week launched a consultation on the regulation of ‘Parental Orders', which are used to transfer legal parenthood from the surrogate (and her husband or partner if she has one) to the couple who commissioned the surrogacy arrangement. Prior to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, only married couples were able to apply for a parental order, however, the new rules will extend this right to parents where there is no formal union, including unmarried...
14 April 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard 
New legislation has came into force in the UK which will help to create a 'level playing field' for same-sex couples undergoing IVF treatment. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, which received Royal Assent in November last year, makes provision for both women in a civil...
12 January 2009 - by Louisa Ghevaert 
Pressure for a review of surrogacy law is mounting in legal, media and political quarters following the case of Re X & Y (Foreign Surrogacy) 2008 (reported in Bionews on 14 December 2008). The case - the first to test the law for British couples going abroad for surrogacy - has highlighted the...

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Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Jacques Cohen

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Andy Greenfield

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross


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