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Alternative Families and Fertility Law Advice
At JMW we are committed to providing you with the cutting edge legal advice you need to secure a firm legal foundation for your family. Whether you are considering adopting a child within the UK or overseas, conceiving a child through sperm or egg donation, co-parenting or extending your family via surrogacy, we can help.
There are few things more important in life than family. The last few decades have seen the opening up of many new options for couples and individuals to build their families. Advances in fertility treatment, surrogacy and sperm and egg donation have changed the way we think about the traditional family. Alongside scientific developments, the law and wider society have come to recognise the diverse ways in which modern families come into being.
Families are built in many different ways. A wide variety of legal structures exist to enable solo parents, same sex couples and opposite sex couples to extend their families through non-traditional routes. This can be a fast-moving, technical area of the law and it is essential that the correct procedures are followed so that the legal status of your children matches your intentions.
There can be particular issues when surrogacy, adoption, co-parenting or donation involve an international dimension. If you are considering going down this route, we will help you ensure that things are done properly from the start, making the process as trouble-free as possible.
We recognise that things can and do go wrong in families of all shapes and sizes. We can provide the legal advice you need regarding:
For an overview of the history of alternative families and the law in the UK, visit our interactive infographic.
Partner, Cara Nuttall specialises in building families and fertility law. Cara has experience of surrogacy arrangements, both within the UK and with an international dimension, LGBT parenting, co-parenting agreements between individuals who wish to raise a child outside a traditional relationship structure, sperm and egg donation from both known and anonymous donors, and adoption.
In addition to her work helping alternative families to fulfil their ambition of becoming parents, Cara has a first class reputation for advising parents and other family members involved in legal issues relating to children, including international child abduction and high-conflict disputes over residence and contact. This means that Cara could not be better placed to foresee possible difficulties in a proposed arrangement for building a family and can help you protect yourself from potential future problems.
Can gay couples adopt?
In a word, yes. Since 2005, adoption in the UK has been open to all persons, married, single, cohabiting or in a civil partnership, regardless of sex, gender or sexual orientation. The application process is extremely thorough and there will be circumstances in which persons wishing to adopt a child are not approved by the relevant agency. However, neither sex, gender, marital/civil partnership status nor sexual orientation is a valid ground for refusing an application.
Can I pay someone to act as a surrogate for me?
Commercial surrogacy is illegal in this country, so a surrogate or surrogacy agency cannot make a profit from offering their service without breaking the law. However, intending parents are permitted to pay a surrogate 'reasonable expenses' to cover costs associated with the pregnancy and birth, such as private medical expenses, travelling expenses for antenatal appointments, the purchase of maternity clothes etc. What constitutes a reasonable expense will depend very much on the particular circumstances of both the surrogate and the intended parents.
I would like to donate sperm but I have heard that the child can now trace you in future. I don't mind this in principle but I am concerned about the detail and worried about potential financial obligations to the child. What is the situation?
Following changes to the law in 2005, a child conceived after this date using donated sperm and/or eggs can find out identifying information about their donor(s) once they reach the age of 18. This means that a donor could be traced by their 'child' once they have become an adult. However, if the donation took place via a licensed fertility clinic, there is no legal link between the child and the donor and therefore no potential for any financial claim to be made against them.
JMW's family team is on hand to provide support in relation to any aspect of LGBT parenting, building families, surrogacy or fertility law. We are known for being approachable and understanding, with a no-nonsense approach that means we always strive to get the best results for our clients. We are hugely experienced and have a proven track record for helping families reach the right outcomes.