Routes to Parenthood for LGBTQ + Couples - The Modern Family

14th June 2021 Family Law

Once very limited, representation of modern families in the media has thankfully increased significantly over the last 30 years. Modern Family's Mitch and Cameron adopted their daughter Lily, in The New Normal, couple David and Bryan opted to have a child via surrogacy and of course Carol and Susan co-parented their son, Ben, with his biological father, Ross, in Friends.  

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of “Family” as “one or more parents and their children” certainly allows for this variety. 

In our job we see so many examples of families in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and gone are the days where every case had 1 mum, 1 dad and 2.4 children. 

It is also our immense pleasure here at JMW to help families not only in their time of separation but in the making and creating of modern, loving families.

We support many LGBTQ+ couples considering the various ways to create and expand their families, with the most common enquiries we receive relating to: 

  • Co-parenting agreements; 
  • Adoption; and
  • Surrogacy, both in the UK and internationally. (Which we have definitely seen a huge increase in over the last two years). 

A good starting point is to know that in UK law, whichever route you follow, the person who gives birth to the child is the child’s legal “mother”. Notably, the legal definition of ‘mother’ includes transgender men who have given birth to a child, as was highlighted in the widely-reported, non-surrogacy case of Freddy McConnell. The law can and does then change the legal parenthood to reflect the modern family’s intentions depending upon which path to parenthood is taken. 

Surrogacy in the UK is a wonderful thing to be a part of, with many male same sex couples opting for this route over other alternatives as it enables at least one of them to become biological fathers as well as legal parents. There are two types of surrogacy, namely gestational and traditional surrogacy.

Gestational Surrogacy 
This is when the surrogate carries an embryo created by the intended parent i.e. in male same sex couples one of the fathers’ sperm will be combined with a donor egg and hence the surrogate has no biological relation to your child. This will be performed in a specialist IVF hospital/clinic.

Traditional Surrogacy
This arrangement potentially requires less input from a fertility clinic and will require the surrogate being artificially inseminated but using her own eggs to create an embryo/baby. The surrogate will then be biologically related to the child.

Either surrogacy journey is accessible to single parents and all LGBTQ+ couples, however, female same sex couples tend not choose surrogacy as one of them will often opt to carry the child themselves. 

A Parental Order is applied for once the baby is six weeks old and a Court process, if followed properly, results in an order being made granting legal parenthood to the intended parents. A new birth certificate is issued with the child’s intended parents named, including LGBTQ+ couples. 

Other options available are:

  • Adoption; 
  • Co-parenting; and
  • Sperm Donors – Quite often considered by female same sex couples. 

The law in this area can be complex so it makes sense to have a full appreciation of the legal position before embarking on any journey towards parenthood. The better informed you are, the more likely you are to achieve an outcome in which the legal position reflects your intentions. It is our passion to help make this happen.

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Beverley Jones is a Head of Liverpool located in Liverpoolin our Family department

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