A recent surrogacy case in England has illustrated the risks of intended parents embarking on informal ‘do it yourself’ surrogacy arrangements.
In what was a protracted legal battle, Mrs Justice Eleanor King (pictured) sitting in the High Court in London heard a case concerning a 3 year old boy who had effectively two mothers.
The case concerned a married couple who approached a friend to be artificially inseminated at home with the husband’s sperm. At birth the surrogate and the husband were named on the child’s birth certificate. The married couple subsequently separated and the wife found herself with no parental rights as she was not recognised as the child’s legal or biological mother.
Describing the case as a ‘cautionary tale’, the judge highlighted the dangers of informal surrogacy agreements and the importance of couples using licensed and regulated fertility clinics.
Surrogacy contracts are not enforceable in the UK. During the course of the case it emerged that lawyers had prepared a surrogacy contact for the parties, for which they received payment, and had thus unknowingly committed a criminal offence under the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985.
To complicate matters further, the time limit for applying for a parental order, the only legal order that would have extinguished the surrogate mother’s parental responsibility, had expired.
In her ruling the judge made a shared residence order to the former couple, affording the woman with parental responsibility and restricting the surrogate mother’s ability to exercise her parental responsibility over the child without permission of the court.