A Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Process of Surrogacy in the UK Skip to main content
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A Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Process of Surrogacy in the UK

By Beverley Jones, Family Law Partner at JMW Solicitors

In most cases, this stage marks the end of the surrogacy process, and the start of a new, exciting journey into parenthood.

If soap operas and Hollywood films are to be believed, the process of having a child via a surrogate is full of drama, intrigue and emotional twists and turns. If you are worried about life imitating art, the good news is that surrogacy doesn’t have to be like this at all - in fact, with the right legal support, it can be one of the most rewarding routes to parenthood.

Accessing legal advice can help you to navigate the surrogacy path and make the process so much easier. Preparing for parenthood, no matter that the route, can be full of apprehension and nerves. The security of a strong legal backing can help you to stay grounded and enjoy the journey.

In that spirit, the experts at JMW Solicitors present a step-by-step guide to the legal process or surrogacy, to cut through the sensationalised narratives and give you the facts about what you should expect from this chapter of your life.

Step One - Choose Your Surrogacy Arrangement

In the UK, there are two types of surrogacy arrangement to choose from. The first is called gestational surrogacy and is the most popular form of arrangement in the UK. Eggs and sperm from the parents are combined into embryos and implanted into the surrogate, meaning that, while they will carry the child, the surrogate will not have a biological connection to the baby.

The second type is called ‘traditional’ surrogacy, in which the surrogate’s eggs are used to create embryos rather than the mother’s. This gives the surrogate a biological relationship to the child.

Step Two - Choose Your Clinic Carefully

If you have chosen gestational surrogacy, you will need to choose a clinic that will carry out the necessary procedures to conceive the child artificially. It is important to choose the right clinic: this might involve:

* Researching the clinics in your area
* Meeting with the specialists at your chosen clinic
* Asking questions and getting to know the person who will carry out the procedures
* Investigating the facilities each clinic has available
* Reading online reviews

Finding a clinic and practitioner you can trust and with whom you feel comfortable is one of the best ways to make the surrogacy process smoother and easier.

Step Three - Create Embryos

At this stage of the proceedings, you are ready to create your embryos. If you intend to create embryos from both the intended mother and father, you can take this step earlier. However, if you intend to use donor eggs from the surrogate, you will need to have a surrogacy agreement in place first (see step four).

To qualify for a parental order, at least one of the intended parents must have a biological connection to the child. This means that you can use donated gametes (whether eggs or sperm), but the other set of gametes used to create the embryo must come from one of the intended parents.

Step Four - Choose a Surrogate and Enter a Surrogacy Agreement

While you may be excited to start the process, it is important to take your time when choosing a surrogate. Working with a charity organisation like My Surrogacy Journey or Surrogacy UK, can assist you in finding a prospective surrogate and matching you with the right surrogate for your family. It can be a slow process so don’t be disheartened if this doesn’t happen overnight.

Even if you intend to use someone with whom you have a personal relationship, it is important to take your time. Discuss the arrangement in detail, and carefully consider all of the possible outcomes that may arise from the process. The relationship between a surrogate and the child’s intended parents can be a very special relationship and one that is vital to a successful surrogacy process.

Once you have matched with your surrogate, you should enter into a surrogacy agreement with them. This is not a legally binding document (and it cannot be prepared by lawyers), but it can be a useful way to keep everyone on the same page about arrangements for your baby. It may also be used as a reference by your clinic, or in any legal proceedings during this process.

Step Five - Seek Legal Advice

In the UK, the law states that a surrogate (and their husband/wife, where applicable) are the legal parents of the child when they are born. This is true even if the surrogate has no biological relationship to the child.

When the child is born, the intended parents must apply for a parental order to register themselves as the child’s legal parents. There are several criteria that the intended parents must fulfil, and at this stage, it is important to seek legal advice to ensure that you meet those criteria. In fact, many UK clinics now insist that both the intended parents and the surrogate speak to a solicitor before moving ahead with the arrangement.

Step Six - Start the Treatment

With your surrogacy agreement in place and a full understanding of your legal position, you are ready to start the treatment - at least, in practical terms. You and the surrogate will also need to prepare emotionally, and this may involve counselling sessions with your chosen clinic, and having medical checks to make sure everything is set up for success.

Step Seven - Enjoy the Pregnancy

With a positive pregnancy test, the treatment concludes and the journey towards welcoming your baby into the world begins. This is a very special time and an opportunity to bond with your baby, so you should work with and support your surrogate throughout. Attend scans and checkups, meet up to see the bump grow, and provide whatever help your surrogate needs.

Birth arrangements should be decided between you and the surrogate - they may be specified as part of the surrogacy agreement, or you may decide to formalise them at a later date.

Step Eight - Apply for Parental Order

Once your baby is six weeks old, you can apply for a parental order to become their legal parents. If you have sought legal advice early in the surrogacy process, it should be relatively straightforward to secure a parental order. This document recognises you and your partner as the legal parents of the child, in place of the surrogate, and you will be given a new birth certificate for the baby attesting to this.

In most cases, this stage marks the end of the surrogacy process, and the start of a new, exciting journey into parenthood.