11 November 2019
Creating a family with B P Collins
Prospective parents now have the option to create a family through various options such as surrogacy, adoption, donor conception and fertility treatment. Have you seen a positive shift in people’s attitudes towards ‘modern parenting’?
There is definitely a wider acceptance of the various family structures and routes to create families. Society has moved on; the ‘traditional’ family model of a heterosexual married couple living with their biological children in one home, is no longer the only conventional option. LGBT couples can now have children, be it through fertility treatment or surrogacy, and there has also been an increase in co-parenting arrangements (two or more people who are not in a relationship living in separate homes raising a child). These evolutions in creating families have been happening for some time now and it’s great they’re getting the recognition they deserve.
What is it about fertility and surrogacy law that appeals to you?
It’s a huge privilege to work for people in this area of law. I enjoy my role as being part of the team, guiding prospective parents through the sometimes complex legal hurdles and hopefully minimising their stress along the way. It is also an area of law that is very positive, as you’re helping to create a family which is often the most important thing for people.
Is there a modern parenting case that you’ve advised on that is particularly memorable?
I feel very proud to have worked on modern parenting cases that have helped to change the law. There was one high profile surrogacy case, which was particularly memorable, as the high court declared the law, at that stage, to be incompatible with human rights legislation. This led to a remedial order subsequently being passed by Parliament in January 2019, allowing single parents to apply for a parental order. This was so important as single parents of surrogate born children can now cement their legal connection to their own child and thus secure their child’s legal and family status.
What legal experience do you have in the ‘modern parenting’ arena?
I advise clients on a whole range of matters – from LGBT couples wishing to have children to co-parenting arrangements right through to couples having a family through donor conception or surrogacy. It’s my role to set out the legal framework and help make a plan of action so people are fully prepared for the journey ahead.
The Law Commission wishes to make significant changes to surrogacy law – do you welcome these?
Absolutely. I have seen an increase in the number of clients who’ve sought advice on surrogacy, especially internationally, in recent years. Even though it can be hugely expensive, the lack of uptake of the surrogacy process in the UK is undoubtedly due to the obstacles and uncertain legal framework that intended parents (and surrogates) currently encounter. One key issue is that the surrogate (as the birth mother) is always considered the legal mother and intended parents can only apply to court for a parental order, to be recognised as their child’s legal parents, once the child is born. This inevitably places the child in an uncertain legal limbo until legal matters are resolved. This process can take months to finalise - a delay which is both frustrating and creates uncertainty.
The Law Commission’s consultation will help to reform the law which hasn’t changed in decades and aims to ensure the child’s best interests remain the key focus and provides reassurance to all those involved on the surrogacy journey. This can only be a good thing.