27 March 2020
Parenting the modern way
The ways in which people, including those who identify as LGBT, can create a family, have evolved greatly over the years. Modern families are wonderfully diverse and it is a huge positive, that society is more accepting of different family structures. Jemimah Fleet, family solicitor at B P Collins, who specialises in modern parenting, offers advice on the routes available to creating a family.
Surrogacy is a way of building a family where a woman, who does not intend to be the baby’s mother, carries and gives birth to a child for someone else, whether that’s a single mum or dad, heterosexual couples or same sex couples.
Surrogacy is possible both in the UK and in some countries around the world. Currently the Law Commission is reviewing the UK’s outdated surrogacy laws, which do not meet the interests of those involved in the process. For example, there are various legal obstacles such as the surrogate (as the birth mother) is always considered the legal mother and the 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.
Many parents also choose to build their families through donor conception, particularly single women and lesbian couples, who conceive with a sperm donor.
A clinic sperm donor may be chosen, where the clinic will match with a donor who is anonymous at the point of donation. The law surrounding anonymity changed in 2005 and identifiable information is now available to children, who are conceived with donor sperm, if conception was in the UK.
Some may choose to use a known sperm donor, who could be a friend or family member. A key advantage is that there may be a continuing relationship with the donor and you will have more background information about them. But the relationship and the intentions of the donor may need to be managed carefully. Having a pre-conception agreement on the arrangements moving forward, which could vary from minimal involvement to full co-parenting, could be invaluable and hopefully avoid a dispute in the future.
It’s important to remember that legal parentage can be more complicated in these arrangements as the law only allows two legal parents. The birth mother will always be the mother but identifying the second parent will depend on the circumstances of conception. It is vital to seek expert advice to ensure that the full legal position concerning parentage is understood.
B P Collins work with many clients embarking on a co-parenting arrangement, which are usually single women or men; or sometimes friends deciding to conceive a child together. There has also been a surge in people “self matching” online, having a child together, but continuing to live separately and co-parent. In a similar way to donors, the relationship between co-parents needs to be managed very carefully and we would advise creating an agreement to ensure expectations are aligned. This will again help to avoid disputes in the future and establish a strong foundation for raising the child.