Colin Rogerson, Solicitor-Advocate at Dawson Cornwell, offers some advice on the legal issues associated with the journey to parenthood.
More and more LGBT people want to start a family. For several years, Dawson Cornwell have been legal sponsors to the Alternative Parenting Show: an annual show held in Covent Garden that provides an ideal opportunity for LGBT people to obtain advice and information on the various routes to becoming parents.
Adoption, fostering, surrogacy and co-parenting are all ways that gay men can become parents. Each route has different legal, practical and financial implications to think about. Here’s a brief look at those legal issues:
Same-sex couples have been able to adopt since 2005. There is a worrying amount of children in need of a new family and most adopters consider it a worthwhile experience. Generally speaking, ‘baby adoptions’ are uncommon and children tend to be either toddlers or young children. All prospective adopters in the UK need to use an adoption agency and the adoption process is lengthy and will involve an intense period of investigation by the relevant agency.
In my experience, most adoptive parents find the compulsory home study to be intrusive. However, it must be remembered that children waiting to be adopted have often been involved in care proceedings and social services, and the Courts need to be sure that their new family will be the best fit to the child to minimise disruption. Step-parent adoptions have the same home study requirements.
Surrogacy is a popular choice for gay men. Surrogacy arrangements in the UK are unenforceable and UK law makes it difficult for surrogacy agencies to operate in the UK. For this reason, most intended parents will enter into a surrogacy arrangement overseas where the laws relating to surrogacy are more liberal. Certain states in the US are popular for gay men (India was previously popular but the Indian Government has recently restricted surrogacy to heterosexual married couples).
If you have a child through surrogacy you will need to make sure that you are recognised under UK law as the child’s legal parents. Legal advice should be taken to ascertain whether you are likely to be eligible for a “Parental Order”. This means that the intended parents will be recognised as the child’s legal parents and a new birth certificate will be granted naming both dads as the child’s parents.
It is important to apply for a parental order even if both dads are named on the child’s birth certificate in the country where the child is born because UK law will still treat the surrogate as the child’s real mother, even though her home country may not.
Co-parenting / sperm donation
People in co-parenting arrangements generally want to be involved in the child’s upbringing. Often the co-parents will be a same-sex female couple. It is important to take advice before embarking on these arrangements so that you all know where you stand and who is recognised in law as the child’s legal parents (a child can only have two legal parents).
Donating sperm via a licensed clinic will not give you any parental rights or responsibilities in respect of the child, although the child will be entitled, at a later stage, to some identifying information about you.
There are websites online for informal sperm donor agreements. If a man donates sperm in an unlicensed environment, he may be recognised as the child’s legal father and become responsible for child support. If insemination is carried out “naturally”, he will automatically be recognised as the child’s father. One such case recently came before the English High Court where the child was found to have been conceived by intercourse and the donor was ordered not only to be liable for child support, but also to pay the other parties’ legal costs amounting to around £70,000!
For more information about the legal implications of starting a family, please contact Colin Rogerson or Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE, Partner at Dawson Cornwell Solicitors. Alternatively, please visit our website at dawsoncornwell.com
Colin Rogerson, Solicitor-Advocate at Dawson Cornwell, specialises in fertility and family law and regularly advises same-sex couples on legal issues around their journey to become parents. Dawson Cornwell are proud to be sponsoring the Alternative Parenting Show for the fifth year in a row on Saturday 19 September 2015.
This user friendly divorce and family law firm has a team of lawyers who are widely acknowledged as experts in the legal issues surrounding the creation of families by alternative means. They advise and represent couples and single parents, in the UK and internationally. Their knowledge and experience cover all areas of law arising from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 including international and domestic surrogacy, donor conception, LGBT parenting and co-parenting as well as domestic and international adoption.