With fertility issues affecting up to an estimated 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK, couples electing to have children later in life and the concept of family life now recognised far beyond the outdated model of the “nuclear family” many people are choosing to turn to other ways of starting a family. Luckily, there are a number of options available to couples who wish to make the commitment of building a family together.
Over the last two decades, surrogacy has become a real option for couples looking for another way to start a family.
Various changes to the law, including the legalisation of non-profit surrogacy agencies as part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, have meant that surrogacy is now a much more mainstream way of having a baby.
Surrogacy agreements are currently not enforceable in the UK (i.e. the contract is not legally binding). The woman who gives birth is the legal mother. However, the creation of parental orders has enabled intended parents to become the legal parents of the child, following a surrogacy arrangement. What’s more, since 2019, single parents are now able to apply for parental orders.
Since becoming legally recognised in Britain in the 1920s, many couples have chosen to adopt, as well as, or instead of, having their own children.
Adoption is actually the legal process which results in a child (or children) becoming full legal members of a family who are not their birth parents. People who adopt a child gain the same rights and responsibilities as if they had had the child themselves.
The Adoption Act 1976 and the Children Act 1989 were brought about to deal with adoption law. Today, there is even an Adoption Support Fund which “provides money for therapy for children and families to help improve relationships, confidence and behaviour”.
There are many ways to start a family
Historically, the concept of the “nuclear family” was confined to parents and their biological children.
However, changes in the law, fuelled by society’s appetite for change, have given couples the ability to choose whether they would like to pursue othermethods of starting their own families.
The eventual recognition by society that couples experiencing fertility issues, for example, and same sex couples have an equal contribution to make as parents means that these two routes are now real options and equal alternatives to those who are committed to starting a family..
If you are considering surrogacy or adoption as a way to start your family, get in touch to speak with one of our specialist family lawyers today.
Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords, comments as follows: “With the enactment of the Surrogacy Act in 1985, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Acts in 1990 and in 2008, the Civil Partnership Act in 2004 and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013, the law has responded to social changes by developing slowly to recognise the breadth of family relationships that exist and also to afford all families and their children the protection and benefit of legislation in the event that family relationships come to an end. This includes the law surrounding the conception and adoption of children within the family although there is more work to be done as demonstrated by the Law Commission’s consultation period and its report on surrogacy anticipated in 2022. It is important to obtain specialist advice since the current law is detailed and technical. There is a variety of information and resources freely available via the links below.