Surrogacy rates have increased by 90% over the last five years according to the CAFCASS national database which records the number of Parental Order applications received by the courts in England and Wales*. However, surrogacy law specialist Claire Wood of Rayden Solicitors thinks that the actual uptake in surrogacy arrangements in the UK is much higher. Claire explains, “In my experience, many parents decide not to apply for parental orders to regularise their parental status through the court process. This could leave them in a potentially vulnerable position without proper parental status because, until the court makes a Parental Order, the child will legally be a child of the surrogate and not the intended parents. Their lack of legal status can cause all sorts of difficulties for inheritance purposes or when they need to demonstrate that they have parental responsibility, for example, when they want to apply for a child’s passport. I would expect that the number of surrogacy arrangements are in fact significantly higher than the number of parental order applications recorded by CAFCASS. The increase in surrogacy arrangements and applications for parental orders is a hugely positive step forward for intended parents and families in the UK.”
In English law the birth mother, the surrogate, is recognised as the legal mother unless and until the court extinguishes her parental status. This is the case even if she is a “host” surrogate and has no genetic connection to the child. In surrogacy arrangements a woman will carry a baby for an intended parent or parents. A parental order has the effect of removing the surrogate as the legal parent and giving joint legal parenthood and parental responsibility to the intended parents, including a new birth certificate recording this.
Surrogacy has hit the headlines in recent years as high profile individuals have spoken about their surrogacy journey including footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, reality television celebrity Kim Kardashian West and Olympian Tom Daley and his partner Dustin Lance Black.
*The number of Parental Order applications under s.54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act received in 2012-13 was 152 and in 2017-18, 284.