Surrogacy in the UK
What you need to know to navigate the complex options
Surrogacy in the UK is an important treatment option for the 3.5 million British couples who struggle with infertility. But despite the promise surrogacy offers, the process is not simple, and UK laws are often outdated and inadequate.
Hundreds of families are started every year via surrogacy in the UK, and hundreds more are started by UK couples using surrogacy services overseas. Here are some basic answers for childless couples considering their own journey.
Is surrogacy in the UK legal?
Surrogacy in the UK is legal, and regulated by the UK-surrogacy-act-of-1985, which covers the rights of parents and surrogates, as well as outlines the process for establishing permanent parental rights. For example, it is illegal to pay a surrogate more than basic expenses for her service. It’s also a criminal offense to advertise that you are looking for a surrogate mother or willing to act as a surrogate mother. The restrictions make surrogacy in the UK legal, but also quite difficult to manage.
UK laws may seem outdated given the medical advances, especially in comparison to similar laws in more “surrogacy friendly” countries. For example, UK laws do not support commercial surrogacy contracts. As a result parental rights are given to the surrogate when the baby is born, and she is entitled to ask for custody. Court orders can protect the genetic parents but require legal expertise. An overview of surrogacy rights are available online.
There is an increasing frequency of UK couples pursuing international surrogacy, where their child is conceived and delivered outside the UK. In some countries with supportive surrogacy laws couples can have their own names declared on the child’s birth certificate as the official parents when the child is born. Other countries will place the surrogate’s name on the birth certificate.
How Much Does Surrogacy in the UK Cost?
The total cost of surrogacy in the UK can surpass £50,000 (about $65,000 USD) depending on the clinic and your surrogate. Total UK surrogacy costs will include not just the compensation to the surrogate (around £10,000 to £15,000), but also the clinical payments of IVF and embryo transfers, consulting fees, and legal fees. Below is a breakdown of the costs associated with surrogacy in the UK.
UK law prohibits any payment to your surrogate during or after a surrogacy agreement. However Surrogates must not be left out of pocket, and it is perfectly legal that IPs pay for all reasonable expenses incurred by the surrogate. Recent court cases have approved “expense payments” up to £15,000 GBP ($20,000 USD).
Would-be parents should consider all possible expenses that could be claimed by the surrogate as related to her pregnancy. That includes the surrogate’s travel costs (to visit you as well as to/from the fertility clinic or hospital). Loss of earnings may need to be paid if she works. Expenses for maternity clothing and childcare are also common. Physical or psychological therapy may also be included as a valid expense if they are related to the pregnancy.
Clinic and Legal fees:
The fees to clinics vary from clinic to clinic and geographical location. London surrogacy clinics are more expensive, with fees around £25,000 GBP ($32,000 USD). That would include egg and sperm donation, fertilization and the embryo transfer. Prenatal care may be extra, as well as the delivery of the baby. Some clinical fees may be covered by National Health Service — but the bulk of surrogacy expenses are not covered.
Legal fees vary greatly from lawyer to lawyer. Some lawyers charge as much as £50,000 ($64,000 USD), although most reasonable legal fees would total below £10,000 GBP (£13,000 USD).
Surrogacy is more affordable in overseas countries, where local governments have invested heavily in medical facilities to attract tourism. Surrogacy in Ukraine or Kenya surrogacy can be completed for about £33,000 ($45,000 USD) – including all the clinical procedures, surrogate care and compensation, and legal fees.
What are the obstacles to surrogacy in the UK?
The biggest obstacle to UK couples seeking surrogacy procedures is the scarcity of surrogate mothers. Because British surrogates are minimally paid for their long and exhausting efforts, there are few surrogates available in the UK. The wait for a qualified surrogate can take years. Cost is also a factor, as National Health Service does not cover surrogacy procedures. Although surrogates are not paid, they are entitled to “reasonable expenses” such as lost wages, clothing, and housekeeping services. That can be a substantial expense.
Many couples are also put-off by UK surrogacy laws, which grants full parental rights to the surrogate and will support her claim on the baby should she change her mind. The surrogate may keep the baby until the Intended Parents can get a court order saying otherwise, which could be quite difficult as she is the legal mother (genetically connected or not).
Passports and Travel Documents for UK Surrogacy families
For couples who pursue surrogacy overseas, they will need to apply for citizenship and travel documents for the baby before returning to the UK. The process of applying for entry into the UK (or a British passport) involves the Home Office/Immigration authorities. The process is completely separate from petitioning for permanent status as parents, which involves the family courts.
In some case the parents must apply for a special entry clearance to bring their child home to the UK. In cases of surrogacy in the US or in Cambodia, the baby is eligible for local citizenship and passport and can travel back to the UK on a simple family or tourist visa. That process can require only a few weeks (as opposed to a few months for a UK passport).
Once the entry clearance is given the couple may return with the child to the UK. There they typically begin the process of establishing full parental rights through a “Parental Order.”
Establishing Parentage in cases of Surrogacy in the UK
Under British law any woman who gives birth to a child is regarded as the legal mother regardless of how the child was conceived. The birth mother’s husband, if she has one, is regarded as the legal father. If the surrogate is unmarried however then the genetic father can be named on the birth certificate. There is no law that requires a surrogate to be unmarried, but the default legal status of her husband makes having a single surrogate quite desirable.
The English process to establish the intended parents as the sole parents and guardians of the child is a “Parental Order”. A parental order establishes the parental rights fully and permanently, and results in the child’s birth certificate to be issued with the intended parents as the sole parents. It also removes the surrogate’s legal status and responsibilities under English law.
Parental orders are similar to an adoption order, but specific only to surrogacy in the UK. Like an adoption order, a parental order reassigns parenthood from the birth mother to the Intended Parents. The Order confers full parental status and parental responsibility on both Intended Parents.
For a Parental Order to be granted the following are all required:
- Both Intended Parents must be over eighteen
- The conception of the baby must have taken place artificially
- At least one IP must be biologically related to the child
- At least one IP must live in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
- The child must have his/her home with the Intended Parents
- The IPs must be in a stable, long term relationship.
- The surrogate mother and her husband must fully and freely consent to the order.
Since April 2010, unmarried and same sex couples have been able to apply for a parental order.
The Parental Order process requires that the surrogacy arrangement be “altruistic”, meaning that no part of the process can be performed for profit or commercial purposes. Lawyers and agents are prohibited from making any money from advising or assisting in any arrangement for surrogacy in the UK, which often leaves intend parents to manage the bulk of their surrogacy program themselves. Only “reasonable expenses” are allowed to be paid to the surrogate.
The term “reasonable expenses” is not clearly defined and often can include amounts up to £15,000 GBP ($20,000 USD). Although courts have been lenient as to what they consider “reasonable”, they will insist on exacting accounting of what was spent during the process and for what specific services.
Intended parents should apply for a Parental Order after 6 weeks from the baby’s birth, and must be completed within six months. Once a parental order is made, a British birth certificate is issued naming the intended parents and replacing the child’s original birth certificate.
Secure Alternatives to Surrogacy in the UK
UK couples can find safe and affordable options abroad
Sensible Surrogacy has partners with clinics and service providers from the United States, Ukraine, and Cambodia to offer safe and secure surrogacy options for all UK couples. We represent affordable programs that are a fraction of the cost of surrogacy in the UK and that don’t require long waits or uncertain legal obstacles.