Judge warns on 'informal surrogacy'

Maldon and Burnham Standard: A High Court judge has told a "cautionary tale" about not using licensed fertility clinics A High Court judge has told a "cautionary tale" about not using licensed fertility clinics

A High Court judge has warned people considering having children via surrogacy arrangements of the dangers of not approaching regulated fertility clinics.

Mrs Justice Eleanor King said "serious legal and practical difficulties" could arise when people entered into "informal surrogacy arrangements".

The judge, who sits in the Family Division of the High Court, said licensed clinics would consider the welfare of a surrogate child and provide counselling services - including information about likely repercussions of a surrogacy arrangement.

She was speaking in a written analysis of a surrogacy case where problems had occurred - and which she described as a "cautionary tale".

Mrs Justice Eleanor King said the case centred on a boy born in Leicester four years ago as a result of a surrogacy arrangement.

A friend had acted as a surrogate mother for a couple, said the judge

The couple's relationship broke down a few months after the birth - resulting in the mother leaving with the child and family court litigation beginning.

And at one stage a firm of solicitors had committed an offence by negotiating surrogacy arrangements on a commercial basis, she added.

No-one involved in the case was named.

"Whilst ultimately the parties have been able to agree a way forward in the interests of (the child), the facts of this case stand as a valuable cautionary tale of the serious legal and practical difficulties which can arise where men or women, desperate for a child of their own, enter into informal surrogacy arrangements, often in the absence of any counselling or any specialist legal advice," said Mrs Justice Eleanor King.

"This case. .. highlights the real dangers which can arise as a consequence of private 'partial' surrogacy arrangements where assistance is not sought at a regulated fertility clinic (or indeed full surrogacy arrangements where the child is born abroad).

"At a licensed clinic consideration will be given to the welfare of a child born as a result of the surrogacy arrangement and counselling services will be provided to the parties, which will include the provision of information about the likely repercussions of a surrogacy arrangement and the importance of obtaining a parental order.

"It is to be hoped that a multi-agency surrogacy protocol will soon be in place in every health authority in England and Wales, drafted in conjunction with their local fertility units and local authorities.

"Such protocols would go some way to ensuring that in informal surrogacy arrangements the welfare condition is met and the adults will be given important information and advice.

"Outside the regulated clinics advice is hard to find; there are few firms of solicitors specialising or even passingly knowledgeable in the field."

The judge added: "Surrogacy is ... becoming increasingly common and the number of applications for parental orders around the country is increasing rapidly, particularly since the amendments to (legislation) now quite properly allow same sex and single women to apply for parental orders."

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