Child Law - Adoption Law & Surrogacy Law
Our specialist Family Law Solicitors are able to assist with all Child Law matters, including legal issues surrounding Adoption Law and Surrogacy Law. We understand the sensitive nature of these issues and have experience of dealing with the legal framework which surrounds these areas in regards to Children and their prospective parents.
Child Law -Adoption Law
Adoption is an extremely old mechanism - it is referred to in the Old Testament - for a Child joining a Family other than his or her biological parents. Nowadays, it is one of a number of alternatives available to parents unable to conceive Children, or else for parents who believe they are able to meet the particular needs of Children who cannot be brought up by their birth families.
A Child who is adopted legally becomes a member of his or her new family, and stops legally being a member of his or her birth family.
With international considerations, Adoption Law is now a highly specialised area. Modern Adoptions involve Family Law issues in parallel with questions of criminal law and immigration practice. For example, it is a criminal offence in some circumstances for a Family living in England to try to adopt a Child abroad, or to bring the Child to England to adopt him or her here. The penalties for the offence may include a fine or up to a year in jail. The immigration issues relate to obtaining entry clearance and nationality for the Adoptive Child. A failure to be aware of this complex interaction might have unexpected and disastrous consequences.
One does not have to be a British citizen to adopt in the UK. The rules that say who can adopt here are based on having a legal connection - called “Domicile” – to part of the UK and living here.
Adoption Law - how we can help you
Some examples of assistance we are asked to provide parents who are considering or who have embarked on Adoption include:
- Helping clients with a purely domestic Adoption, where a Child is placed with them by a Local Authority or UK Adoption Agency;
- Assisting with bringing a Child legally into England for the purposes of Adoption here;
- Seeking to have recognised in England an Adoption Order made abroad;
- Advising clients who seek to take a Child verseas to adopt him or her there;
- Helping potential Adopters decide whether they are entitled to Adopt here (by looking at and advising on Domicile), and
- Providing opinions for British nationals who are living abroad and looking to Adopt, for use in proceedings in that other country.
Another situation where we are frequently asked to advise is where a parent’s new partner wishes to adopt their Children. These situations - Stepparent Adoptions - used to be common in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, however, with the focus firmly on what is in the Child’s interests, successful Stepparent Adoptions are very rare.
With stepparent situations, and with all proposed Adoptions, we are able to advise on alternatives to Adoption. For example, it might be sufficient for a stepparent or a prospective Adopter to acquire Parental Responsibility, obtain a Special Guardianship Order or obtain a Residence Order instead of an Adoption Order. Whilst these Orders will not make a Child legally a member of his or her new family, and end the legal relationships with the birth family, they may be sufficient in the circumstances to meet the Child’s needs.
We are able to offer expert and experienced advice in this area, and have a proven track record of helping clients navigate the legal obstacles.
Child Law - Surrogacy Law
Surrogacy is now a viable (in terms of both accessibility and cost) and increasingly popular option for those wishing to have Children. Parenthood and the experience of welcoming a Child into one’s life should be an enriching and joyful time. However, it can also be a time of anxiety when parenthood happens through Surrogacy, as there are many potential pitfalls which must be navigated. This is all the more so where the surrogacy arrangement involves another country - as so many do nowadays.
It is critical that those considering or involved in a Surrogacy Arrangement seek expert legal advice as early as possible. This will help ensure matters progress smoothly.
What is Surrogacy? - understanding Surrogacy Law
Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a Child for another person or couple. The woman who has the Child is called the Surrogate. The parent or parents for whom the Child is intended are called the “Commissioning” or “Social” parents.
There are two general models of Surrogacy Arrangement:
(a) Using the eggs of the Surrogate mother and the sperm of the Commissioning father (sometimes called “Traditional” or “Straight” Surrogacy), and
(b) Where the Child is genetically unrelated to the Surrogate mother (“Gestational” or “Host” Surrogacy).
Surrogacy Law - potential problems
Under English law, the commissioning parent/s are not automatically the Child’s legal parents. They might not have Parental Responsibility. This lack of status might come as a surprise to Commissioning Parents who have entered into an arrangement abroad, in countries where they have established legal rights.
Just who are, under English law, the Child’s legal parents might depend on a number of factors, including whether the Surrogate is married and whether the Surrogacy is a Traditional or Gestational one.
To be recognised as the legal parents of a Child born to a Surrogate, the intended parents need to act quickly. The form of Order that gives recognition is called a Parental Order. An application for a Parental Order must be made within six months of the Child’s birth. This time limit is not extendable.
Whether the court decides to make a Parental Order depends on a range of factors, which include: how much money the intended parents have paid to the Surrogate; to whom is the Child genetically related; whether the surrogate (and, if relevant, her husband) consent to the Order. There are also residential rules which might act as obstacles to intended parents seeking an Order. Ultimately, the court must be satisfied that a Parental Order is in the Child’s best interests.
Surrogacy Agreements are not enforceable in England and Wales. This does not mean that they are worthless. It does mean that both Surrogate and intended parents need expert advice about what might happen if relations break down.
Different countries and territories apply different rules to Surrogacy. What is true of Surrogacy here will not be identical to the legal situation abroad. We work closely with expert lawyers in other countries to ensure our clients have the benefit of specialist advice particular to their case.
Our Specialist Child Law Solicitors
Our specialist Children Team can provide you with advice and assistance wherever you are in your journey through the Surrogacy process, from considering your options all the way through to representing you in an application for a Parental Order.
Particular issues a person involved in a Surrogacy Arrangement must consider include:
- The immigration status of the Child, if born abroad or to a non-British national Surrogate;
- The intended parents’ legal status (“Domicile”);
- The Surrogate’s marital status;
- Who will be automatically treated as the Child’s legal parents, and what arrangements could be made until a Parental Order is in place to give the intended parents a say in Parental Responsibility matters affecting the Child (for example, consenting to medical treatment or immunisations, registering the birth or applying for a passport);
- Alternatives (for example, Adoption) to a Parental Order if one cannot now be obtained (if the six month period has passed, or some other pre-condition for a Parental Order cannot be met);
- What might be appropriate levels of financial assistance to be paid by the intended parents to the Surrogate.
Contact our specialist Child Law team
If you would like to talk to any of our specialist Child Law Solicitors please contact them on 0800 916 9055 or e-mail email@example.com
Our Family Law Solicitors operate across the country and can offer immediate and accessible representation anywhere in England & Wales.