The never ending troubles of Coronation Street are currently dominated with the battle between Tina and Izzy as they fight it out for the rights to baby Jake. Bar maid, Tina, agreed to act as a surrogate mother for Izzy and Gary who couldn’t have a baby themselves. After Tina gave birth prematurely to baby Jake last week, she bonded with the baby and began to believe that the baby would be better off with her. This week viewers will see Tina announce to Izzy and Gary that she is keeping the baby, and with Izzy and Gary prepared to fight all the way, we are soon to see the legalities of surrogacy played out on our screens.
It is clear from the storyline above that Surrogacy raises legal issues which can cause a lot anxiety for the people involved. It may come as a surprise to some that the woman who gives birth is treated as the mother in UK law and has the right to keep the Child – even if they’re not genetically related. The surrogate’s husband or partner will also be treated as the child’s legal father. So it seems that despite the baby being biologically Izzy and Gary’s they may be in for an uphill struggle in enforcing the surrogacy agreement that they had. Surrogacy is legal in the UK, however, the law does not recognise it as a binding agreement on the parties involved.
In a usual surrogacy arrangement, shortly after the birth of the child, the intended father would be named on the birth certificate with the surrogate mother. Then 6 weeks after the birth of the child the intended parents would apply for a Parental Order (if they are genetically related to the child) which transfers the legal rights from the birth mother to the intended parents. There is a simple court form which can be used to do this which is then lodged at the family proceedings court within 6 months of the child’s birth. The clock therefore will soon start ticking for Izzy and Gary, as once the child is older than 6 months, a parental order cannot be applied for and the intended parents then most legally Adopt the child.
Obviously, not all surrogacy arrangements are as dramatic as Coronation streets, but it is certainly an area in which it is advisable to ensure that you are fully informed and supported from the outset by a legally qualified professional.
By Family Trainee Solicitor Charlotte Brinsley.