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Why Family Law Needs to Include Alternative Family Structures

Arsenal Ladies & England player Casey Stoney has announced that she and her partner, Megan Harris are expecting twins together after successful IVF treatment.

Earlier this year, the couple went public about their same-sex relationship, with Stoney explaining that she wanted to be clear about her circumstances before the details of the pregnancy were announced.
The couple join the ranks of numerous alternative families in the public eye using IVF to have a family, with the world of celebrities mirroring that of ‘everyday’ couples, for whom arrangements such as IVF, gamete donation, surrogacy and adoption are increasingly common for couples who are unable to conceive biological children naturally. 

As Family Solicitors we have certainly seen an increase in the number of couples who are looking into such methods as a way to start a family, with many seeking to examine the pros and cons of each approach before making a decision as to which method is best for them.

There has also been a notable increase in those willing to be open about the use of such techniques which again, it is thought has partly been encouraged by high-profile couples speaking publically about their use of such techniques such as Elton John & David Furnish, Nicole Kidman & Keith Urban, Sarah Jessica Parker & Mathew Broderick, Julie Roberts, Sandra Bullock… the list is quickly becoming endless.
With alternative conception methods quickly becoming more commonplace in society, it's important that the law catches up, with legal advances trailing far, far behind scientific ones. Many couples wrongly assume that because the science behind alternative families is now well-established, that the law will automatically regulate the legal arrangements; however this is not always the case, and there can be incredibly complex complications if things are not done exactly right from start to finish in the process. 
It is hoped that the laws applying to IVF and alternative families will be modified to sit more comfortably alongside the social reality of such arrangements soon but in the meantime, meticulous research and planning about the legal aspects of such arrangements really is key.
Cara Nuttall is a Family Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

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