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surrogacy – be warned, charging to draw up an agreement is a crime

 

Re JP v LP and Others 2014

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/595.html

in which the High Court deal with a surrogacy arrangement that went wrong. As I’ve suggested in the past how important it is, if you are creating a baby in a slightly unorthodox way that all adults involved are clear about what they all intend, and ideally get it down in writing.

In this case, the adults HAD done that, and had a surrogacy arrangement reduced into a legal document intended to be binding. Mrs Justice King points out that in charging for that document to be drawn up, the solicitor was committing a criminal offence.

    1. The parties agreed and an agreement was prepared by a firm of Birmingham solicitors. The solicitors were in fact committing a criminal offence as, whilst such agreements can lawfully be drawn up free of charge, the solicitors in preparing and charging for the preparation of the agreement were negotiating surrogacy arrangements on a commercial basis‘ in contravention of section 2 of the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 which says :

 

2 Negotiating surrogacy arrangements on a commercial basis, etc.

(1)No person shall on a commercial basis do any of the following acts in the United Kingdom, that is—

(a) initiate or take part in any negotiations with a view to the making of a surrogacy arrangement,

(b) offer or agree to negotiate the making of a surrogacy arrangement, or

(c) compile any information with a view to its use in making, or negotiating the making of, surrogacy arrangements;

and no person shall in the United Kingdom knowingly cause another to do any of those acts on a commercial basis.

(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) above is guilty of an offence;

Worse than that (for the adults, not the solicitor) was the fact that under s36(1) Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 surrogacy arrangements are not enforceable by law. So a document was drawn up and charged for that had no legal status, and the solicitor doing it was unwittingly committing a crime.

So, lesson number one is that if you are a solicitor and someone seeks advice about a surrogacy agreement, you’re either doing it pro-bono or you’re potentially committing a crime.  And if you are doing it pro-bono, then the document is only really going to be any use as a statement of people’s intentions BEFORE the birth. Once the baby is born, all bets are off.  The fact that a biological mother agrees to have a baby and hand it over and puts that in writing doesn’t mean that she can’t when the baby is born just say “Sorry, changed my mind, I’m keeping the baby – and the ‘expenses’ that you gave me”

    1. Notwithstanding that a surrogacy arrangement may have taken place outside the structure of the HFEA 2008, The act itself nevertheless spells out the legal effect of such an informal arrangement:

 

(i) The surrogate mother having carried a child following assisted reproduction ‘and no other woman’, is the child’s legal mother s33(1) HFEA 2008. This remains the case unless the child is subsequently adopted or parenthood transferred through a parental order. Absent adoption or a parental order she has and retains parental responsibility.

(ii) The father is the genetic and social father of CP

The surrogate mother was not married section 35 HFEA 2008) and was neither treated in a UK Licensed clinic, she was not in the category of relationship which would satisfy the so called ‘Fathership’ conditions’ (s37 HFEA 2008) which relationships could otherwise have the effect of making the husband/partner of the surrogate mother the legal father in place of the genetic father.

(iii) The mother, absent legal intervention, has no status other than the emotional and social status of being CP’s psychological mother. Crucially she does not have parental responsibility, she cannot therefore give consent to medical treatment, register CP for a school or take a myriad of decisions in relation to CP which parents routinely do without a thought as to whether or not they have the authority so to do.

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About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

3 responses

  1. I would love to know who the law firm in Birmingham are!

    • Wouldn’t we all?

      Is it a summary (and therefore time-barred) offence or can it be tried on indictment?

  2. Pingback: surrogacy – be warned, charging to draw u...

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