RSS Feed

Tag Archives: human fertilisation and embryology act

Oedipus Wrecks

I have written about some strange cases involving the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, but this one might be the strangest.

 

Re B v C (Surrogacy : Adoption) 2015

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2015/17.html

 

[Read the piece first, it makes more sense that way – don’t read the judgment till you have read the piece]

 

In this case B (let’s call him Bob, because it makes following the story a bit easier) decides that he wants to have a baby. Bob doesn’t have a partner, he is a single man in his twenties, but he wants to have a baby.

 

Bob decides to get a surrogate mother to have his baby. This surrogate mother is C (let’s call her Carol – not her real name).

 

Carol is married to D (let’s call him Derek). Derek consents to this procedure.

 

The baby is born. The baby is A (let’s call him Alfie)

 

The baby is the biological child of Bob and Carol. But the legal parents are Carol and Derek. Bob doesn’t have PR. Bob is not the child’s legal father, Derek is.   (Because he is married to Carol and consented to the pregnancy – if he wasn’t married or didn’t consent, Bob would have been the legal father)

 

So Bob makes his application to Court. Now, as a single parent, a parental order is not open to him (which is the usual order sought post surrogacy)

 

Under section 54 of the HFEA 2008 in situations where a child has been carried by another woman a parental order can be made by the court, this provides for a child to be treated in law as the child of the applicants. However, all the requirements under section 54 have to be met, one of which is that there have to be two applicants who are either married, civil partners or are ‘two persons who are living as partners in an enduring family relationship and are not within prohibited degrees of relationship in relation to each other.’ (Section 54 (2)). A single person is therefore unable to apply for a parental order.

 

Bob has to instead, as a single carer, apply for an adoption order. As he isn’t the child’s legal father, he is not prohibited from adopting his own child (because legally it isn’t his child because of Derek’s marriage to Carol and consent to the process)

 

 

With me so far?

 

Here is the tricky part.

 

How should I say this? Remember Carol, who had the baby on Bob’s behalf? Well, on Sunday 15th March, Bob will be sending Carol a card. Not just on Alfie’s behalf, as many dads do. But on his own behalf.

 

Carol is Bob’s mum. Derek is Bob’s stepdad.

 

Remember at the moment that the biological parents of Alfie are Bob and Carol * But the legal ones are Carol and Derek.
[*A commentator on Twitter has found in the judgment the reference to there being an egg-donor that I couldn’t find in the judgment. So genetically Carol is not Alfie’s mother]

Alfie is biologically Bob’s son and also his brother. But legally, Alfie is Bob’s brother.

 

Mrs Justice Theis must have called on all of her powers of understatement to summarise this arrangement as :-

 

This, admittedly, unusual arrangement was entered into by the parties after careful consideration, following each having individual counselling and with all the treatment being undertaken by a fertility clinic licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) who are required under the HFEA code to consider the welfare of the child before embarking on any treatment.

 

 

Is this legal? It feels like it shouldn’t be legal? Is it legal? I agree with you, it doesn’t feel like you should be able to have a baby with your own mother, even if it is artificial insemination. That feels like a baby who is going to spend a lifetime in therapy.

 

Always worth examining your own thoughts when you have a strong visceral reaction to something. It is pretty common in surrogacy for a woman to ask her sister to have the baby for her; if Bob was Betty and Carol was Betty’s sister that wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow. Why is it that surrogacy between a mother and son feels… somehow a bit “Take a Break” ?

 

[I suppose on this basis, a female Bob – let’s call her Betty, could decide to have a baby with artificial insemination with her dad Derek providing the raw material. Let’s call that baby Electra and be done with it. I’d be interested to know which scenario makes you feel less comfortable, or even whether you have no adverse thoughts about either]

 

It is legal and the people involved in this, from what I read of the judgment, are all perfectly normal, sensible and decent people who used a legal solution to solve Bob’s problem that he wanted to be a father and didn’t want to wait till he found a partner. (That again is something that if Bob was Betty, nobody would bat an eyelid about)

 

Unusually, and where the legal aspect of this case is noteworthy, is that it is only the fact that Bob and Carol are related that stops the agreement they reached about Bob adopting Alfie being a criminal offence.

 

Underlining here shows all the offences that would have been committed by Carol agreeing to have a baby for Bob to adopt (if they weren’t mother and son)

 

The ACA 2002 provides restrictions on arranging adoptions in section 92, the relevant part provides

 

 

(1) A person who is neither an adoption agency nor acting in pursuance of an order of the High Court must not take any of the steps mentioned in subsection (2).

 

(2) The steps are—

 

 

(a) asking a person other than an adoption agency to provide a child for adoption,

(b) asking a person other than an adoption agency to provide prospective adopters for a child,

(c) offering to find a child for adoption,

(d) offering a child for adoption to a person other than an adoption agency,

(e) handing over a child to any person other than an adoption agency with a view to the child’s adoption by that or another person,

(f) receiving a child handed over to him in contravention of paragraph (e),

(g) entering into an agreement with any person for the adoption of a child, or for the purpose of facilitating the adoption of a child, where no adoption agency is acting on behalf of the child in the adoption,

(h) initiating or taking part in negotiations of which the purpose is the conclusion of an agreement within paragraph (g),

(i) causing another person to take any of the steps mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (h).

 

 

 

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to a person taking any of the steps mentioned in paragraphs (d), (e), (g), (h) and (i) of subsection (2) if the following condition is met.

(4) The condition is that—

(a) the prospective adopters are parents, relatives or guardians of the child (or one of them is), or

(b) the prospective adopter is the partner of a parent of the child.

 

Breach of s 92 is a criminal offence under s 93 ACA 2002.

 

 

We’ve established that the actions of Bob and Carol would amount to a criminal offence under s92.

 

There are two circumstances in which the offence doesn’t apply, from s92(4)

 

Either Bob is a parent, relative or guardian of the child

 

OR he is Carol’s partner (which thankfully he isn’t) or Derek’s partner (which he isn’t)

 

He isn’t, in law a parent or Guardian of Alfie, but he might be a relative.

 

And the relative bit is defined in s144 ACA “relative”, in relation to a child, means a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt, whether of the full blood or half-blood or by marriage [or civil partnership]

 

 

So the offences in s92 don’t apply (I actually think that offence s92(a) which isn’t covered by the s92(4) defence still applies, but it does seem a bit weird if ‘asking someone if they will have a child that you can adopt’ is a crime whereas ‘negotiating with them with a view to achieving that’ isn’t. So I can’t see anyone in Bob’s position being prosecuted for that)

 

What this case shows is that if you are a single person, surrogacy is something of a legal minefield. You can’t apply for a Parental Order. And if you plan instead to go the adoption route, then you risk falling foul of the criminal offences – since if you aren’t directly related to the child taking any step to arrange or agree it or handing over the child is a criminal offence.

 

The placement would also be a Private Fostering Placement pending the court making its decision (unless like Bob, you are related to the child), meaning that social workers would need to be involved.

 

  1. By virtue of the provisions of the HFEA 2008 set out above A and B have the same parents and, therefore, B is the legal brother of A. This means that in the unusual circumstances of this case, B met the conditions of s92 (4) (a) ACA 2002 with the result that when C and D placed A for adoption with B they were acting lawfully.

 

 

  1. The parties have also drawn my attention to the fact that, were it not for the highly unusual fact that B is a relative of A, when C and D placed A into B’s care, the placement would have fallen within the definition of a private fostering arrangement under the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/1533).

 

 

  1. These regulations impose an obligation on both the legal parents of a child, as well as the proposed carer, to notify the appropriate local authority of the intention to care for a child under a private fostering arrangement. The obligation in these regulations arises of out the Secretary of State’s power to make regulations under paragraph 7 of Schedule 8 of the Children Act 1989 (CA 1989), which in turn supplements the provisions in s.66 of the CA 1989. Breach of the provisions of s.66 CA 1989 is an offence under s.70 CA 1989. It is of note that when a child born as a result of a surrogacy agreement, is placed in the care of intended parents who intend to apply for a parental order, the placement is not treated as a private fostering arrangement because of the effect of The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Parental Orders) Regulations 2010 Sch 4 para 12).

 

 

  1. What this case highlights, is that but for the close familial relationship between B and C, their actions would have breached these important statutory provisions and potentially left them liable to a criminal prosecution under both s.93 ACA 2002 and s.70 CA 1989.

 

 

  1. It is therefore imperative that single parents contemplating parenthood through surrogacy obtain comprehensive legal advice as to how to proceed as adoption is the only means to ensure that they are the only legal parents of their child. The process under which they can achieve this is a legal minefield, they need to ensure that all the appropriate steps are undertaken to secure lifelong legal security regarding their status with the child.

 

 

The wording of s92 opens the door to the possibility that a single carer could do all of this if the High Court had granted permission in advance. I can’t think for the life of me what application you’d make (before the birth of the child or discussion about whether a stranger would have a baby for you to adopt had happened) but on the wording of s92, it seems like the High Court can by giving its blessing stop those actions being a crime.

 

 

The adoption order was made (and despite my own personal feelings of disquiet / ickiness about the perfectly legal arrangements, it is worth noting that the professional and independent assessments about everyone were clear that Bob would be a great carer for Alfie)

 

What is apparent from the reports is that the parties thought carefully about this arrangement, pausing, reflecting and seeking advice at each stage. In my judgment a critical feature of this case are the obviously close relationships within this family; it is an arrangement that was entered into not only with the support of the parties to this application, but, importantly, also the wider family. The strength of these familial relationships, and the consequent support they provide now and in the future, will ensure A’s lifelong welfare needs are met. An adoption order will provide the legal security to A’s relationship with B, which will undoubtedly meet A’s long term welfare needs.

 

 

Therefore, B’s application will be granted and an adoption order made.

 

 

All the very best for Bob and Alfie (not their real names) in the future.

 

If you do have a client call into your office to discuss with you their plans to have a baby with their own mother, then (a) you now know what to do and (b) if you can maintain your face as an impassive mask then I am never playing poker with you.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Overseas surrogacy

I have written a few pieces about overseas surrogacy this year , which probably reflects that more of these arrangements are being made, or at least that more of them are going wrong.

 

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2014/04/29/surrogacy-arrangements-made-overseas/

about  a commercial arrangement with the Kiran agency to have a surrogacy in India.  (I would urge some careful research before you pick your agency in India)

 

and

 

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2014/05/16/commercial-surrogacy-iowa-and-an-unforseen-difficulty/    about a tricky commercial surrogacy in Iowa, that went wrong because the Iowa procedure is that the commissioning ‘parents’ adopt the child, which breaches English law on arranging adoptions overseas.

 

and

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2014/07/02/yet-more-international-surrogacy/   about a commercial surrogacy in Georgia, where the Georgian organisation seemed incapable of answering a straight question about whether the surrogate mother was married.

 

There has been the obvious scandal this week about baby Gammy

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-28627374

 

The story here is that an Australian couple entered into a surrogacy arrangement with commercial elements in Thailand. The surrogate mother gave birth to twins, one of whom, Gammy, has Downs Syndrome. The story (though it is refuted) is that the Australian couple took the other twin but would not take Gammy. There are calls for commercial and overseas surrogacy to be better regulated.

I would not want to demonise surrogacy in the flurry of outrage about this particular case. It works for many people and provides a legitimate way of someone to concieve and care for a biological child if they are incapable of physically carrying a child of their own, for example.

 

So first, what IS surrogacy?

 

It involves having a woman become pregnant, carry the baby, give birth and then give the baby up. But most importantly, the persons to whom the baby is given to have provided either the sperm or the eggs, or both, to make the fertilisation possible. I.e one of the people who will be caring for the baby will be a genetic parent to that child.  If there isn’t a genetic link by the provision of either sperm or eggs, that isn’t surrogacy. That’s just straight out buying a baby.

 

In England, surrogacy is legal, although the commercial element is highly regulated. A person can’t pay for a baby, nor can the surrogate mother charge a fee. What is legitimate is a payment to cover legitimate and genuine expenses involved.

 

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.

 

Anyone purporting to run a Surrogacy Agency in the UK, or to charge an introduction fee or arrangement fee fo surrogacy is doing so illegally.

 

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has some very good guidance about Surrogacy, here

http://www.hfea.gov.uk/fertility-treatment-options-surrogacy.html#8

 

Overseas, however, it is lawful in some countries to have an Agency to put prospective commissioners together with prospective surrogates, and to charge a fee for doing so. As happened here.

 

Here are the two major issues with Surrogacy for the ‘commissioning parents’, particularly where it is overseas

 

1.  If the biological / birth mother gives birth and then does not want to hand the child over, it is easy to get embroiled in difficult litigation over it. The existence of a ‘contract’ or ‘agreement’ to hand over the baby isn’t going to be determinative of it, things will depend very much on the law in that country and the mother’s ability to look after the child. It can be very protracted, confusing and expensive.

 

2. To ensure that both ‘commissioning parents’ have legal rights to the child in this country, an application to an English Court has to be made. That’s an application for a Parental Order.  Here is the really important bit. That application MUST be issued before the child is six months old.  If it is issued six months and one day after birth, it is too late. You can’t get your Parental Order. The Court has no power to cut you some slack or let you off. That six month cut off is a real deal. So you have to be organised.  Also, your application has to cover all of the necessary details – getting evidence that the Surrogate mother is not married, that she is the genuine mother of the child and that she genuinely consents is all vital. And for that, given that the Surrogate mother is overseas, you can be entirely dependent on the Surrogate Agency being good.  (they aren’t always)

 

One of the things the Court will have to do in the consideration of the Parental Order is look at the fees that you paid. This is a scrutiny to make sure that you paid a reasonable and fair amount, and importantly that it wasn’t such a high amount that it becomes ‘buying a baby’  – i.e that the sum offered is so much that the Surrogate mother is not simply doing this as a purely commercial enterprise. As a matter of public policy, the Government don’t want people buying and selling babies. And when it comes to ‘buying’ a baby from  a country that has substantial poverty and different standards of living that becomes even more sensitive.

 

Here are the guidelines for Courts when approving such payments (which remember is retrospective – after the money has been paid and the baby handed over)

 

When considering whether to authorise the payments made in this case the relevant principles are firmly established by the cases, starting with Re X and Y (Foreign Surrogacy) [2008] EWHC 3030 (Fam) [2009] 2WLR 1274 (paragraph 19 and 20) and the cases that have followed (in particular Re S (Parental Order) [2009] EWHC 2977 (Fam), Re L (Commercial Surrogacy) [2010] EWHC 3146 (Fam), [2011] 2WLR 1006 Re IJ (Foreign Surrogacy Agreement Parental Order) [2011] EWHC 921 (Fam) [2011] 2FLR 646 and Re X and Y (Parental Order: Retrospective Authorisation of Payments) [2011] EWHC 3147 (Fam)).

(1) the question whether a sum paid is disproportionate to “reasonable expenses” is a question of fact in each case. What the court will be considering is whether the sum is so low that it may unfairly exploit the surrogate mother, or so high that it may place undue pressure on her with the risk, in either scenario, that it may overbear her free will;

(2) the principles underpinning section 54 (8), which must be respected by the court, is that it is contrary to public policy to sanction excessive payments that effectively amount to buying children from overseas.

(3) however, as a result of the changes brought about by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Parental Orders) Regulations 2010, the decision whether to authorise payments retrospectively is a decision relating to a parental order and in making that decision, the court must regard the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration.

(4) as a consequence it is difficult to imagine a set of circumstances in which, by the time an application for a parental order comes to court, the welfare of any child, particularly a foreign child, would not be gravely compromised by a refusal to make the order: As a result: “it will only be in the clearest case of the abuse of public policy that the court will be able to withhold an order if otherwise welfare considerations support its making”, per Hedley J in Re L (Commercial Surrogacy) [2010] EWHC 3146 (Fam), [2011] 2WLR 1006, at paragraph 10.

(5) where the applicants for a parental order are acting in good faith and without ‘moral taint’ in their dealings with the surrogate mother, with no attempt to defraud the authorities, and the payments are not so disproportionate that the granting of parental orders would be an affront to public policy, it will ordinarily be appropriate for the court to exercise its discretion to give retrospective authorisation, having regard to the paramountcy of the child’s lifelong welfare.

 

It is worth noting that the sort of amounts sanctioned by English Courts this year have been approximately £20,000, which went to an Agency in India. (The Agency kept nearly all of that, with about £4,000 going to the Surrogate mother).

 

In England, £4,000 is not out of line with what one might pay a Surrogate Mother in terms of expenses, but £4,000 probably is a substantial amount more in India in terms of buying power.  How confident can we be that this is not exploitative, and essentially ‘buying’ a baby?

 

I’d certainly urge anyone contemplating surrogacy overseas to get their own legal advice, and probably to contact the HFEA for help and guidance. There are better places than others when considering overseas surrogacy, and certainly better agencies than others.

 

 

 

yet more international surrogacy

 

This time, Re D (A child) 2014

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/2121.html

 

This case was heard in the High Court, by Moylan J

 

 

  • This case provides a clear example of the difficulties created as a result of surrogacy arrangements being subject to varying degrees of domestic regulation, from significant regulation to none at all, and also because of the existence of significant differences in the effect of such domestic regulation. There is, in my view, a compelling need for a uniform system of regulation to be created by an international instrument in order to make available an appropriate structure in respect of what can only be described as the surrogacy market.

 

 

 

  • These proceedings concern a young boy called D who was born in 2010. He was born in the Republic of Georgia as a result of a commercial surrogacy arrangement, using eggs from a donor and the First Respondent’s sperm, which took place at and through a clinic in Georgia.

 

The particular wrinkle in this case was whether the surrogate mother was married at the time of this arrangement. Because if he was, under English law, he would be the child’s legal father, leaving the ‘commissioning father’ the genetic father, but having no legal rights about the child.

 

  • By virtue of section 35 of the HFEA 2008 the answer to the question, “Who is the legal father?”, depends on whether the surrogate mother was married at the relevant time. Section 35(1) provides:

 

 

“If – (a) at the time of the placing in her of the embryo or of the sperm and eggs or of her artificial insemination, W was a party to a marriage, and;

(b) the creation of the embryo carried by her was not brought about with the sperm of the other party to the marriage,

then, subject to section 38(2) to (4), the other party to the marriage is to be treated as the father of the child unless it is shown that he did not consent to the placing in her of the embryo or the sperm and eggs or to her artificial insemination (as the case may be).”

Section 35(2) provides:

“This section applies whether W was in the United Kingdom or elsewhere at the time mentioned in subsection (1)(a).”

 

  • Section 48 of the HFEA 2008 provides that where, by virtue of the provisions of the Act, a person is to be treated as the mother, father or parent of a child,

 

 

“that person is to be treated in law as the mother, father or parent (as the case may be) of the child for all purposes”.

Section 48(2) provides the converse, namely that where, by virtue of the HFEA 2008, a person is not to be treated as a parent of the child,

“that person is to be treated in law as not being a parent of the child for any purpose”.

 

 

The surrogacy and insemination was managed through a clinic, whose director is named MK in this judgment. MK sadly gave two rather different accounts of the surrogate mother’s matrimonial status

 

 

  • When the mother and MK went to the British Embassy in Georgia on 5th January 2011 MK informed the consular official that:

 

 

“The surrogate mother is divorced and was divorced before she entered into the surrogacy arrangement. There are a further five surrogate mothers waiting to deliver their babies in February/March all destined for the UK.”

On 30th December 2011 MK sent an e-mail to the mother’s solicitors in which she said:

“As for surrogate mother, yes, she is and was legally married. She is married also now. We have holidays here until January 3rd and then I will send official letter to public registry and obtain the proof that the surrogate mother is and was legally married, also request copy of her marriage certificate.”

[On version 1 the ‘commissioning man’ who provided the gametes was the genetic father and legal father, on version 2 he was only the genetic father. You absolutely don’t want any doubt about this issue, but the doubts just got worse]

In an e-mail dated 5th January 2012 MK said:

“Also one more important issue. Surrogate signed a contract with us claiming she was single. This was declared to the UK Embassy but very recently we became aware that the surrogate was married. I went to the UK Embassy with the mother to declare the surrogacy but I do not think this is problematic because some of our UK citizen surrogate mothers were married but UK law regulates this and none of our former potential parents has any problem because of this. You can check same in UK Embassy.”

On 20th February 2012 MK said that they had been unable to find the surrogate mother.

  • On 15th October 2012 MK said that the surrogate mother:

 

“Was either divorced or single. We do not match married surrogates to UK couple but we cannot provide any proof as we do not have any further link with her and only she can obtain proof of her marital status from public registry.”

The fact that only the surrogate mother could obtain proof of her marital status from the public registry was subsequently confirmed by the detective agency. In another e-mail of the same date, 15th October 2012, MK said:

“Paperwork was completed and D was granted papers to go to UK. At the time the surrogate mother has declared that she was single. We were later to be informed she had, indeed, been married.”

And then a bit later:

“I had a declaration (just my team member reminder) that surrogate mother was single when she signed and was given to the Embassy.”

In answer to the question as to whether she had any more information, MK said nothing more.

[I think that this Judge was very kind in not naming the agency or MK. Well, kind to them. Not so much to people who are wanting to enter into a surrogacy arrangement and might want to avoid complications, doubts and costly litigation down the line…]

Determination

  • Turning now to my determination, the evidence in this case, on the issue of whether the surrogate mother was married at the relevant time, is clearly not satisfactory. The only person able to give direct evidence is MK and she has refused to provide a statement. She has said, at different times, that the surrogate mother was single, married and divorced. I do not consider that any greater weight can be given to MK’s e-mail of 30th December 2011 than her other statements, which were either also provided to the mother’s solicitors or to the consular official at the British Embassy. These were, as I would describe them, equally official statements.

 

  • The mother’s evidence is inevitably unclear, based, as it is, on what she was told by MK or the impression she gained from MK.

 

  • In my view, the evidence does not establish that the surrogate mother was married at the relevant time. The evidence is not sufficient to enable me to come to that conclusion on the balance of probabilities. Indeed, in my view there is considerable doubt as to whether the clinic provided accurate details as to the identity of the surrogate mother. It is notable that the clinic has failed to provide its contract with the surrogate mother, although this may be explained by being unwilling to reveal the terms of that contract.

 

  • I propose, very briefly, to outline the orders agreed by the parties. In their position statements the parties were seeking different solutions. Those being addressed were adoption, special guardianship and shared residence. The mother sought either an adoption order or a special guardianship order. The father, in an extremely balanced statement, sought a shared residence order. The Local Authority supported the making of a special guardianship order. The guardian did not support the making of either an adoption order or a special guardianship order, having regard in particular to the effect those orders would have on the parties’ respective positions as parents. The guardian’s recommendation was that both parties should have parental responsibility and that there should be a shared residence order.

 

  • The parties, through sensible discussions, have agreed on a structure which follows that made by King J in the case of JP v LP & Ors [2014] EWHC 595 (Fam), including that D should remain a ward of court and that there should be a shared residence order. As I said at the beginning of this judgment, I am entirely satisfied that the proposed orders are in D’s best interests and, accordingly, at the request of the parties, I make such orders.

 

One flew over the Cuckold’s nest

The peculiar set of facts of Re M 2013, which hinged on whether a child had been conceived by artificial insemination, or in the traditional way, and if the former, whether the husband of the mother had consented.  Also, we touch on the issue of anonymity. 

The case is here

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2013/1901.html

We have three players – M, who is the mother of the child, F who provided the gametes for the child’s conception, and H, the husband of the mother.  It is fairly to establish that M  is the child’s legal mother, but establishing who is the child’s legal father is a bit more difficult.

In essence, F was a man who was a sperm donor on a regular basis. Sometimes he did this by means of artificial insemination (AI), and sometimes by natural intercourse (NI).  It was factually agreed that F had been contacted by M and asked to assist with her fertility issue, and that some episodes of NI took place. The issues between the parties were these :-

1.       Was the event which led to the conception of the child, AI or NI ?

2.       Was the Husband in agreement with this?

Why is that relevant? The Court are clearly about to plunge into very delicate and sensitive matters and things are liable to get (excuse the phrase in this context) sticky.

Well, it is because when the Government decided to legislate and regulate the whole business of insemination done outside of the confines of a relationship or even one night stand, they brought into being the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008  (HFEA from now on)

Section 35 of that Act, provides (in very clinical language) that if a woman is married, her husband shall be the legal father of a child produced by artificial insemination with another man’s gametes PROVIDED that he consented to that insemination taking place.

If he did not consent, he is not the child’s legal father. And the donor of the gametes would only be the child’s legal father if he had provided the mother with a notice saying that he consents to be treated as the father of the child AND M has provided him with a notice that she agrees to that.  So, a child conceived by AI without the consent of the Husband  (H) or biological donor of the gametes (F) agreeing to be treated as the Father would have no legal father.

With me so far?

IF the child was conceived by NI, then the male participant would be the child’s legal father (but would not automatically acquire parental responsibility, unless he was registered on the birth certificate)

In this case, which was heard by Mr Justice Peter Jackson – who is rapidly becoming the “go-to” guy on difficult AI cases, the Mother was claiming that the conception had taken place as a result of NI, and that therefore F was the biological AND legal father. She was also seeking orders for financial support for the child from F, under Schedule One of the Children Act 1989.

It would be fair to say that the role of the Court became less one of determining which of F or M was telling the truth, but which of them, after sifting through the multiple lies that each had told, was the more credible in their overall account.  Given that F said the conception was by AI, and M said by NI, one of them must have been telling the truth about the circumstances, and it was, the Judge said, unfortunate that each of them had told so many lies in the proceedings.

These are the lies the Court found that M had told. (The names that I give are names that are within the anonymised transcript, and do not relate to the real names of M, F or H, or the child)

 

·  Examples of Ms M’s deceptions are these:

(1) Her opening e-mail to Mr F stated that she was healthy (she has a medical condition) and that Mr H was excited about donor insemination (he was against it but she hoped to bring him round).

(2) She told Mr F that she had miscarried his child, when she had in fact had a termination.

(3) Her ‘misdirected’ email to a girlfriend, deliberately sent to Mr F, is the work of a fluent fabricator.

 

 (4) Her use of the ‘Andy Hitchings’ name and e-mail account shows a capacity for determined and malevolent action to achieve her ends, and also demonstrates that she will use an alias when it suits her.

(5) I find that she wrote those ‘Andy Hitchings’ emails that she denies writing. Her criterion for accepting or denying authorship was no more than an assessment of the damage that the truth would do to her case.

(6) I find that she probably wrote the ‘Nicole White’ and ‘Edward Mason’ e-mails for the reasons given in Mr F’s opening submissions. She has had two years to prove that these people exist in the face of Mr F’s allegation that they do not, but she has made no attempt to do so.

(7) If I am wrong about point (6), the only plausible alternative is that Ms M conspired with one or more other persons unknown to pursue her campaign against Mr F.

(8) Ms M’s reason for keeping a transcribed log of text messages was that it was as a record for the child. This is unconvincing; a more likely explanation is that she kept the information as a form of insurance.

·  I found Ms M to be an unimpressive witness in relation to the above matters and to show no sign of discomfort when caught in an obvious lie. She freely stated that she is motivated by her own need for Mr F to be punished.

 

 

And then these are the lies that F told

·  Examples of Mr F’s deceptions are these:

(1) His calculating betrayal of his girlfriends, to whom he made promises that he was no longer engaging in sperm donation, and his unabashed dishonesty in concealing his overall activities from recipients with whom he entered into relationships.

(2) His casual untruthfulness on his website profiles about the number of children that he had fathered, lies that would only work to his benefit by disguising a level of hyperactivity that might have deterred responsible approaches.

(3) His deliberately misleading first statement, in which he trumpets the rules of the website as being ‘AI-only’ in an effort to create the impression that this was the case here, when in fact he had been engaging in and advertising sexual activity through the website for years.

(4) His untruthful evidence in these proceedings and to the CSA that he had not had sexual intercourse with Ms M until December 2010 or January 2011, when on his own case it occurred in October 2010.

(5) His gratuitously inaccurate statement that sexual intercourse with Ms M began ‘at her instigation’.

(6) His denial of certain text messages to and from Ms M, taking the same selective tactical approach as she has done.

·  As to the last matter, the log of text messages was produced by Ms M in an unsatisfactory form (allegedly transcribed in edited form from notes that no longer exist of texts that have been ‘lost’). Having exercised due caution in the light of Ms M’s general dishonesty, I nevertheless find that the record can be viewed as a reasonably reliable journal of this form of communication between the couple. The messages have the spontaneous and often inconsequential flavour of real life, are congruent with the content of the contemporaneous emails, and are in my view beyond even Ms M’s powers of fabrication. Moreover, had she wanted to invent evidence, she would probably have inserted some direct and unambiguous reference to sexual activity, but there is none. Many texts are accepted by Mr F, but only where they do him no damage.

·  Mr F’s evidence was clearly given, but he had clearly taken the strategic decision to tell the truth where possible and to lie where necessary. He at least conveyed some impression that he would have been more comfortable telling the truth if circumstances had not prevented it.

 

 

The Judge then had to weigh up, which of them on balance was telling the truth on the central issue of conception, taking into account that the burden of proof was upon M as the applicant

 

·  On the central question of the manner of this child’s conception, I have reached the clear conclusion that Ms M’s evidence is greatly to be preferred to that of Mr F. My reasons are these:

(1) Her account of the sexual activity is detailed and has been consistently maintained. It was unshaken during her evidence.

(2) As a straw in the wind, her answer to an unexpected question about what happened to the AI equipment after the first meeting (which was that she kept bringing but not using it) had the ring of truth.

(3) Allowing for the difficulty faced by any witness in breathing life into a denial, Mr F’s evidence on the issue lacked any real conviction.

(4) His new-found certainty that the first occasion of sex was in late October is inconsistent with his previous accounts and best explained by his having decided to sail as close to the wind as he could in terms of dates.

(5) If the first occasion of sex occurred in October it would have been at one address: if it was in December or January, it would have been at another, Mr F having moved in the meantime. A mistake about dates might be explained: a mistake about venue cannot be accounted for so easily.

(6) My findings about Mr F’s unreliability as a witness are of course relevant.

(7) While of no great importance, it would be a curiosity that the child was conceived by AI at a meeting that was the immediate predecessor of his parents’ very first sexual activity.

(8) The coy and flirtatious tone of their emails and texts from the start suggests that the couple’s relationship had swiftly progressed far beyond AI. The approach seems to have been to communicate in way that was not explicit, chiming with the wish to keep the affair hidden from their partners. Of interest, the tone of the texts and emails is no different before and after October 2010.

(9) I attach no real significance to the use of the term ‘donor’ by either parent when it is clear that this was used interchangeably in their minds for AI and NI. As Mr F put it, ‘I call it donation by sex or receptacle’.

(10) I reject Mr F’s case that a simple friendship and closeness developed between himself and Ms M arising from the intimate nature of AI. The sheer amount of time the couple spent together in a variety of private places from April 2010 onwards is a strong indicator that they were meeting for more than repeated AI.

(11) Mr H believed from an early stage that his wife was having an affair, and I believe that he had good grounds for thinking so.

(12) On the evidence, Mr F did not commonly engage in extended continuous asexual relationships with the women he met through the website. He has an unmistakable track record of inveigling or encouraging recipients into engaging in sexual activity with him from the very first meeting. Ms M’s account of Mr F making a pass at her during the first meeting is consistent with descriptions given by others. Of note, Mr F accepted that he had given her the option of AI or NI within minutes of their first meeting, which was highly inappropriate when she was a stranger who had come for AI.

(13) I accept that Mr F first became involved in licensed donation altruistically and even now, I do not discount a residual element of altruism in his make-up or forget that there are many much-wanted children alive today as a result of his efforts. However, I am clear that in relation to his website activity his mainspring has been to meet his own needs, at least at a sexual level. This is seen by his behaviour in 2007, when he advertised himself in graphic terms as willing to participate in a ‘breeding party’, i.e. a male-dominated orgy designed to get a woman pregnant, though there is no suggestion that he actually took part in such activity. Likewise, he referred in evidence to an occasion when he engaged in sexual activity with both members of a lesbian pair who had approached him via the website.

(14) The fact that Mr F is bound in his professional life by a clear code of ethics makes the risks he was taking the more surprising. His prolific sexual activity with recipients amounted to a brazen flouting of the rules of the website, such as they were. In one relevant period of 2-3 months alone, he was on his own account having sex with three women and providing AI to two others. Most of these contacts had to be kept secret from the other women involved. The sheer logistical challenge alongside his professional life will have been a burden that he would have been likely to have laid down if he had not been driven on by some degree of compulsion. He even kept up and refreshed a posting on a different website, from which he never received any custom over a period of years, and despite the volume of applications the main website was reliably producing.

(15) I reject Mr F’s case that Ms M main motivation is financial, but accept that much of her behaviour is explained by a desire to damage him in any way she can as a way of getting redress for his deeds and his lies.

 

Thus finding that F was the biological and legal parent of the child, the child having been conceived by natural intercourse.

 

Where things get really rich, was the application for costs

Ms M seeks an order that Mr F should pay her costs, while Mr H seeks an order that Mr F should pay his costs on an indemnity basis. Mr H’s costs, it will be recalled, come to £13,000 and Ms M’s to £81,000, of which £61,000 is publicly funded.

 

Well, I see some merit in H asking for it, but after those findings about the pack of lies that M told, asking for a costs order required some bravery. It wasn’t successful.

The issue of anonymity was touched upon, and it is relevant in view of the current debate and the last blog piece that I wrote. Underlining here is mine.

·  Prohibited steps application Mr F seeks an order in these terms:

1. No party may, without the permission of the court, disclose to any person other than their respective legal advisors any of the evidence, oral or written, which has been adduced during these proceedings.

2. No party may disclose to any person other than their respective legal advisors, close friends and family members, or medical professionals treating either themselves or the child any information relating to the circumstances of the conception of the child.

3. For the avoidance of doubt, paragraphs 1 and 2 of this order prohibit disclosure of any information covered by those paragraphs in any of the following ways:

a. By email to any person other than those included in paragraph 1 of this order;

b. By posting the information on any website or internet forum;

c. By publishing the information via Twitter, Facebook or any other social media;

d. By disclosing any of the information to any representative of the Press.

4. Other than specifically provided for in this order, any disclosure which would otherwise have been permitted by Family Procedure Rules 2010, r.12.73 or 12.75 is prohibited unless the party wishing to make such disclosure has obtained the permission of the court.

·  Mr F seeks this order to prevent what is described as prurient interest in the circumstances of the child’s conception. He points to the findings about Ms M’s past behaviour in relation to third parties as heightening this risk. He is anxious to protect his personal position, that of the child and that of third parties, including other children fathered by him. He fears that the financial proceedings may prompt Ms M to renew her public campaign against him.

·  Ms M, who initially appeared attracted by the idea of such an order, now opposes the application. She considers that she should be free to discuss such information or desist from doing so as she sees fit in so far as is otherwise permitted by law.

·  FPR 2010 r.12.73 and r.12.75 protect information arising from the proceedings, either by way of written or oral evidence, or by description of what occurred in court, but at the same time permit disclosure of information relating to the proceedings in defined circumstances, which do not include communication to the public at large. However, in the absence of a specific order, there is nothing to prevent anyone talking privately or publicly about matters that do not originate from within the proceedings: the mere fact that information arising independent of the proceedings is then referred to within the proceedings does not mean that it cannot continue to be spoken of.

·  In this case, Mr F applies for greater restrictions than those imposed by the rules. In balancing the interests that arise under Articles 8 and 10, I am clear that this is not a case in which it would be appropriate for the court to make an order of this kind. Looking at the matter from the point of view of the child, I doubt that the sort of transient publicity that might follow either of the parties speaking publicly would have any real effect on his welfare or of other children. This is not an encouragement to anyone, and in particular Ms M, to go to the press. On the contrary, all parties would no doubt be wise to desist from washing dirty linen in public, but that is a matter for them, and not for the court to regulate in the circumstances of this case. I am not influenced by Ms M’s change of stance: had the parties been united in the application, I would still have refused it.

 

And thus the judgment is published, with names anonymised, with the standard rubric (see the last blog post) about anyone wishing to make use of the judgment having to do so on the basis that no information leading to the identification of the parties will be provided.

 

I know that some of my readers, and some of the media, and population at large, take the view that anonymising the judgments is a step too far, and that the names should just be made public save for the most drastic of circumstances.

 

But imagine, if you will, that this judgment, which is up online and can be viewed by anyone who looks for it, named the child, F, M and H, giving their real names.  Anyone in the child’s social circle could read it now or in the future, and know the whole grisly story of the conception and the lies , manipulation and deception that both of his biological parents were involved in. And could tell the child that , or tease or bully the child with that information. Imagine you are the child, and ten years hence you type your name into Google, and THIS judgment is what comes up.  And you see your mother’s name, and the name of her husband, who you thought was your father?

 

This is of course, nowhere near the worst things that are contained within family court judgments; and it is for that reason that I would support publication of anonymised judgments (hopefully with some clear guidance on what can or can’t be done with them) but not for the routine naming of those involved.

cuckoo

“Biological parent versus legal parents – OR Judge Fudge is far too busy being delicious”

 

 

A discussion of the High Court decision in Re S v D &E 2013, in which the High Court determined that a man who had donated sperm which led to the birth of a child could make an application under the Children Act 1989, although leave would be required.   The case involved two separate families where the issues were similar (although of course the precise facts were different, and were bundled up together)  – which becomes very important later on.

 

 As promised, LO !

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2013/134.html

 

 

The issue really arises as a result of the provisions within the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, to the effect that in this setting, where a man provides gametes in order to bring about a pregnancy, but that the biological mother of the child is in a civil partnership, the two women will be legal parents of the child and the donor will not be a legal parent.

 

  1. The provisions of the 2008 Act relevant to these applications are ss.42(1), 45(1) and 48(1), (2) and (5). S.42(1) provides

“If at the time of the placing in her of the embryo or the sperm and eggs or of her artificial insemination, W was a party to a civil partnership, then … the other party to the civil partnership is to be treated as a parent of the child unless it is shown that she did not consent to the placing in W of the embryo or the sperm and eggs or to her artificial insemination (as the case may be).”

S.45(1) provides, in so far as relevant to this application:

“Where a woman is treated by virtue of section 42 … as a parent of the child, no man is to be treated as the father of the child.”

S.48, so far as relevant to this case, provides:

“(1) Where by virtue of section … 42 … a person is to be treated as the … parent of a child, that person is to be treated in law as the … parent … of the child for all purposes.

(2) Where, by virtue of section … 45 … a person is not to be treated as a parent of the child, that person is to be treated in law as not being a parent of the child for any purpose.

….

(5) Where any of subsections (1) to (4) has effect, references to any relationship between two people in any enactment, deed or other instrument or document (whenever passed or made) are to be read accordingly.”

 

 

 

Therefore in this case, the donor is “not to be treated as the father of the child” and “is to be treated in law as not being a parent of the child for any purpose”

 

 

That prevents the donor from the ability to make an application for contact or residence as of right, as he is not a parent.

 

The more difficult question was whether the donor had the right to make an application to Court under s10(9) of the Children Act 1989 for LEAVE to make an application, or whether the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 were in effect a bar to such leave being given, as he is “not to be treated in law as being a parent of the child for any purpose”

 

 

The parents argument was the HFAE 2008 meant that the donor was not a parent of the child for any purpose, and that meant there was no connection to the child and so any application under s10(9) was doomed to failure, connection to the child being a key component.

 

 

 

  1. It is a central feature of the argument advanced by Miss Russell on behalf of X and Y, and adopted and developed by Miss Fottrell on behalf of D and E, that the policy underpinning the reforms implemented in the 2008 Act is a material consideration for this court in determining the applications for leave under s.10(9).
  1. It is manifestly clear that, by passing the 2008 Act, Parliament changed the law on donation to recognise lesbian parents as joint legal parents. Those provisions not only confer parenthood but also expressly eliminate the legal status of the man who is the biological father in such circumstances. Miss Russell submits that the provision that no man should be treated as the father ‘for any purpose’ affects the interpretation of every other legal enactment and private document and should be regarded as a fundamental and overriding provision. Miss Russell submits that Parliament could not have been more categorical about its intent to shelter recipient parents from any possible parental claim from a “donor”.
  1. The respondents contend that, by providing that a man in the position of S and T is ‘not to be treated as the father for any purpose’, Parliament intended to protect families from precisely the type of conduct being demonstrated by the applicants in this case, which Miss Russell characterises as an “invasion of privacy and infringement of parental responsibility”. She argues that T’s application amounts to seeking a paternal role on the presumption that Z will benefit from the building of such a relationship with his biological father in addition to the relationship he has with his two existing legal parents. Miss Russell submits that the amendments to the law introduced by the 2008 Act represent a significant shift of policy away from the presumption that a child’s welfare is enhanced by the involvement of a father, towards an acknowledgment that alternative family forms without fathers are sufficient to meet a child’s needs.
  1. Miss Russell submits that the effect of requiring “donors” in these circumstances to apply for leave is significant. Prior to the implementation of the 2008 Act, an applicant in the position of S and T was entitled to apply for contact as of right. Previous cases have been heard under a different legal framework in which the applicant man was the legal father and the welfare of the child was, from the outset, the court’s paramount consideration. In contrast, under the present application, the applicants are not legally the fathers of the children and welfare is not the paramount consideration of the court and the court is considering the section 10(9) criteria in the context of, and in conjunction with, the provisions of, and policy underpinning, the 2008 Act. Granting an applicant in these circumstances leave to apply for orders under s.8 would, she argues, seriously undermine that policy.

 

 

 

The donor’s argument was that s10(9) applied and he could make an application for leave, and that it would be for the Court to determine whether his application for leave should be granted, applying all of the usual tests.

 

 

In response to these submissions, Miss King deployed an extensive range of arguments, but her central submission can be simply summarised. She accepts that the effect of the reforms implemented by ss 45(1) and 48(2) of the 2008 Act was to remove the status of legal parent from a man who provides sperm for the artificial insemination of a woman in a civil partnership, but submits that this does not eradicate his status as a genetic parent who may, depending on the facts and whether or not he satisfies the criteria under s.10(9), be allowed by the court to apply for an order under s.8 of the Children Act in order to play a role in the life of the child. Although parental responsibility is vested exclusively in the mothers of the children, Miss King submits, relying on dicta of McFarlane LJ in Re W (Children) [2012] EWCA Civ 999, that with parental responsibility comes both authority and duty and argues that, as the legal parents to Z, part of the role assumed by X and Y involves making responsible decisions which meet the best interests of their child including permitting contact with his biological father. If they are unable to agree to do so, then, submits Miss King, the court must intervene on behalf of the child

 

  1. Miss King submits that social and psychological relationships amounting to parenthood can and often do co-exist with legal parenthood. In some circumstances, a legal parent may not have a day to day relationship with a child whereas a person with a significant social or psychological relationship may be a stable and constant presence whilst lacking the status of a legal parent. Miss King submits that to contend for the notion that a biological father has an inherently higher test to meet than would others who are not legal parents to the subject child is to ignore the fact that leave to apply is only ever required when the applicant is not the legal parent. No person is absolutely excluded from seeking redress, although, save in certain defined circumstances, an application for redress cannot be made without the court’s leave. Miss King reminds me that this is the position faced by biological fathers without parental responsibility in other circumstances(see Re H (illegitimate Children: Father: Parental Rights) (No 2) [1991] 1 FLR 214), and also by step-parents (Re H (Shared Residence: Parental responsibility)[1995] 2 FLR 883 and Re A (Joint residence/Parental responsibility)[2008] 2 FLR 1593) and same-sex partners who have no biological relationship with the subject child but are playing the role of the parent (G v F (Contact and Shared Residence: Application for Leave [1998] 2 FLR 799). Miss King submits that biological fathers who are deprived of legal parenthood by the 2008 Act should be treated no differently.
  1. Miss King submits that, had Parliament intended that a person in the position of the respondents in this case should be entirely stripped of legal remedies, it would have expressly provided that a progenitor in these circumstances would be disqualified even from seeking the court’s leave. In the absence of such an express provision, the policy considerations advanced on behalf of the respondents should not be used to trump or outweigh the statutory criteria for granting leave under s.10(9).
  1. In developing Miss King’s arguments on this point, Miss Reardon submits that the terms of s.42 of the 2008 Act do not limit a child’s parentage to the two mothers in anything but the strictest legal sense. Therefore, she argues, the Act cannot operate as a blanket ban on any application by a biological father. The fact that the terms of the 2008 Act require that a man in a position of S and T ‘is to be treated in law as not being a parent of the child for any purpose’ is a very different thing from excluding him from making an application for leave to apply for an order under s. 8 of the Children Act. In fact, she submits, biological parents who are not legal parents continue to be treated as the parents of their children for a number of purposes, for example in order to obtain information about a genetically-related medical condition, or to provide the child with an understanding of his biological heritage and identity.

 

 

 

The Court took pains to point out a number of times in the judgment that in dealing with cases where there were two legal parents and two biological ones and not necessarily a complete overlap between those two sets of “parents”  most of the decisions were likely to turn on the facts specific to that case.

 

 

This was also the case advanced by the donors  (there being two cases of similar type ‘bundled up’ and heard together)

 

Ultimately, the cases advanced on behalf of the applicants focus on the facts. Central to the case advanced on behalf of the applicants is the argument that each case is fact specific. They submit that the policy considerations underpinning the 2008 Act do not entitle or oblige the court to refuse an application for leave in every case. In some cases, it will be appropriate to grant a genetic or psychological parent leave to apply for contact, in others not. In support of this submission, Miss King relies on the decision of the Court of Appeal in A v B and C (Lesbian Co-Parents: Role of Father) [2012] EWCA Civ 285 [2012] 2 FLR 607. In that case, both Thorpe LJ and Black LJ (at paragraphs 23 and 39 respectively) stressed that decisions in disputes between two female parents and a male parent are “so fact specific’. As a result, Black LJ concluded that ‘this is an area of law in which generalise guidance is not possible’. Miss King acknowledges that A v B and C was a case in which the biological father was entitled to apply for contact as of right and the court was thus applying the paramountcy principle. She submits, however, that the observations of the Court of Appeal support the argument that the court should adopt a fact-specific approach to the application for leave in this case, rather than attaching any significant weight to the policy considerations identified by the respondents.

 

 

And that it would therefore be a consideration by the Court of the facts in the particular case as to whether a donor should be granted leave under s10(9) rather than interpreting that the policy underpinning the provisions of the HFEA 2008 meant that as a matter of public policy such a s10(9) application for leave should be refused.

 

 

The Court, as you will see from the conclusion of the judgment, was in agreement with the applicant, that it was a case specific decision on the facts as to whether s10(9) leave should be granted, and went on to do so.

 

 

  1. 112.                     Discussion
  1. I accept the submission put forward on behalf of the respondents to these applications that the reforms passed by the Human Fertilisation Embryology Act 2008, and the policy underpinning those reforms, are material considerations for this court in determining this application for leave under section 10 of the Children Act 1989. The effect of sections 42(1), 45(1) and 48 (2) of the 2008 Act is that S and T are not to be treated in law as the parents of, respectively, G and Z for any purpose. I endorse the submissions that the policy underpinning these reforms is an acknowledgement that alternative family forms without fathers are sufficient to meet a child’s need. It is now established beyond doubt that the relationship between a same-sex couple constitutes ‘family life’ for the purposes of article 8: see Schalk and Kopf v Austria[2010] ECHR 995. Thus, D, E, F and G have a family life together, as do X, Y and Z, that is entitled to respect under article 8. Thousands of children in this country are being brought up happily and successfully by same-sex couples. ‘As the usages of society alter, the law must adapt itself to the various situations of mankind’ (per Lord Mansfield in Barwell v Brooks (1784) 3 Doug. 371).
  1. To my mind, the policy underpinning sections 42(1), 45(1) and 48(2) of the 2008 Act is simply to put lesbian couples and their children in exactly the same legal position as other types of parent and children. This is in my judgment the clear intention of Parliament. I do not see any ambiguity in the wording of the Act which, under the rule in Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart [1993] AC593, is required to justify the court considering reports of recordings in Parliament as an aid to statutory interpretation.
  1. Any person who seeks a s.8 order in respect of that child against the wishes of such parents must obtain the leave of the court which will consider all relevant matters including the factors identified in s.10(9) as explained by Black LJ in Re B (Paternal Grandmother: Joinder as Party). As part of that analysis, the court will consider the rights of legal parents to family life including the right to make decisions about their children. Those rights are widely recognised both as a long standing principle of English law and under article 8. In this regard, the position of a lesbian couple who have been granted the status of legal parents by the 2008 Act is exactly the same as any other legal parent. Having taken those rights into account, however, it is still open to the court, after considering all relevant factors, to grant leave to other persons to apply for section 8 orders. In this regard, the position of biological fathers who have been deprived of the status of legal parent by the 2008 Act is the same as any other person.
  1. As a matter of law, Miss Russell and Miss Fottrell are right to describe S and T as strangers to G and Z. But in another sense, they are not strangers. As a result of choices made by the respondents, both S and T had regular and frequent contact with G and Z respectively. D and E chose S, an old friend of D’s, who lived 100 yards or so away, to provide sperm to enable them to conceive a child. They involved him in preparations before the birth. They invited him to see the new baby, F, immediately after birth and thereafter on a regular basis. When they decided to try for another child, they asked him to provide sperm again. They wanted their second child to have the identical genetic background to their first. Again, they involved S in the preparations before the birth and allowed him regular and frequent contact thereafter. I acknowledge that D and E say that, in some respects, they were acting under a degree of pressure when they involved S in those preparations and arranged the regular and frequent contact with the children, but the fact remains that, for whatever reason, they did involve him in this preparation and did allow him contact. Equally, D and E challenge the quality of the contact S had with F and, in particular, G, saying that, when he visited the home, it was mainly to pay a social call on his old friend D. S does not accept their evidence on these points. Irrespective of the truth about these issues, which can only be resolved after a substantive fact-finding hearing, it is clear, on either version and irrespective of the legal position, that S was not as a matter of fact a stranger to the children. Furthermore, although again no finding on the point can be made without a substantive hearing, it is in my judgment arguable that the relationship that D and E allowed S to develop with the children was linked in some way to their biological relationship.
  1. Equally, X and Y, having met T through D, E, and S, and being fully aware of the degree of involvement S had in F’s life, selected T to provide sperm to enable them to conceive a child, and subsequently allowed T frequent and regular contact on over 50 occasions in the first 18 months of Z’s life. Again, X and Y assert that they were to some extent put under pressure by T to allow that level of contact. They too challenge the quality of the contact. Again, T does not accept their arguments on these points. Again, irrespective of the truth of those issues, which can only be resolved by a substantive fact-finding hearing, and irrespective of the legal position, T is not a stranger to Z. Further, it is to my mind again arguable that the relationship that X and Y allowed T develop with Z was linked in some way to their biological relationship. In their case, it is also significant that they expressly wanted T to be a role model for Z. They could, of course, have chosen any of their relations or other friends to be a role model, but the fact is that they chose T, the biological father of their child, for that purpose. Although no finding can be made without a substantive hearing, it is at least arguable that their choice of T as a role model for Z was again linked to their biological relationship.
  1. By choosing friends, S and T, to provide sperm to enable them to conceive children, and by allowing them to have regular and frequent contact and to place some role (albeit disputed) in the lives of their families, D and E in one case, and X and Y in the other, were exercising their parental responsibility to facilitate some sort of relationship between their children and their biological fathers. This illustrates the true effect of the reforms implemented in sections 42 (1), 45 (1) and 48 (2) of the 2008 Act. D and E, and X and Y, have been granted full and inclusive parental responsibility for G and Z, to the exclusion of the biological fathers. They consciously exercised that responsibility by allowing S and T regular contact with the children. The 2008 Act empowered them to take this course. It did not deny them the right to do so. No doubt there will be some lesbian couples who, after having children by artificial insemination, not only allowed the biological fathers to have contact with the children but also encouraged them to play a full parental role and be recognised as fathers. The 2008 Act denies the biological father the status of legal parent, but it does not prevent the lesbian couple, in whom legal parenthood is vested, from encouraging or enabling the biological father to become a psychological parent. On the contrary, it empowers the lesbian couple to take that course as the persons in whom parental responsibility is vested.
  1. Accordingly, I reject the respondents’ submissions that granting leave to the applicants would have the effect of frustrating the legislative intention behind the 2008 reforms. I accept Miss King’s submissions that the potential importance of genetic and psychological parenthood is not automatically extinguished by the removal of the status of legal parenthood, and that social and psychological relationships amounting to parenthood can and often do co-exist with legal parenthood. She is correct that no other person is absolutely excluded from seeking redress and I accept her submission that biological fathers who are deprived of legal parenthood by the 2008 Act should be treated no differently. Had Parliament intended that a person in a position of the applicants in this case should be entirely stripped of legal remedies, it would have expressly provided that a person in the position of S and T in these circumstances would be disqualified even from seeking the court’s leave.
  1. Furthermore, whilst following the decision in Anayo v Germany, that a biological kinship between a natural parent and child alone will be insufficient to attract the protection of article 8 of ECHR, it is plainly arguable that the relationships which D and E allowed S to establish with G, and which X and Y allowed T to establish with Z, amount to ‘family life’, or alternatively fall within the scope of ‘private life’, so that a refusal to allow the applicants at least permission to apply for orders under section 8 of the Children Act would amount to a breach of their rights under article 6 and 8.
  1. I further accept Miss King’s submission, supported by Miss Reardon, that this court must adopt a fact-specific approach to these applications for leave, by a careful scrutiny and application of the factors under section 10(9), and considering the merits of the proposed applications as required by case law. I therefore turn to consider the application of the criteria under section 10(9), starting with S’s application for leave to apply in respect of G.

 

 

 

 

And in terms of any general principles to be extracted

 

 

  1. Conclusions
  1. When considering an application by a biological father for leave to apply for an order under s.8 of the Children Act 1989 in respect of a child conceived using his sperm by a woman who, at the time of her artificial insemination, was party to a civil partnership, the reforms implemented in ss 42,45 and 48 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, and the policy underpinning those reforms – to put lesbian couples and their children in exactly the same legal position as other types of parent and children – are relevant factors to be taken into account by the court, alongside all other relevant considerations, including the factors identified in s.10(9) of the Children Act. In some cases, the reforms, and the policy underpinning those reforms, will be decisive. Each case is, however, fact specific, and on the facts of these cases, having considered all submissions from all parties, I find that the most important factor is the connection that each applicant was allowed by the respondents to form with the child.

 

 

As has been commented by the solicitors who were advising and representing the legal parents of the child, it becomes therefore extremely important that a clear understanding is reached and ideally recorded, about what each of the three parties involved (the biological mother, father and the legal parent who is the partner of the biological mother) intend and propose about the involvement (if any) that the biological father should have in the child’s life.

 

 

 

Warning, next section for law geeks only

 

 

All of the above is potentially interesting to the lay person, and I am sure the case will hit the national press, containing as it does the nature of the modern family, battling parents and the chance to be partisan based on ones political persuasion.

 

The next bit is not interesting to the lay person, and may possibly only be interesting to about five people in the country. Sorry to be one of them.

 

The Judge had painted himself into a bit of a corner, since on the first case, he had granted s10(9) leave and then on hearing the more substantive public policy arguments deployed by the legal parents on the second case, wanted to bundle both up together and consider both arguments together. But the s10(9) leave had been given, and there is no scope in the Children Act 1989 to give that leave and then hear an application to remove it. So, it was either find the power to revoke the order, or the case would have to go upstairs to be appealed.

 

 

That led to a very odd  but potentially significant sidebar discussion about whether a Court has the power to revoke its own order, or whether having made it, the Court was stuck with it, and the redress was limited to an appeal.

 

Rule 4.1(6) of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 (“FPR”) provides that ‘a power of the court under these Rules to make an order includes a power to vary or revoke the order’. Rule 4.1(6) is, of course, subject to the overriding objective of the FPR as set out in rule 1 “to deal with cases justly”, meaning inter alia so far as practical ensuring that parties are on an equal footing and that the case is dealt with expeditiously and fairly.

 

 

Which initially suggests that the Court does have a pretty sweeping power to revoke its own order, providing that it doesn’t put the Court in conflict with the overriding objective.

 

However,

  1. No party drew to my attention any previous case in which the scope of rule 4.1(6) has been considered, but the rule is in identical terms to rule 3.1(7) of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998, which has been considered in a number of cases in the context of civil claims. In Lloyd’s Investment (Scandinavia) Ltd v Ager-Hanssen [2003] EWHC 1740 (Ch) Patten J (as he then was) considered this power on an application by a defendant for variation of an order made by a deputy judge setting aside an earlier judgment obtained in default of defence, on terms that the defendant should pay a sum into court within 28 day At paragraph 7, Patten J said of rule 3.1(7) :

‘Although this is not intended to be an exhaustive definition of the circumstances in which the power under CPR Part 3.1(7) is exercisable, it seems to me that, for the High Court to revisit one of its earlier orders, the applicant must either show some material change of circumstances or that the judge who made the earlier order was misled in some way, whether innocently or otherwise, as to the correct factual position before him. The latter type of case would include, for example, a case of material non-disclosure on an application for an injunction. If all that is sought is a reconsideration of the order on the basis of the same material, then that can only be done, in my judgment, in the context of an appeal. Similarly it is not, I think, open to a party to the earlier application to seek in effect to re-argue that application by relying on submissions and evidence which were available to him at the time of the earlier hearing, but which, for whatever reason, he or his legal representatives chose not to employ.’

  1. In Collier v Williams [2006] EWCA Civ 20, the Court of Appeal, (Waller, Dyson and Neuberger LJJ), considered the ambit of rule 3.1(7) amongst a number of provisions of the CPR. Giving the judgment of the Court, Dyson LJ at paragraphs 39-40 cited the passage quoted above from the judgment of Patten J in Ager-Hanssen and added:

‘We endorse that approach. We agree that the power given by CPR 3.1(7) cannot be used simply as an equivalent to an appeal against an order with which the applicant is dissatisfied. The circumstances outlined by Patten J are the only ones in which the power to revoke or vary an order already made should be exercised under 3.1(7).’

  1. Later, at paragraphs 119-120 he said:

‘this rule gives a very general power to vary or revoke an order. It appears to be unfettered. But it is a wrong exercise of this power to vary or revoke an order where there has been no material change of circumstances since the earlier order was made and/or no material is brought to the attention of the second court which was not brought to the attention of the first. A party who unsuccessfully deploys all his material before a court should not be allowed to have a second bite of the cherry merely because he failed to succeed on the first occasion …. In short, therefore, the jurisdiction to vary or revoke an order under CPR 3.1(7) should not normally be exercised unless the applicant is able to place material before the court, whether in the form of evidence or argument, which was not placed before the court on the earlier occasion.’

  1. In Edward v Golding [2007] EWCA Civ 416, Buxton LJ (with whom Wilson and Moses LJJ agreed) cited the above passages from judgment of Patten J in Ager-Hanssen and the judgment of Dyson LJ in Collier v Williams and observed (at paragraph 24):

‘The basis of that jurisprudence is that the jurisdiction under rule 3.1(7) is not a substitute for an appeal. There must be additional material before the court in the form of evidence or, possibly, argument. I would reserve the issue of whether additional argument in itself is enough to attract the jurisdiction of rule 3.1(7), but the general thrust of Collier is that the case before the court before which rule 3.1(7) is moved must be essentially different from one of simple error that could be righted on appeal.’

  1. In Roult v North-West Strategic Health Authority [2009] EWCA Civ 444 , the Court of Appeal rejected an argument that rule 3.1(7) could be utilised to vary or revoke an order approving a settlement in a personal injury case. Hughes LJ observed:

‘There is scant authority upon rule 3.1(7) but such as exists is unanimous in holding that it cannot constitute a power in a judge to hear an appeal from himself in respect of a final order. …. Like Patten J in Ager-Hanssen I would not attempt any exhaustive classification of the circumstances in which it may be proper to invoke it. …. It may well be that, in the context of essentially case management decisions, the grounds for invoking the rule will generally fall into one or other of the two categories of (i) erroneous information at the time of the original order or (ii) subsequent event destroying the basis on which it was made. The exigencies of case management may well call for a variation in planning from time to time in the light of developments. There may possibly be examples of non-procedural but continuing orders which may call for revocation or variation as they continue – an interlocutory injunction may be one. But it does not follow that wherever one or other of the two assertions mentioned (erroneous information and subsequent event) can be made, then any party can return to the trial judge and ask him to re-open any decision. In particular, it does not follow, I have no doubt, where the judge’s order is a final one disposing of the case, whether in whole or in part. And it especially does not apply where the order is founded upon a settlement agreed between the parties after the most detailed and highly skilled advice. The interests of justice, and of litigants generally, require that a final order remains such unless proper grounds for appeal exist.’

 

Giving some qualification to the power to revoke. And of course, granting leave under s10(9) could be argued to be a  FINAL order in that application for leave. The application for leave is determined one way or another. If granted, then the Court then moves on to the application for residence or contact.   As you can see from the above, it appears pretty plain that the ability to revoke an order is limited to interlocutory and not final orders. That all suggests then that the High Court couldn’t revoke its own order granting s10(9) leave and consider the case afresh in the light of these new public policy arguments.

 

 

But clearly, the High Court Judge wanted to hear both of these cases and reach a fair decision, and therefore wanted to be able to set aside or revoke his original order granting s10(9) leave, to start with a blank slate when considering the arguments.   [You might think, when reading this argument, that you can detect the delicious taste of fudge]

 

 

  1. At the hearing on 22nd November, D and E, appearing in person, put forward only a limited range of arguments in opposition to S’s application for leave to apply for orders in respect of G. Those arguments focussed on the factual background, referring only briefly to s.42 of the 2008 Act. The skeleton argument prepared by Miss Russell QC on behalf of X and Y in the second case deploys a much wider range of arguments, based not only on the facts of that case, and, as one would expect, a closer analysis of the application of s.10(9) of the 1989 Act to those facts, but also on the policy considerations underpinning the reforms effected by the 2008 Act. The filing of that skeleton therefore gave rise to the prospect that, although the facts of the two cases were not only interlinked but also in many respects similar, the outcome of the applications for leave might be different if the court accepted the policy-based arguments deployed by leading counsel for the respondents in the second case but not cited by the self-represented respondents in the first.
  1. Having regard to the overriding objective of FPR, I concluded that such an outcome would be potentially unfair to D and E, and therefore to G. In those circumstances, I decided that it would be an entirely appropriate use of the power under rule 4.1(6) to set aside the order of 22nd November. To my mind it was unnecessary to analyse whether the new information which would be advanced on behalf of D and E was ‘fact’ or ‘argument’. It was, in my view, new material which the court had not considered at the previous hearing.
  1. An order granting leave to apply for orders under s.8 of the Children Act is a case management order. It is not a “final” order in the sense of an order that determines the substantive outcome of the proceedings. The court is obliged under the rules to exercise its case management powers in accordance with the overriding objective. Setting aside the order allowed the court to consider the two linked applications together, and apply its conclusions on the policy-based arguments to both cases. Such a course would not be unfair to S. Only a few weeks would elapse between 22nd November and the re-hearing of his application for leave. S would be able to deploy the same arguments based on the facts that had prevailed at the first hearing. He would in effect be in the same position as T.
  1. Overall, I concluded that the interests of justice would be best served by a re-hearing at which the court had ample opportunity to consider all the relevant arguments on both applications, followed by a reserved judgment. I therefore set aside the order of 22nd November, and as explained above the two applications were heard together.

 

 

I think that this is the right decision for the case and was the right thing to do, but there’s some squashing and stretching that had to be done.  Mmmm, delicious Judge-made Fudge.

 

But there you are,

 

A Court can revoke any order it makes prior to the final order (and granting of leave doesn’t count as a final order) if there is evidence to show that it is the right thing to do, and doing so doesn’t conflict with the overriding objective to conduct a case justly and expeditiously.

 

 

If you did make it that far down, here is a picture of Drawn Together’s Judge Fudge, who is laid back and is always “far too busy, being delicious”    [Drawn Together is magnificent, but really I cannot emphasise enough that it is Not Safe for Work, so do not watch it in your office]

 

 he is indeed delicious

Be my, be my baby

A discussion of the law on surrogacy, and the case of D and L (Surrogacy) 2012 EWHC 2631 Fam

A lot of new caselaw this week, and this one is a little off the beaten track. It involves the issue of surrogacy, which is something at the moment I’m interested in, as there’s a pending case of public interest  (reporting restrictions, upcoming criminal trial, can’t say anything more, sorry)

The case can be found here:-

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed101209

The facts of the case are relatively straightforward  – a couple decided that they wanted to have a child and being a same-sex couple the traditional route wasn’t open to them. They entered into dialogue with an agency the Kiran clinic from Hydrabad, who found them a woman who was prepared to become a surrogate. That woman was from India.  A contract was signed. Twin babies were born and the couple were provided with those babies and returned to the UK with them.

In order to then obtain parental orders in the UK, they sought the mother’s consent to the making of such orders.

Because the UK provisions are that a consent given less than six weeks after the child is born is not valid  (in order to give a mother who has hormonal feelings of bonding and attachment or hormonal surges post-birth generally time to settle on her true feelings), the contract was not sufficient to demonstrate the mother’s consent.

The couple asked the agency to assist with this, and found them to be somewhat lacking in their willingness to assist.

11. At that stage, they had still to receive any signed consent from the surrogate mother. They made further requests to the director of the clinic, to no avail. On 13 September, the first Applicant emailed a long letter to the director, setting a deadline for the production of the signed consent, and warning that if the documents were not supplied, they would make formal complaints to the authorities in India and the British High Commission. On 16th September, the Applicants received a DHL package, purportedly from the director of the clinic, containing a single sheet of paper on which was printed an obscene gesture.

Yes, you did read that correctly.  I really hope that the single sheet of paper found its way into the court bundle.  (And I can’t help speculating what it was – my gut feeling is a v-sign, or the bird , but was it a sketch or a photograph?)

The couple had not wanted to contact the birth mother directly, wanting to respect her privacy, but had to instruct an enquiry agent, whose search was fruitless.

“I am sorry to inform you that I could not locate Miss B. The address provided by the clinic where Miss B should be residing…is not the place where she lives. Property is currently empty but is former residence of [the caretaker/arranger]. His old clinic is on ground floor. Nobody there had any knowledge of Miss B or where she is living now. I have shown neighbours [identity] card of Miss B and they did not recognise her. I could not find out where she lives now and so could not get her to sign the forms.”

It seemed very likely that the address that the couple had been provided with by the agency was not accurate (although one has no way of knowing whether this was of the agency’s making, or whether they themselves had been misinformed)

[By the way, ‘misinformed’  takes me on a tangent to one of my favourite exchanges in cinema, from Casablanca.

Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.

Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.

Rick: I was misinformed     ]

As is often the way in the High Court, you get a nice pithy summary of the law, which is always a great starting point if you need to research the issue.

17. Before turning to the detailed provisions of section 54 of the 2008 Act, I remind myself of the important change to the law affected by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Parental Orders) Regulations 2010. Regulation 2 provides:

“The provisions of the 2002 Act [that is to say, the Adoption and Children Act 2002] set out in column 1 of Schedule 1 have effect in relation to parental orders made in England and Wales and applications for such orders as they have effect in relation to adoption orders and applications for such orders, subject to the modifications set out in column 2 of that Schedule.”

The effect of this provision is, inter alia, that section 1 of the 2002 Act applies to the making of parental orders in the following terms:

“(1) This section applies whenever a court is coming to a decision relating to the making of a parental order in relation to a child.
(2) The paramount consideration of the court must be the child’s welfare, throughout his life.
(3) The court must at all times bear in mind that, in general, any delay in coming to the decision is likely to prejudice the child’s welfare.

(6)   The Court must always consider the whole range of powers available to it in the child’s case (whether under section 54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, the Adoption and Children Act 2002 as applied by regulation 2 of and Schedule 1.2 The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Parental Orders) Regulations 2010 or the Children Act 1989) and the Court must not make an order under that section or under the 2002 Act so applied unless it considers that making the order would be better for the child than not doing so.

(7)  In this section, ‘coming to a decision relating to the making of a parental order in relation to a child’ the relation to a court includes

a)  coming to a decision in any proceedings where the orders that might be made by the court include a parental order (or the revocation of such an order) and 

b)  coming to a decision about granting leave in respect of any action (other than the initiation of proceedings in any court) which may be taken by an individual under this Act but does not include coming to a decision about granting leaving in any other circumstances.

(8)  For the purposes of this section, 

a)  references to relationships are not confined to legal relationships,
b)  references to a relative, in relation to a child, include the child’s mother and father.”

19.  Those principles, in particular the paramountcy principle set out in subsection (2) and the checklist set out in subsection (4,) guide the court in exercising its powers to make parental orders under section 54 of the 2008 Act, which reads as follows:

“(1) On an application made by two people (‘the Applicants’) the court may make an order providing for a child to be treated in law as the child of the Applicants if

a) the child has been carried by a woman who is not one of the Applicants, as a result of the placing in her of an embryo or sperm and eggs or her artificial insemination,

b) the gametes of at least one of the Applicants were used to bring about the creation of the embryo, and

c) the conditions in subsection (2) (8) are satisfied.

(2) The Applicants must be

a) husband and wife,
b) civil partners of each other, or
c) two persons who are living as partners in an enduring family relationship and are not within prohibited degrees of relationship in relation to each other.

(3) Except in a case falling within subsection (11), the Applicants must apply for the order during the period of six months beginning with the day in which the child is born.

(4) At the time of the application and the making of the order

a) the child’s home must be with the Applicants and
b) either or both of the Applicants must be domiciled in the United Kingdom or in the Channel Islands or in the Isle of Man. 

(5) At the time of the making of the order both the Applicants must have attained the age of 18.

(6)  The court must be satisfied that both

a) the woman who carried the child and
b) any other person who is a parent of the child but is not one of the Applicants (including any man who is the father by virtue of section 35 or 36 or any woman who is a parent by virtue of section 42 or 43)

have freely, and with full understanding of what is involved, agreed unconditionally to the making of the order.

(7) Subsection (6) does not require the agreement of a person who cannot be found or who is incapable of giving agreement; and the agreement of the woman who carried the child is ineffective for the purpose of that subsection if given by her less than six weeks after the child’s birth.

(8) The court must be satisfied that no money or other benefit (other than for the expenses reasonably incurred) have been given or received by either of the Applicants for or in consideration of

a) the making of the order,
b) any agreement required by subsection (6)
c) the handing over of the child to the Applicants or
d) the making of arrangements for the view to the making of the order unless authorised by the court. 

  …
(10) Subsection (1) (a) applies whether the woman was in the United Kingdom or elsewhere at the time of the placing in her of the embryo or the sperm and eggs or her  artificial insemination.
…”

So, very broadly, before making the parental order, the Court must be satisfied that the child was the subject of a surrogacy arrangement and be the product of a use of gametes from one of the applicants, and that the other party consented (in a meaningful and informed way) to the pregnancy and to the making of a parental order; although s19(7) gives a way out where the mother cannot be found, or would be incapable of giving agreement.

[That feels a bit weird to me, since it suggests that the whole s19(6) issue of the mother having to have freely, and with full understanding of what is involved, agreed unconditionally to the making of the order could be sidestepped by finding a surrogate who doesn’t really have capacity to agree it, but I’m sure that must be covered elsewhere and prohibited.  Okay, relatively sure.  Okay, dimly hopeful]

In considering whether the mother’s consent could be dispensed with because she could not be found, the Court made this determination

  1. 28.     First, when it is said that the woman who gave birth to the child cannot be found, the court must carefully scrutinise the evidence as to the efforts which have been taken to find her. It is only when all reasonable steps have been taken to locate her without success that a court is likely to dispense with the need for valid consent. Half-hearted or token attempts to find the surrogate will not be enough. Furthermore, it will normally be prudent for the Applicants to lay the ground for satisfying these requirements at an early stage. Even where, as in this case, the Applicants do not meet the surrogate, they should establish clear lines of communication with her, preferably not simply through one person or agency, and should ensure that the surrogate is made aware during the pregnancy that she will be required to give consent six weeks after the birth.29.  Secondly, although a consent given before the expiry of six weeks after birth is not valid for the purposes of section 54, the court is entitled to take into account evidence that the woman did give consent at earlier times to giving up the baby. The weight attached to such earlier consent is, however, likely to be limited. The courts must be careful not to use such evidence to undermine the legal requirement that a consent is only valid if given after six weeks.30.  Thirdly, in the light of the changes affected by the 2010 regulations, the child’s welfare is now the paramount consideration when the court is ‘coming to a decision’ in relation to the making of a parental order. Mr Ford submits, and I accept, that this includes decisions about whether to make an order without the consent of the woman who gave birth in circumstances in which she cannot be found or is incapable of giving consent. It would, however, be wrong to utilise this provision as a means of avoiding the need to take all reasonable steps to attain the woman’s consent.31.  Applying these principles to this case, I accept that these Applicants have taken all reasonable steps to obtain the woman’s consent.

    32.  Through no fault of their own, they have been given a false address. If it is correct that she is living in the state of Andhra Pradesh, then she is one of many millions of women living in that state and there is in my judgment no realistic hope of finding her. I accept that it is not the Applicants’ fault that they found themselves in this position. I am satisfied that they reasonable believed that the clinic and its staff would behave responsibly. It seems that they and the twins have been badly let down.

    33.  I note that Miss B appears to have given her consent to the making of the parental orders at an earlier stage, although in the circumstances I treat all documents and information provided by the clinic with caution. The fact that Miss B appears to have given informal consent earlier is a factor to be taken into account but for the reasons set out above, it carries little weight in my decision. I do, however, take into account the fact that as a matter of law the children’s welfare is my paramount consideration, and I further take into account that any further delay in reaching a decision is likely to be prejudicial to their welfare. I also take into account as required by the welfare checklist to be applied by virtue of the 2010 regulations, that there is realistically no likelihood that the twins would have any relationship with the surrogate, gestational mother, or any member of her family.

    34.  In the circumstances of this case, therefore, I conclude that the agreement of the surrogate mother Miss B is not required on the grounds that she cannot be found.

 

 

 

The payments made were also retrospectively approved – the payments amounted to £17,000.

36.  As set out above, section 54 (8) provides a condition of making a parental order that no money or other benefit (other than for expenses reasonable incurred) has been given or received by either of the applicant for or in consideration of the making of the order, any agreement required by the Act, the handing over of the child to the Applicants or the making of arrangements with the view to the making of the order, unless authorised by the court. The Applicants accept they have paid twenty seven thousand US dollars (which is approximately seventeen thousand pounds at current exchange rates) to the clinic for the surrogacy programme, on the basis that the clinic would then pay ‘reasonable expenses’ to Miss B in the sum of three hundred and fifty thousand rupees, approximately four thousand pounds at current exchange rates. The Applicants accept that the sums paid exceed a level that could be described as ‘reasonable expenses’. They therefore invite the court to give retrospective authorisation for the payments made.

37.  Unlike the question of consent, the issue of payments for surrogacy, and the basis upon which retrospective authorisation may be given, has been considered by the courts at first instance on several occasions in recent years, notably by Hedley J, who has played a lead role in the development of the law surrounding surrogacy, in four cases- Re X and Y (Foreign Surrogacy) [2008] EWHC 3030 (Fam), Re S (Parental Order) [2009] EWHC 2977 (Fam), Re L (Commercial Surrogacy) [2010] EWHC 3146 (Fam) and Re IJ (Foreign Surrogacy Agreement Parental Order) [2011] EWHC 921 (Fam) – and, the most recently, the President Sir Nicholas Wall inRe X and Y (Parental Order: Retrospective Authorisation of Payments) [2011] EWHC 3147 (Fam). From these authorities the following principles emerge.

(1) The question whether a payment exceeds the level of ‘reasonable expenses’ is a matter of fact in each case. There is no conventionally- recognised quantum of expenses or capital sum: Re L, supra.

(2) The principles underpinning section 54 (8), which must be respected by the court, is that it is contrary to public policy to sanction excessive payments that effectively amount to buying children from overseas: Re S, supra.

(3) On the other hand, as a result of the changes brought about by the 2010 Regulations, the decision whether to authorise payments retrospectively is a decision relating to a parental order and in making that decision, the court must regard the children’s welfare as the paramount consideration: Re L, supra, and Re X and Y (2011), supra, per the President.

(4) It is almost impossible to imagine a set of circumstances in which, by the time an application for a parental order comes to court, the welfare of any child, particularly a foreign child, would not be gravely compromised by a refusal to make the order: per Hedley J in Re X and Y (2008), approved by the President in Re X and Y (2011) at paragraph 40. It follows that : ‘it will only be in the clearest case of the abuse of public policy that the court will be able to withhold an order if otherwise welfare considerations support its making’, per Hedley J in Re L at paragraph 10.

(5) Where the Applicants for a parental order are acting in good faith, with no attempt to defraud the authorities, and the payments are not so disproportionate that the granting of parental orders would be an affront to public policy, it will ordinarily be appropriate to give retrospective authorisation, having regard to the paramountcy of the children’s welfare.

38.  In this case, the twin’s welfare unquestionably will be enhanced by the making of parental orders. I am satisfied that these Applicants acted in good faith and have been entirely candid in all of their dealings with the Court and the other authorities. As I have set out above, the total sum paid equivalent to about £17,000. Although I remind myself that each case should be scrutinised on its own facts, I note that the total paid was somewhat less than that paid by the Applicants in the President’s case Re X and Y (2011), which also involved a surrogacy arranged by an Indian clinic. In that case the President ruled that the sum paid was not so disproportionate that the granting of a parental order  would be an affront to public policy.

39. I am therefore prepared to give retrospective authorisation for the payments made by the Applicants in respect of the surrogacy arranged in this case.

The Court suggested that it would essential in future cases to ensure that where a surrogacy arrangement was entered into that the applicants ensured that they had opened a line of communication with the birth mother so that her written consent could be obtained six weeks or later after the birth.