Bishop & Sewell

Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another person or couple. The woman birthing the child is called the surrogate. The parent or parents for whom the child is intended are called the commissioning, intended or social parents.

There are two general models of surrogacy arrangement:

  • Using the egg of the surrogate and the sperm of the father – sometimes called traditional, partial or straight surrogacy, and
  • Using the egg of the intended mother (or that of a donor) combined with the sperm of the intended father (or donor sperm) – sometimes called gestational, full or host surrogacy.

Traditional surrogacy may be carried out at an IVF clinic, or by artificial insemination at home. A child born through traditional surrogacy will be biologically related to the intended father.

An IVF clinic is always required for host surrogacy. A child born through host surrogacy will not be biologically related to the surrogate.

Next Steps

For initial legal advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our team to discuss your legal requirements in undertaking surrogacy, please email or contact 0207 091 2707 and ask to speak to our Forming Families team.

Important: Please be aware that Bishop & Sewell is not a Surrogacy Agent nor are we able to facilitate surrogacy arrangements for would-be parents or surrogate mothers.


A written document is not necessary. However, many involved in a surrogacy arrangement will find it comforting to have recorded in writing their respective expectations.

A surrogacy agreement, if prepared, can be as general or as detailed as the commissioning parents and the surrogate wish. It should record the amount and purpose of any payment made to the surrogate.

Many surrogacy arrangements proceed on the basis that the surrogate will have no involvement in the child’s life, once born. If that is agreed, it should be recorded in writing. If it is intended the surrogate will have some relationship with the child (which might range from being sent pictures and updates once a year, to regular time together) that should be spelled out.

In the UK, a surrogacy agreement is not enforceable. A surrogate may decide to keep the child she is carrying. She has the right to do so, even if the child is not genetically related to her (as in host surrogacy).

Any agreement with commissioning parents cannot be enforced as if it were a contract. There is also no right to reclaim any money paid by the commissioning parents to the surrogate for expenses.

If a surrogate does change her mind, a Family Court Judge can be asked to resolve the dispute. He or she will do so by deciding the outcome that is in the best interests of the child.

The reverse is also true: commissioning parents may change their mind, in which case, the child would remain with the surrogate. From a legal point of view, surrogacy agreements are treated in the same way as pre-conception agreements.

Statistically, changes of heart by the surrogate or commissioning parents are rare. Surrogacy UK estimates that only about 2% of surrogacy arrangements break down.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 allows the court to make a Parental Order in relation to a child born through surrogacy. The following conditions must be met:

  • The child must be genetically related to one of the commissioning parents;
  • The commissioning parents must be married, civil partners or cohabitants in a committed relationship;
  • The application must be made within six months of the child’s birth;
  • The child’s home must be with the commissioning parents;
  • At least one of the commissioning parents must be domiciled in the UK (including the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man);
  • The commissioning parents must both be over eighteen;
  • The surrogate (and any other legal parent) must agree to the Parental Order; and
  • No money or benefit (other than for reasonable expenses) may have been paid in relation to the surrogacy.

The court can still make a Parental Order even if payments have been made beyond those described in the last condition. Whether it will do so depends on (among other considerations) the sums involved and the surrogate’s financial circumstances. The court will look very carefully indeed at an arrangement that amounts to the commercial ‘purchase’ of a child via surrogacy.

Once a Parental Order is made, the commissioning parents will become the child’s legal parents and will acquire parental responsibility. The surrogate (and any legal father or second parent) will cease being the child’s legal parents. A new birth certificate will be issued for the child naming the commissioning parents.

The law currently does not allow a single commissioning parent to apply for a Parental Order although this is expected to change in 2018, with a proposed change in the law.

If commissioning parents cannot apply for a Parental Order (for example, if neither is related to the child genetically, if the surrogate has withdrawn her consent, or if there is only one commissioning parent), an application for an adoption order is an alternative option.

Surrogacy Solicitors

Victoria Maxwell Associate Solicitor   +44 (0)20 7091 2707