A couple who illegally paid a surrogate to have their baby will be allowed keep the child after a landmark court ruling.
The British couple paid an American woman an unspecified sum to carry their child. They did this despite the fact that it is forbidden in England and Wales to pay more than 'reasonable expenses' to a surrogate mother – even if she is abroad – because it would encourage a profit motive.
In a case which may open the floodgates to foreign surrogacies, a High Court family judge yesterday backed the couple, while making clear that the sum they paid was far in excess of what is allowed.
The surrogate mum lives in the state of Illinois, where there are no restrictions on payments.
British authorities allowed the baby to enter the UK temporarily on an American passport pending court proceedings.
Mr Justice Hedley has 'retrospectively authorised' the payments made to the surrogate mother and recognised the couple as the lawful parents. In making the decision, he said the child's welfare was of paramount concern.
Issuing a parental order, he described the couple as 'most careful and conscientious' and said they had fully met all the other criteria for surrogacy.
He added that the court would rule against surrogate parents only in the clearest case of the abuse of public policy.
He described the concept of reasonable expenses as 'somewhat opaque' but said the surrogacy process must continue to be policed by the courts.
The first case of surrogacy in the UK was in 1985 and while there have been more than 700 cases since, the practice is still controversial.
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