It is steadily becoming the social norm for the current generation of men and women to want to be economically stable and secure before deciding to settle down and start a family. Their bodies however may not be keeping pace with these social changes and their biological clock may have timed out.
No one wants to be seen as 'too old to have kids' but from a fertility perspective, 35+ is the age where we generally start to slow down.
Infertility issues can impact couples of every age and background, and can occur without any discrimination. As we storm through life, and begin to stabilise ourselves, couples are increasingly leaning towards surrogacy as a viable option to starting their family later in life.
The law in England relating to surrogacy can lack the absolute certainty that most couples look for when planning to have a child. There are many fantastic and generous women in the UK who offer to act as surrogates. However, many British couples travel abroad to countries that provide greater confidence surrounding surrogacy. The biggest example is America, where parents can be legally named on the birth certificate immediately. In some cases, parents can declare their parentage before birth, however not every state in the US provides this opportunity.
If you are considering surrogacy abroad, there are a few things to bear in mind:
Find a good lawyer in the local jurisdiction. They're the only ones who represent just your interests and guide you on good practice
Get your foreign lawyer to thoroughly review the surrogacy agreement which will regulate the payments; it will form a corner piece to your UK Parental Order application.
There are lots of websites giving reviews of different agencies, however it is also important to look for personal recommendations.
Speak to People
Join online forums and attend events hosted by professionals working in the field. You get to meet people will help you and other couples who can share their experience. Meeting professionals in the field can provide you with the best advice, and meeting couples who have used a surrogate can help you know when to expect.
Fees and Expenses
There is no upper or lower threshold for 'reasonable expenses', so do not just follow advice about quantum blindly. Scrutinise each so you can justify them to the court.
Compensation payments are widely known to happen in the US, so do not tried to hide it when you return to the UK courts.
Ensure that your relationship with your surrogate is as strong as possible and that she is entering it for the right reasons. You fundamentally need her cooperation long after birth too.
A surrogate with poor credit history or large debts is vulnerable and could also give you false addresses for service of future documents required for the English court.
Play by the Rules
Make sure you understand the immigration rules and requirements for returning to the UK with your child. Preparation is key.
While you must comply with local laws, remember that when you return to the UK you must still apply for a Parental Order to become the legally recognised parents of your child.
Surrogacy can be a long and expensive process, but parents who have travelled abroad to find a surrogate claim the process is easier and smoother than in the UK. It is now a well-trodden path and a viable route to parenthood for 'older' couples.
Andrew Spearman is an award-winning surrogacy lawyer and director of A City Law Firm