23rd May 2020, 4:42 pm

A specialist in modern family law says current UK surrogacy laws need a major reform in light of the news that dozens of babies are stranded abroad after being born to surrogate mothers during the coronavirus crisis.


Sarah Wood-Heath says the heartbreaking reality that intended parents are unable to travel to their newborn babies in other countries, highlights how the outdated laws in the UK are letting parents down.


Sarah, a partner at national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, said: “It is a sad fact that a lot of people who are trying to start a family via a surrogate in this country feel like they have no choice but to go abroad to complete the



“In the UK it is very difficult to find a surrogate outside of your family and friendship group as commercial surrogacy arrangements are not legal.  This means that you cannot pay someone to be your surrogate (only

reasonable expenses). It also means you are unable to advertise that you are looking for a surrogate and a surrogate is unable to advertise themselves.


“There is also no binding contract between the surrogate and the intended parents which leads to a lot of unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty on both sides.  Furthermore, the surrogate (and her partner) are recognised as

the legal parents of the child until the intended parents obtain a parental order from the Court following the birth.


“For those who feel uncomfortable and vulnerable with the position in the UK or who don’t have a friend or family member willing to carry their baby the options are few and far between and so they look to foreign

jurisdictions. In a lot of foreign countries the rules are more relaxed, they allow commercial surrogacy and some have an established legal process recognising the intended parents as the legal parents at birth.”


The USA is a popular surrogacy hotspot as commercial surrogacy is legal in most states but the high cost of the process here means it is often prohibitive to intended parents. As a result countries like Ukraine have become

increasingly popular, where treatment is more affordable but there are less regulations.


“There are advantages but also risks to choosing surrogacy abroad and it adds complications to an already difficult and stressful situation, not least having to obtain travel documents to get the baby home once it is born. I

have had clients who have been stuck abroad for months after the birth of their child,” said Sarah.


“Of course, nobody could foresee this current situation but it does bring into stark reality the existing concerns family lawyers have about both our system and the systems in other countries.


“The Law Commission is currently reviewing our surrogacy laws which is a really welcome development and I hope that the system is updated to reflect modern family living and to help couples achieve their goals of

starting a family as much as possible and make the path easier here in the UK.


“We must remember that at the heart of this are parents who have usually been on a torrid and fraught journey of infertility to get to this point and who desperately want to grow their family.


“The anxiety of the intended parents whose babies are thousands of miles away must be phenomenal so I hope that the government will step in soon and class their journeys as essential travel so the families can be



Sarah’s comments come after it was reported that over 50 babies are stranded at one Ukraine clinic and are now being cared for by nurses at a nearby hotel.


Sarah Wood-Heath is a partner and expert in specialist family law, helping clients build and create their families. Her specialisms include surrogacy, donor conception and co-parenting agreements.


Clarke Willmott is a national law firm with offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.


For more information visit



Issued on behalf of Clarke Willmott LLP by Empica PR. For more information contact Kayleigh Penny on 01275 394400.

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