Gamble & Ghevaert

Posts Tagged ‘fertility law’

NGA recognised as a leading law firm by Legal 500 and Chambers

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

NGA is delighted to have been included in both Legal 500 2013 and Chambers 2014.  Published annually each autumn, the two directories conduct independent research before ranking the leading lawyers in the UK.

Legal 500 (2013), listing us among the UK’s top family law firms in London, said:  Natalie Gamble Associates has a niche fertility practice, and is ‘really able to understand’ complex international surrogacy issues. Natalie Gamble displays ‘great empathy’ and has ‘an understanding of fertility law that is second to none’.

Chambers and Partners 2014, ranking Natalie as a leading specialist in family law, said:  Natalie Gamble of Natalie Gamble Associates is held in high regard by peers and clients for her specialism and expertise in all children matters, and particularly her strength in assisted reproduction, surrogacy and same-sex parenting. One client describes her as “passionate and extremely knowledgeable in this specialist field, offering insightful and pragmatic advice in a calm and reassuring way during the most challenging and stressful time of our lives.”

We wanted to say a huge thank you to our clients and colleagues who spoke to the researchers.  As a non-traditional law firm practising in a cutting edge and fast moving specialist field, we are very proud to have won mainstream recognition within the legal profession.

You can find out more about us, and about our services, on our website.

NGA hosts House of Commons reception to celebrate the grant of maternity leave rights for surrogacy

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Big BenWe were thrilled to host a reception at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday evening to celebrate the change to UK law giving parents through surrogacy rights to maternity leave and pay.

NGA co-hosted the reception with John Healey MP, and it was attended by the Minister for Equality Jo Swinson, key UK professionals and influencers, and the parents who have worked with us for so long in different ways to make this change happen.  It was wonderful to see so many children and parents, and a testament to how important this change is for real families.

Natalie, John and the Minister spoke about the landmark Children and Families Bill, which from 2015 will give parents through surrogacy the same rights to time off work to care for their newborn children as other UK parents.  It represents a legal recognition, for the first time, that intended parents are responsible for their children from birth.  We know well that new parents through surrogacy can be in a vulnerable position, whether because they have not been able to have their children in the way they had hoped, or because they are same sex parents anxious about whether their family will be accepted.  That vulnerability is made worse by the lack of parental recognition UK law applies when their children are born.  The change giving maternity rights is therefore a huge step forward, and not just for its practical effect, but for the message it sends.

But there is more to do, and we want to see full legal recognition of surrogacy families, beyond just the right to time off work when their child is born.  Brilliant Beginnings’ surrogacy campaigning was launched publicly at the event, with Natalie advocating the need for further change and explaining what Brilliant Beginnings will be doing to make that happen.  You can read more about our call for change on the Brilliant Beginnings blog.

The NGA family is growing again

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

I am delighted to post two pieces of exciting news about the NGA family.

First, a big welcome to Richard Perrins, a solicitor who has joined our team this month as an experienced family lawyer. He will be supporting all aspects of our work, but with particular responsibility for our disputed cases, including relationship breakdown, finances and children disputes – a growing area of our work. Richard is a member of Resolution and specialises in private family law, including divorce, civil partnership dissolution, financial matters and disputes relating to children.

Massive congratulations also go to Nicola Scott, who has completed her professional training with us to qualify as a solicitor this month. We are always pleased to break new ground, and Nicola is the first solicitor in the UK to qualify into fertility law having trained in this specialist field. She has been an integral member of the team since 2009 and so already has significant experience in surrogacy, assisted reproduction and family law, and we are very proud that she is now a qualified member of the legal team.

If Richard or Nicola (or any of us) can be of any help, please do not hesitate to contact us.

International surrogacy – UK High Court judge awards parenthood to non-British gay dads

Friday, March 15th, 2013

The decision in Re A & B (Parental Order: Domicile) represents another landmark ruling for NGA – a parental order having been granted to a non-British gay couple following the birth of their son through Indian surrogacy last year.

The case not only clarifies the law for foreign but UK-resident parents conceiving through surrogacy, but also shows how same sex parents are being drawn to the UK’s open culture and law. We were proud to have supported the parents in this case through to successful conclusion, and once again to have helped make new law.

What happened?

The parents, who are American and Polish respectively, moved to the UK as a couple in 2008 (having registered their domestic partnership in California four years earlier). They were initially attracted to the UK by our unrivalled equal laws and gay rights – something they were not afforded in their respective home counties. Having decided to start a family, they found a surrogate through an agency in India and were delighted when their son was born in 2012. On their return to the UK they sought help from NGA to establish the non-biological dad’s parental status, which led to their application for a parental order (the legal solution following surrogacy, enabling both intended parents to become their child’s legal parents under UK law).

What does the law say?

In order to be eligible for a parental order, at least one of the intended parents must demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that they are ‘domiciled’ in a part of the UK. Domicile for these purposes is more complex than simply where a person lives – it comes down to where their permanent roots and allegiances lie. This particular criterion (one of a number of strict requirements attached to the parental order) is designed to prevent foreign parents ‘forum shopping’, by using the UK court to grant them a more favourable legal solution than their own country might. The parents in this case therefore had to show that they had made the UK their permanent home and that, notwithstanding their American and Polish citizenship status, they had cut their ties with the US and Poland and did not intend to return.

What did the court consider?

In order to establish whether the parents in this case had met this high bar, the judge considered a number of factors in detail. She was particularly assisted by the parents’ statements, which outlined in detail their connections here (including that they ran a UK based company and both intended to apply for British citizenship at the earliest opportunity) and their affection for the UK including their very personal reasons for making it their home and the place that they raise their family, away from the discrimination abundant in their home countries. The judge went on to quote one of their reasons for not returning to the US, “We will never return and raise our son in a society in which schools may censor him from talking about his family”, as a factor which bolstered their contentions.

Why is this case significant?

Mrs Justice Theis reiterated in this case the importance, for non-British parents applying for a parental order, of demonstrating a clear intention to make the UK their permanent home – the court otherwise being powerless to make a parental order. The judge was also assisted by an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding domicile by CAFCASS Legal, who found that the parents had abandoned their respective domicile of origins in favour of English domiciles of choice. This case (in addition to Z v C [2011]) provides helpful guidance for future non-British parents through surrogacy who hope to apply for a parental order.

What you need to know if you are not British, or are British and based abroad, and considering applying for a parental order

Domicile is a far-reaching principle of law and far from contingent on just one factor. Having dealt with the key cases which have tested the law on this, we would be happy to advise you on your eligibility to apply for a parental order, no matter what your circumstances. You can contact us here, or alternatively there is more information about domicile on our website.

Natalie talks to Red Magazine on the 101 ways to make a family

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Red Magazine has a feature this month about alternative routes to parenthood. From Melanie and her husband who have surrogate twiblings born five days apart, to gay dads with twins created with the same egg donor but each of their sperm (something we actually see quite a lot of), Kate Bussmann shows just how much is now possible, and the positive impact that increasing diversity is having.

Natalie talks about our experience on the ground of working with non traditional families and says:

“I’m constantly surprised by how many variations there are on having a child, the technologies available and the situations people get themselves into… Gay families are obviously different, so they are inevitably having those conversations with children and developing the language. I think it’s helping heterosexual couples deal with some of those issues, because they can see same-sex couples dealing with it in such a positive way. We have experienced a real cultural shift, particularly with donor conception – 20 or 30 years ago, heterosexual couples were told it was best never to tell the child. Now everyone is encouraged to be open and treat it as a positive thing. It’s a complete revolution in thinking. “

The article has a positive message, with stories including that of Fiona O’Driscoll of Surrogacy UK whose surrogate is now ‘Auntie Kate’ to her kids, and research from Stonewall which shows that children with same sex parents are just as likely to be happy as any others. It explores how gay parents are helping to push some positive trends, and how language is evolving fast to keep up.

It’s great to see such a positive piece, which really does reflect what we see on the ground every day. As Kate Bussmann says so eloquently: “And of all the parents I spoke to, gay or straight, with donors or surrogacy, the stories were almost entirely positive. They’re proud of forging their own version of ‘normal’ and more than one of them described the ‘richness’ that comes with having all those extra people in their lives.”

Amen to that.

You can read the Red feature in full here, or find out more about surrogacy, donor conception and our campaigning work from our website.

Maternity leave rights to be introduced for parents through surrogacy

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Some days I feel very proud of what we do here, and today is one of those days. After a campaign of more than five years, I am thrilled to post that the government announced yesterday that they would be introducing adoption leave (equivalent to maternity leave) rights for parents through surrogacy.

Until now, parents whose biological child is carried by another woman have had no rights to time off work when their new baby arrives, unlike parents who give birth or who adopt a child. This has been grossly unfair, and resulted in parents through surrogacy having to quit their jobs or go back to work if their employer does not (or cannot) give leave on a discretionary basis.

The new rights will be introduced as part of the government’s maternity leave and adoption leave reforms, expected to come into force in 2015. Although the full detail has yet to be confirmed, we know that parents through surrogacy will be entitled to two antenatal appointments during the pregnancy, and adoption leave after the birth. This will be available to all couples eligible to apply for a parental order, including heterosexual parents and gay dads. Surrogate mothers will also retain their right to maternity leave to recover from giving birth.

More information is available in the government’s response to the consultation on modern workplaces which says:

We propose that intended parents in surrogacy cases who satisfy the criteria for a Parental
Order and intend to apply, or have applied, to a court for a Parental Order will be entitled to
leave and pay on the same basis as adopters who are eligible for statutory adoption leave
and pay, subject to the qualifying conditions and evidential requirements. In addition, both
intended parents will be entitled to take unpaid time off to attend two antenatal appointments
with the surrogate mother carrying their child.

What is so exciting about the change, as well as the practical legal rights it will introduce for new parents, is that this is the very first time in UK legal history that parents through surrogacy have been recognised as having any rights in advance of the birth of their child. This is a very significant recognition that surrogacy is real and here to stay, and hopefully a first step towards wider reform of our surrogacy laws.

There is more information about surrogacy law on our website, and more about our campaigning work.

First single dad to become a parent through UK surrogacy

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Today’s ITV Daybreak featured Kyle Casson, a single dad who we are proud to be working with on his journey to become the first single parent through surrogacy in the UK. Well done to Kyle for speaking out so bravely, and for being such a great a champion for solo dads.

Kyle spoke characterically warmly about his plans to be a father. He has always wanted children, and wants to do it in his twenties (with active grandparents) rather than waiting for a partner who may not come along. He has planned things carefully, is financially secure, has the enthusiastic support of his family, and has a surrogate who wants to help him. You can see Kyle talking about his story on ITV Daybreak here.

So what does the law say?

The law in the UK has never made it illegal to enter into a surrogacy arrangement as a single father. But it doesn’t make it easy either. Most parents through surrogacy (including gay dads and unmarried couples) can apply for a ‘parental order’ after their child is born. This is an order made by the family court which gives the intended parents a new birth certificate and extinguishes the responsibilities of the surrogate mother. Single parents are not, however, eligible to apply.

This means it is perfectly legal for Kyle to have a child through surrogacy in the UK, but the normal solution for families created through surrogacy (designed to give lifelong security and certainty for the child) is not available. He will have to get creative with using law designed for other purposes to secure his family and resolve the position of his surrogate – adoption being the best alternative to a parental order if the family court will agree to help.

Our call to action

On behalf of Kyle and the increasing numbers of solo prospective dads we are advising (some going abroad for surrogacy, others entering into co-parenting arrangements) we at NGA call for parental orders to be made available to solo parents. The law has already been extended, in 2008, to allow gay dads and unmarried couples to apply, and it is now time to allow single parents to apply too. This would bring the law into line with adoption law, which allows single parents to become adopters, and with reproductive law for women which was specifically amended in 2008 to allow solo mums to conceive through donor insemination.

We frequently see heartbreaking cases caused by the denial of surrogacy to single parents. A change to the law would benefit not only prospective solo dads like Kyle, but also single women who have survived cancer and need the help of a surrogate to carry their child, and widowed fathers who want to use embryos in storage, just as widowed mothers are able to do.

And what do we say to people (like the lady on Daybreak with Kyle this morning) who say that such solo parents who want to have children are selfish? Well, wanting to be a parent is something most human beings experience, so it comes down to whether children suffer harm if raised without a mother and a father. This is an old question for non-traditional families, and the answer (backed by long research, including by the Centre for Family Research at Cambridge University) is that children in deliberately created non-traditional families (including solo parent families) have good outcomes, and are in a very different position from children whose parents have separated. It is the quality of the relationships which matters, and not the gender or number of the parents.

Find out more from our website about surrogacy law for single parents, or about the options for gay and solo dads.

Should surrogate mothers still have an absolute right to change their minds?

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Natalie has written a comment piece for Bionews criticising the unchallengeable position surrogate mothers are currently given by UK surrogacy law.

The law in the UK has long provided that the woman who gives birth is the legal mother. In surrogacy cases, the intended parents (one or both of whom must be the biological parents) can apply to the family court to have parenthood reassigned to them, but they are entirely dependent on the surrogate and her husband/civil partner giving their consent. If it is withheld, they cannot become the legal parents. Conversely, if the intended parents do not take responsibility, the surrogate has no means of holding them both legally responsible for the life they have created.

Natalie criticises the law as being outdated in a modern age in which surrogacy is becoming more common. Very few arrangements do go wrong (a proportion of roughly 0.02%) and where things run to plan, the current law means that parental responsibility is left in the wrong hands for far too long, contrary to everyone’s wishes and the best interests of the child. In the rare cases where things go wrong, the courts in practice decide care arrangements flexibly on a best interests basis, but legal parentage can remain unresolved forever.

It is time for us to introduce law which deals with surrogacy in a much more sophisticated way, understanding that it is a collaborative process in which the rights and responsibilities of everyone involved – the surrogate, her partner, the intended parents and the child – all need to be carefully balanced. This is what both surrogates and parents want, and what is in the best interests of children born through surrogacy.

You can read Natalie’s comment piece Should surrogate mothers still have an absolute right to change their minds? or find out more about surrogacy law from our website.

Progress Educational Trust, which publishes Bionews, is a wonderful charity which does crucial work informing debate on assisted conception and genetics. You can donate to PET or subscribe to Bionews by clicking here.

Corrie update – a friend’s life changing offer

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Friday’s episode saw Tina offer to be Gary and Izzy’s surrogate following much deliberation. Working with a friend is a common route to finding a surrogate in the UK given that professional surrogacy agencies are barred here (although there are a few non profit making UK agencies).

For those parents fortunate enough to have a friend willing to carry their baby, surrogacy arrangements often work extremely well. Each arrangement is unique and we advise many parents on the legal issues, including parental status and payments. If you would like some clarification on the legal issues surrounding your arrangement, please contact us at hello@nataliegambleassociates.com.

There is also free information available on our website on surrogacy law and more from our blog about our work with Coronation Street on this storyline.

NGA part of HFEA National Donation Strategy Group

Friday, September 7th, 2012

The UK’s regulator of fertility treatment, the HFEA, undertook a wide ranging public consultation last year, which looked at the barriers and motivations to egg and sperm donation in the UK. The review uncovered numerous barriers to donation, some which could be removed through regulation and others which could not be as easily tackled. It is these issues which sit outside of traditional regulation that have led the Authority to set up a national strategy group to find new ways of tackling obstacles to sperm and egg donation.

The HFEA aims were to use their unique position as the national regulator to bring together a wide range of experts to come up with new approaches to raising awareness of donation and improving the care of donors in the UK.

Helen is really pleased to have achieved a place on this valuable group that will make a real difference to the future of sperm and egg donation and the effects upon donors, future parents and ultimately the donor conceived children.

The three core objectives of the group will be to:
1. increase awareness of donation and the information that donors receive
2. improve the ‘customer service’ that donors receive when they contact clinics
3. help donors provide better information about themselves for future families

The HFEA aims to bring together a group of people with diverse experiences, including non-licensed donation services, people with experience of blood, organ or tissue donation, as well as those with experience of sperm and egg donation. This includes people with interest in the welfare of donors, patients and donor-conceived people.

We would love to hear from any donors, future parents or donor conceived to pass on their views to the donation strategy group. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with us at hello@nataliegambleassociates.com

Click here to read the members of the group

More information can be found on our website at donor conception and co-parenting as well as eggs, sperm and embryos.