UK law has never prohibited single dads or mums having children through surrogacy, but the legal issues are complicated to navigate. That is because parental orders (which give parenthood to the intended parents after the birth and extinguish the status of the surrogate) are only currently available to couples, making the issues around parentage and nationality difficult for single parents to resolve. However, the good news is that the law is set to change.
We have been at the forefront of the campaign to win rights for single parents conceiving through surrogacy for many years. In 2008 (when parental orders were opened to same-sex and unmarried couples) we drafted an amendment to the law covering single parents too. This was debated in Parliament, but unfortunately blocked by the government which said that government policy was to allow surrogacy only for couples. We continued to campaign for change and in 2015/2016 represented the single father in the case of Re Z which challenged the law on human rights grounds. Ultimately the President of the High Court Family Division made a formal declaration that U.K surrogacy law was incompatible with the Human Rights Act as it discriminated against single parents and their children. In December 2016, the government told Parliament that, in response to that court ruling, it would be changing the law to enable single parents to apply for parental orders. The government has said it will use a special fast-track procedure to change the law. The remedial order being used to change the law will, they say, be introduced to Parliament in September 2017, which could see the new law in force by mid 2018. It will be retrospective, so that previously excluded single parents can apply even if their children are more than six months old. We will continue to keep this page updated as there is further news.
In the meantime, we are still finding creative solutions for single parents wherever possible.
If you are conceiving with a surrogate, it is critical to ensure that you will be your child’s legal father when he or she is born. This depends on your surrogate’s marital status and where conception takes place, as well as biology. Find out more about UK parenthood law.
Most of the single dads we work with go overseas for surrogacy, usually to the US. If your child is born outside the UK, you will need to navigate British nationality and immigration law succcessfully to ensure your child has a permanent right to live in the UK.
You may also want to take steps to secure your legal status in the UK (since UK law treats your surrogate as the mother and may not not give you parental responsibility, even if you are the legal father). Until the full solution of parental orders is available, some single parents are applying for child arrangements orders to secure their status as far as possible. Adoption is not a straightforward alternative to a parental order but may also be an option in some cases.
The legal complications make things even more difficult for single mums. The surrogate, rather than you, will be the legal mother of your child (even if you are the biological mother and even if you are named as the mother on a foreign birth certificate). Find out more about UK legal parenthood. If your child is born outside the UK, securing British nationality and the documentation you will need to travel home could be complicated.
While there are possible legal solutions, sadly in most cases these difficulties have meant historically that surrogacy is not practically available to UK single mothers. However, we are hopeful that the law is about to change, following the ruling in Re Z No. 2 (2016). That will make more options available to single mothers, although only where they are able to use their own eggs to conceive. We are also campaigning for wider reform to enable single mothers to be able to be recognised as a sole legal parent after surrogacy if they conceive with donor eggs.