UK law never prohibited single dads or mums having children through surrogacy, but the legal issues have until now been 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) have only been available to couples, making the issues around parentage and nationality difficult for single parents to resolve. However, the good news is that the law looks set to change in 2017.
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, which could see the new law in force before the end of 2017. 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). There are various court orders you can apply for to secure your position under UK law, the best being a parental order. Although single parents are not currently eligible to apply, we won a ruling from the President of the High Court Family Division in May 2016 that the law's exclusion of single parents was incompatible with human rights principles. The government has said that it has accepted the judgment and is currently considering how to change the law. We are therefore hopeful that parental orders will soon become available to single parents, although at present we do not know the likely timeframe.
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). The government has accepted that the current law breaches the human rights of single parents, and has said it is considering how to change the law. If this happens, it will make more options available to single mothers, although only where they are able to use their own eggs to conceive.