Avid listeners of Radio 4’s long-running story of country living The Archers will be all too familiar with the current storyline involving Lexi and married couple Adam Macy and Ian Craig. For those not familiar with the storyline, Adam and Ian want to start a family and have turned to a surrogate (Lexi) to help them achieve their wish. Although Ian wished to be the biological father, unfortunately he subsequently discovered that he was infertile. Lexi is now pregnant, her baby having been conceived as a result of an egg donor and Adam’s sperm in what is known as gestational surrogacy, she has also returned to her native country of Bulgaria.
Although fiction, the storyline raises questions faced by couples who wish to start a family through surrogacy.
Commercial surrogacy in the UK is illegal although payment for reasonable expenses is allowed. In Bulgaria all forms of surrogacy are prohibited.
So what are the pitfalls and problems that could arise for Adam and Ian?
Firstly, who will be the legal parents?
Lexi will be the legal mother at birth until the UK grants a parental order. The woman who carries the child is the “mother” and if a UK clinic was used for the egg donor the child, once they are 18, will be able to find out the identity of the donor. Under English law, Lexi will be the mother even if the child is born in Bulgaria.
Adam is likely to be classed as the father of the child as Lexi is not married or in a civil partnership.
Both Adam and Ian are able to apply for a parental order within 6 months following the birth of the baby, however Lexi will need to consent. This will be the case even if Lexi remains in Bulgaria. Adam and Ian would need to apply to the UK courts to obtain a parental order.
Following the issue of the parental order, the baby’s birth is re-registered, recording both intended parents as legal parents. A new birth certificate is issued.
This storyline highlights the importance of obtaining legal advice, we don’t know whether Adam and Ian have, however what we do know is that without them having legal advice they could be storing up trouble for their future.
For example, what happens if Lexi changes her mind or how do Adam and Ian go about applying for their parental order?
Or perhaps they need to know what counts as reasonable expenses or how to bring the baby back to England if it’s born in Bulgaria?
Stone King’s Family and Mediation Team is able to advise on families created through donor conception and surrogacy, as well as on co-parenting, adoption and fertility treatment.