Surrogacy Law

Surrogacy arrangements in the UK and internationally

Surrogacy is a way of building a family for different-sex couples and single women who are unable to carry a pregnancy, and for same-sex couples and single men who want to start a family independently rather than through co-parenting. 

It is also an alternative to donating eggs for women who want to help someone else to start a family, by being a surrogate and carrying a pregnancy for them.

There are two different types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy (which is where the surrogate is the biological mother, and conception can take place through artificial insemination or IVF) and gestational surrogacy (where the surrogate is not the biological mother and an embryo created with the intended parents’ eggs or donor eggs is transferred to her via an IVF process).

Is surrogacy legal in the UK?

Both types of surrogacy are permitted in the UK, but there are a few restrictions.  It is illegal to advertise that you are looking for a surrogate and it is illegal for anyone (other than a non-profit organisation) to broker a surrogacy arrangement for payment.  Most UK surrogacy arrangements therefore involve a surrogate found through one of the UK’s non-profit surrogacy agencies (Brilliant Beginnings, Surrogacy UK and COTS) or with an independent surrogate (who may be a friend or family member, or someone you connect with online).  Many parents from the UK also travel abroad for surrogacy, to countries where there are established professional surrogacy services to help you find a surrogate.

Who are the legal parents of a child born through surrogacy?

Under UK law, the surrogate is always treated as the legal mother of a surrogate born child at birth.  If she is married then her spouse is the other parent initially; otherwise one of the intended parents will be the other parent.  The intended parents should then apply to court for a parental order after their child is born to become his or her legal parents.  The process takes a number of months, and there are various criteria which the parents applying for the order must meet.  Once the parental order is granted, the child’s birth certificate is re-issued and the intended parents are recorded as the legal parents.

If the child is born outside the UK, there may be a mismatch between UK law and the law in the country of birth (which typically says that the intended parents are the legal parents).  Parents from the UK still need a parental order to be recognised as the legal parents in the UK, even if they are already recorded on their child’s foreign birth certificate as the parents.  They will also need to deal with immigration law to manage bringing their child home to the UK after the birth.

For more detailed information, visit NGA Law’s free and searchable online Knowledge Centre

Page last reviewed: 12/6/2018