Child arrangements during Christmas
After the past two years, time with loved ones has never felt so important, but for separated parents Christmas can be a time of tension, as plans need to be agreed about where and how children will spend the festive season. So how do you agree on arrangements for children during Christmas?
We asked our Regional Director for Yorkshire, Rachel Roberts, to share her advice on child arrangements during Christmas.
Child arrangements and Christmas
As we approach Christmas, we see a flurry of clients getting in touch for help to try and resolve arrangements for the festive season.
Before I turn to my tips on how best to manage arrangements, there are a couple of key points from the Government and family law sector that are certainly at the forefront of my mind when advising clients.
Last year, a leading family judge made it clear that parties should only be bringing disputes over children to court where absolutely necessary. The judge went on to criticise parents for asking the court to micro-manage children arrangements. The view from the court is clear – where possible you should be sorting these things out yourself.
The Government have said that further lockdowns are unlikely and have been clear that restrictions do not prevent children from moving between separated parents, provided they are not self-isolating.
It seems unlikely that this will change, and CAFCASS (the government body that advises the court on children disputes) has stressed the need for children to maintain their usual routine.
All that said, it is naive to think that difficulties will not arise, and the following guidance may help avoid unhappiness at Christmas.
Tips for making child arrangements during Christmas
Preparation is key
With the added uncertainty of another Christmas during the pandemic, trying to put in place arrangements for Christmas in advance is tricky.
If you do not have plans in place, now is the time to start. Talk to your ex-partner and agree on arrangements that work for you all.
Some clients I have worked with agreed that the children would spend Christmas Eve at one home and then return to the other for lunch on Christmas Day.
Other clients decided that they would spend the whole festive period with one parent and the next year spend it with the other, alternating between the two.
It is a personal choice based on what works for your family, but also the age of the children, location and how amicable you are.
Be prepared to be flexible as plans may need to change.
Focus on the children
First and foremost, put the children at the heart of the plans you make. A different type of Christmas can still be a good Christmas. Talk about the positive: two Christmas Days, two sets of presents etc.
Make sure you share your plans with the children. Depending on the age of the children, ask them what they would like? Older children need to feel they have a voice.
Once in place, sharing plans with the children means they know where they will be throughout the holiday, and the routine will make them feel safe and secure.
Creating a visual plan can help as dates can be difficult for a child to understand. One client created a Christmas themed wall planner for their younger children. A tech-savvy teenager may prefer a joint Google calendar.
Be fair to the other parent
If this is your first year as a separated parent, this will all feel very raw and difficult. It is likely that you will both be dreading not spending Christmas entirely with your children.
Even though it can be difficult, try to think about the impact of any plans on your former partner. Ask yourself if you would be happy with the proposed arrangements next year? If the answer is no, then maybe they should be reconsidered.
Stick to the plan
This year may require a certain level of flexibility, but where possible, it is important that, whatever arrangements you come to, you both stick to the plan.
Last-minute changes can cause feelings of disruption and uncertainty for children. And, whilst flexibility is an essential part of positive child arrangements, it is important to maintain consistency and provide stability.
Get advice early, if needed
Christmas is chaotic and organising a co-parenting schedule on top of everything else is never going to be easy, especially if communication between you and your ex-partner is difficult.
If you are struggling this year, take advice from a family lawyer who can try to assist in negotiating an agreement.
If you cannot reach an agreement, mediation can help as the presence of a 3rd party often eases tensions and result in finding common ground.
Mediation is still taking place via video conferencing, and many of our clients have reported that it is easier than being in the same room as their former partner.
Court proceedings are possible but should be used as a last resort, and, due to the current strain on courts from the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that you have any prospect of a contested hearing before Christmas.
Hopefully, these tips, combined with some careful planning, compromise and putting the children first, will help you and your ex-partner move forward towards a harmonious Christmas.
Get in touch
If you would like any advice on child arrangements during Christmas, or other family law issues, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here.
This article was first published in 2018 and has since been updated. More
Child arrangements during Christmas
Parallel parenting is a method used by divorced or separated parents who wish to continue to parent their children in parallel, whilst agreeing to limit contact and interaction with each other. This technique is particularly helpful in divorces that involve domestic abuse, high-conflict, or where communication is extremely difficult.
Luisa Williams from My Family Psychologist explains more.
5 Tips for Parallel Parenting
Rebuilding your life when a relationship ends and healing from any emotional trauma you’ve experienced is difficult enough. Even when you’re ex was abusive, sometimes it’s impossible to cut ties for the sake of your child.
What is parallel parenting?
Whilst co-parenting works by cooperation and continued communication, for some it gives your ex-partner the opportunity to continue to mistreat you. Instead, parallel parenting increases safety in challenging relationships by deliberately keeping communication to a bare minimum.
While major decisions can be agreed upon together, each parent adapts their parenting method when the child is in their care. It allows you to distance yourself from your ex without depriving your child of a parent and sets clear boundaries that prevent further abuse or conflict.
The aim is to facilitate emotional healing from the relationship while prioritising your child’s needs and protecting them from conflict.
To give you the best start after divorce, here’s 5 tips for parallel parenting.
1. Create a parenting plan
It’s best to plan ahead to avoid disagreements. The more prepared you are and the more detailed the plan is, the less you’re likely to argue with your ex and the more minimal the contact is. Minimise stress for your child and ensure your safety by agreeing as much as you can in advance, including:
Agreeing timing of visits, including dates and start and end times, in writing.
Establish how to handle cancellations, and when and how they should be communicated.
Consider how often the child will see each parent?
Who will attend your child’s functions or doctor visits?
Agree who will drop them off and pick them up?
Plan ahead to decide where your child will spend their holidays and birthdays?
Choose a neutral location or even ask a family member or a trusted friend to pick your child for you.
Set out financial responsibilities, and dos and don’ts.
You can figure out logistics using email or another form of communication that doesn’t involve meeting face to face.
2. Let yourself heal
Ideally, after separating from an abusive ex-partner, you’d cut contact and never see them again. But when there are children involved, this is not always possible to eliminate them from your life completely. When some form of contact must remain, prioritise fulfilling your needs as well as supporting your child. Incorporate self-care into your routine to reduce stress and reconnect with your self. The best way to deal with the situation is by moving forward, so when you’re ready to, concentrate on your long-term goals. Focus on building resilience and reintroducing happiness to your life.
3. Accept the current situation
Parallel parenting, and maintaining some contact with an abusive or difficult ex-partner after you’ve chosen to divorce, can be very challenging. It’s natural to struggle with negative emotions such as guilt, regret, shame and anger, and feeling as though things aren’t fair. You may find it hard to accept that your ex is still a parent to your child. Try to practice acceptance. Things are the way they are and all you can do is make the best out of the situation. Focus your energy on parenting your child and providing them with all the love and support they need.
4. Keep communication to the minimum
Only communicate with your ex when it’s necessary. Agree to contact them via email or use a parenting app, and document every interaction. Keep your communication impersonal and matter of fact, discussing only topics that relate to your child and sharing no personal information or detail. Try not to let your ex provoke you or use your child as a messenger. It can be difficult not to ruminate on the relationship whenever an email pops up or whenever your child is spending time with them. Try to distance yourself and treat interaction with your ex as a business that’s necessary to keep your child happy.
5. Appoint a mediator
If there’s a lot of resentment between you and your ex, or your safety might be compromised, it’s a good idea to appoint a professional mediator. Mediation helps divorced parents to align their intentions and focus on their shared priority, the child. With the help of mediation, divorced parents can make well-informed decisions, reduce conflict, and set out an effective and mutually beneficial plan for all members of the family.
Parallel parenting can be challenging and confusing, and the details of an arrangement will depend on the individual situation. Consider getting advice from a professional.
If you need help and support with parallel parenting you can contact My Family Psychologist, who offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples, and children as well as mediation services.
Family Law Advice
If you are in an abusive or high-conflict relationship and would like advice on your legal situation, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers. More
This week is national adoption week, and this year’s aim is to dispel misconceptions about who is, or is not, eligible to adopt. Stowe Adoption Lawyer Lucy Birch explains more:
There have been a number of cases before the court in recent months surrounding adoption and the restrictions that some adoption agencies have attempted to place on who exactly is able to adopt/foster care.
A recent case before the High Court was brought by an independent foster agency whose policies allowed only heterosexual evangelical Christians as potential foster carers.
Ofsted had concluded that the foster agency’s policies breached the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 and required the agency not to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. The Court of Appeal agreed that the policy was unlawful discrimination and the foster agency’s appeal was dismissed.
So, who can adopt?
The law in England and Wales says that the following people CAN apply to the court to adopt a child/children:-
Married couples or civil partnerships applying jointly, whether of opposite sexes or the same sex
Unmarried couples applying jointly, whether of opposite sexes or the same sex
The partner of the child’s parent
You CAN apply to adopt in the UK if:
Over 21 (there is no upper age limit)
Married, living together, in a civil partnership, opposite-sex couple, same-sex couple or single
Employed or on benefits
Any ethnic or religious background
Have children or not
Own your home or live in rented
Already adopted a child
If you are disabled
You are not a British citizen (although you must have a fixed and permanent home here and have lived here for at least a year before you begin the application process)
You CANNOT adopt if:
You, or an adult member of your family, have been convicted of a serious offence; for example, a crime committed against a child.
For any couple to be considered as adoptive parents (married or unmarried) they must prove they have a stable and lasting relationship and that they can provide a loving family environment for a child.
This is set out in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and established via a combination of assessments including meetings with your social worker, personal references from friends and family, and completion of a series of preparation classes.
Can I adopt if I’m under 21?
The Act also sets out further conditions for prospective adopters in relation to age.
An adoption order may be made on the application of a couple where both have attained the age of 21 years. Or alternatively, on the application of a couple where one of the couple is the mother or the father of the person to be adopted and has attained the age of 18 years, and the other has attained the age of 21 years.
Living with adopted children
There are also residence requirements. In the majority of cases, the child must have had their home with the prospective adopter for a minimum duration of time before the application being made. The duration depends on the route to adoption. They are as follows:-
Local authority foster parents: The child must have lived with the adoptive parent(s) for the period of one year preceding the application. Although they can request permission from the court to apply within a shorter period.
Step-parent adoption: The child must have lived with the adoptive parent(s) for the period of six months preceding the application.
Partner of the child’s parent: the child must have had his/her home with them for at least three years preceding the application.
The Legal process
Once these conditions have been met, the legal process can begin.
If you have chosen to move forward with adoption, the first step in the process is to notify the Local Authority of your intention to adopt and apply to the court for an Adoption order. This must be done in writing. The court application Form (Form A58) can be completed and sent to the court no earlier than 3 months after the date the Local Authority were notified of your intention to adopt. The legal proceedings will then be underway.
For advice on the next steps in this process, contact Stowe’s specialist Adoption solicitors.
Alternatives to adoption
Finally, it should be noted that Adoption extinguishes the parental responsibility of the birth parents, therefore the court has to be satisfied that such a permanent step is in the best interests of the child.
There may be other legal routes that are more appropriate, depending on the circumstances of the case. Such as a:
Parental responsibility agreement
Child arrangement order
Special guardianship order
The exploration of these various routes require expert legal advice.
As a family law solicitor, I specialise in adoption cases. I’m trained to manage the legal process of adoption and other alternative routes to parenting.
If you’re considering adoption, or have begun your application to adopt, and would like to find out more you can contact Stowe’s specialist Adoption solicitors.
Download our guide to adopting a child PDF
Stowe Family Law’s Adoption Services
Blog: The Adoption Process More
This National Adoption Week, we share insights into step-parent adoption during the pandemic from Stowe family lawyer, and adoption specialist, Shanika Varga-Haynes:
It is difficult to find any official statistics on the number of step-parents adoptions taking place in the UK with the figures focusing on the number of children being adopted out of the care system.
However, as a family solicitor and adoption specialist, I have noticed an increase in this area, through both enquiries, and my caseload.
Adoption is a varied and broad area of family law, and all cases bring great reward and challenges. However, Covid-19 and the multiple lockdowns have brought an extra layer of complexity to these already complicated cases.
What is step-parent adoption?
Step-parent adoptions arise when the partner of one of the biological parents wants to adopt the child. The consequence of step-parent adoption is the other biological parent loses their parental responsibility.
These applications are usually made where there is an absent biological parent who has little to no involvement in the child’s life for some time. The other biological parent is in a new relationship, and their partner has taken on the parenting role.
There can be a reluctance to issue the application as it may result in the other biological parent seeking contact, which they otherwise would not have done.
Where the non-resident parent has relatively regular contact with a child, the court tends to be slow to make the adoption order given the serious consequence of the loss of parental responsibility.
There are exceptions to this, for example, if the non-resident parent supports the adoption; however, even then, the court will give the decision as to whether to grant the adoption order the weight it deserves.
Who is involved in step-parent adoption?
An application for a step-parent adoption involves numerous parties: the step-parent wishing to adopt is the applicant, their partner is the first respondent, the child’s other biological parent is the second respondent, and a guardian can be appointed to represent the child.
Other professionals involved in the case will be the judge, legal representation, the local authority who will produce the initial report and often a reporting officer.
Race for time
In the early stages of the pandemic, getting applications for step-parent adoptions issued became difficult as the family court was (and still is) prioritising work, and they were not at the top of the list.
This delay directly impacted one of my cases where due to a number of reasons, the application for adoption was processed the day before the child’s 18th birthday.
Adoption applications can only be made if the child has not reached 18. Provided the application is made before the child’s 18th birthday, then it can proceed. If the child turns 19 during the proceedings, an adoption order cannot be made.
This meant that we had to make sure the application was dealt with before the child turned 19. Usually, that wouldn’t be too much of a concern as there are time frames the court follows to ensure cases involving children are dealt with as quickly as practicably possible.
However, the family courts were stretched before Covid-19, and the delays have noticeably worsened over the past year.
The impact of delays
In this case, several factors caused delays. At the beginning of the adoption case, the local authority provides a detailed report to the court about the parties and the child.
This report takes several months to complete as it can include interviews with friends and family, details about previous relationships, health, finances and the views of all involved in the case, including the child. The report ends with a recommendation being made to the court.
Further delays can be caused by the collation of medical evidence. In cases where the applicant is the partner of a parent of the child, in accordance with FPR rule 14.12(c), it is not necessary for medical reports to be obtained. However, if the adopter is another family member such as an aunt, waiting for the medical evidence could add further delays.
At the same time, as the report is produced, safeguarding checks are carried out. Unfortunately, in this case, the local authority failed to do these checks. We were notified of this just before the first hearing, meaning a delay of several months whilst they were carried out.
Due to their complex nature, adoption cases are dealt with by higher-level judges. There is also a preference to have judicial continuity, quite rightly, but this can cause delays due to judicial availability.
The first hearing on this matter was adjourned four times, once due to the local authority and three times due to the judge’s availability.
Again, with a typical case, this wouldn’t be too concerning, but we only had a 12-month window to ensure the order was made. The application was issued in early summer, but by January the following year, we still hadn’t had the first hearing which gave little time for the next steps.
Usually, the Annex A report prepared by the local authority is filed at court but not released to the parties immediately, although a request can be made for it to be released before the first hearing to speed the process up where time is sensitive.
In this particular case, we obtained permission from the Judge to have the report released in advance of the first hearing, so the contents could be considered and the matter progressed without the need for a further hearing. If this request hadn’t been granted we would have been at risk of matters not being finalised before the child turned 19.
Opposite ends of the world
This case also involved international elements as although both the biological father and mother consented to the adoption order being made, they lived abroad in separate countries with the applicant step-parent and the child living in England.
This was a complicated setup, and one of our challenges was to show the court and the local authority that the applicant and first respondent met the condition of being a married couple. They were a family unit but lived separately for various reasons, visiting each other every 6 weeks where possible. Although COVID-19 had meant this wasn’t possible over the past 12 months.
They met the criteria of the child having lived with the applicant for six continuous months prior to the application, but more detail than usual had to be provided regarding the intricacies of the relationship between the applicant step-parent and first respondent.
The Judge also decided they wanted a guardian to report on the international element as there were three parties living in three different countries. This was required despite everyone consenting to the application and the Local Authority supporting it.
The guardian’s role was to report on the living arrangements and assist the court with taking the necessary consents from the parties.
The guardian confirmed they were satisfied the order should be made. The parties had confirmed their agreement on numerous occasions however it’s imperative that consents are executed and recorded properly.
Obtaining proper consent in a global pandemic
During the pandemic giving consent via video call has been permitted. However, due to the fact the first and second respondent lived outside of the jurisdiction this was not possible as FPR rule 14.10 (6) states:
(6) Any form of consent executed outside the United Kingdom must be witnessed by –
(a) any person for the time being authorised by law in the place where the document is executed to administer an oath for any judicial or other legal purpose;
(b) a British Consular officer;
(c) a notary public; or
(d) if the person executing the document is serving in any of the regular armed forces of the Crown, an officer holding a commission in any of those forces.
At this point, every country had different rules regarding COVID-19. Therefore, there were concerns as to whether the first and second respondent would be able to ensure their consent was executed properly as we were unsure as to whether they would have access to someone who met the criteria above.
Thankfully the consents were executed and sent to the court and the adoption order was made two months before the child’s 19th birthday.
Managing adoption hearings during Covid-19
Another issue I have experienced over the past year, and expect to in the futur, is the practicalities of a court hearing.
There are numerous parties and professionals involved in an adoption case and family courtrooms are not particularly large, especially when accommodating social distancing.
Last October, one of my adoption hearings required nine people to attend. The hearing proceeded as a hybrid hearing with the local authority joining via video link and due to the fact we were in a Nightingale Court (large hotel conference room) there was thankfully enough space for the hearing to proceed safely.
I suspect if we hadn’t had the use of the Nightingale Court we would have had to limit who attended the hearing which could have resulted in complaints about fairness.
Adoption in the future
Whilst the pandemic has certainly brought challenges to the adoption process, I am hopeful that we will eventually return to normal, although I expect it won’t be as quick as we all hope.
It’s hard to see how the adoption process could be made easier, adoption has huge legal implications and therefore there must be a stringent process. I would like to see cases dealt with more quickly but balancing speed and the need to ensure the right decision is being made for a child is difficult.
Adoption cases are extremely rewarding and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to help build a family and transform a child’s life and future
Get in touch
If you would like any advice on step-parent adoption, adoption, or other family law issues, please contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers.
Stowe’s Adoption Services More
As family lawyers, we are experienced in dealing with adoption law and trained to manage the legal process. This national Adoption Week we want to explain who is eligible to adopt and look at what the process involves when adopting a child, to simplify the journey and help you be well-informed from the outset.
Can I adopt a child in England and Wales?
First off, who can adopt a child in England or Wales? To qualify you must be over 21 and happy to make space in your life and home for a child.
Now let us dispel some myths, you CAN adopt if,
You are married, living together, in a civil partnership, opposite-sex couple, same-sex couple or single
Employed or on benefits
Any ethnic or religious background
Have children or not
Own your home or live in rented
Already adopted a child
If you are disabled
You are not a British citizen (although you must have a fixed and permanent home here and lived here for at least a year before you begin the application process)
What is the process of adopting a child?
To adopt a child, you must go through an agency, either one that is part of your local council or a voluntary adoption agency. (See links at the end of the article).
The agency will supply information, meet with you to assess your suitability, explain the process and provide the application form.
Once you have applied there will be a full assessment of you (and partner if involved) including:
Social worker visits on a number of occasions to assess your suitability to become adoptive parents
Police checks (You will not be allowed to adopt if you, or an adult member of your family, have been convicted of a serious offence, for example against a child.)
A full medical examination
Three personal references. One can be a relative.
You will also need to attend a series of preparation classes, often held locally.
What is the adoption panel?
Your social worker will prepare and send the assessment report to an independent panel who are experienced in adoption. They will make a recommendation based on your assessment.
This recommendation will be sent to your chosen agency and they will decide if you are suitable to adopt or not.
If approved, the agency will work with the local authority to start the process of finding a child.
How do they match you with a child?
After matching potential adoptive parents with a child, the suitability of the situation for the child and parents will be discussed between the agencies involved. A matching panel will make the final decision.
When does the adopted child move into the family home permanently?
Once a child has been matched with an adoptive parent/s, the process of moving in is taken, understandably, very slowly. There are a series of visits and stays, supported by your social worker to make the transition as comfortable as possible before moving in permanently.
How is adopting a child made legal?
Before a child moves in, Social Services need to obtain a Placement Order (unless the biological parents have consented). This order gives Social Services the power as an adoption agency to place a child with a chosen adopter (you).
Once the relationship is working well under the Placement Order and the child has been living with you for at least 10 continuous weeks, steps are taken to get an Adoption Order.
What is an Adoption Order?
The effect of an Adoption Order is to make the adopters the legal parents of the child. The biological parents lose their parental status as a result of this Order, so it is an important step that requires careful thought.
If the child has been placed with you under a Placement Order, then their biological parents are not allowed to oppose an Adoption Order without permission from the Court.
In some cases, the biological parents may try to prevent the Adoption Order from happening, but you would know well in advance if that was going to be a risk. The biological parents will be told about a hearing for an Adoption Order even if they are not allowed to challenge it, and so you can be anonymous on your application.
In most cases, the adopters do not attend the first hearing in case there are any problems with the biological parents, and instead typically attend when the order is granted.
Once the Court is satisfied that adoption is the best option for the child, an Adoption Order is granted and the Court confirms that you are the parents of your adopted child.
What are your next steps:
If you would like to find out more about the legal process of adopting a child you can get in touch with our adoption team.
You can also download our Adoption Guide.
Voluntary adoption agency finder: www.cvaa.org.uk/thinking-about-adoption/find-your-nearest-agency
Apply through a local authority agency: www.gov.uk/apply-to-adopt-child-through-council
The charity Adoption UK runs a helpline: www.adoptionuk.org/helpline More
At one time, or another, we have all seen a shocking headline which relates to surrogacy. Just last week there was an article in the Guardian online entitled “US couple withdraws legal action against ABC over claim they abandoned surrogate child with a disability”. In this instance the US couple, who had embarked upon a surrogacy arrangement in the Ukraine in 2015, took issue with their portrayal in an episode of Australian current affairs program Foreign Correspondent aired in 2019 and entitled ‘Motherland’, and a website article titled ‘Damaged babies and broken hearts: Ukraine’s commercial surrogacy industry leaves a trial of disasters’.
The intended father, Etnyre, was also the biological father of the child born through the surrogacy arrangement in the Ukraine. Sadly, the child was born prematurely, and she had serious health complications. The publications stated that the child had been abandoned following birth “because he did not like the child’s appearance”. It was also stated that Etynre and his wife Irmgard, hadn’t provided for the child financially, arranged to see her, or organised for her to move to the US. Instead, the couple engaged the surrogacy agency for a second time and had twins born via surrogacy who do now live with them.
There is a lot to think about if you are considering surrogacy, but the Guardian article perhaps highlights, and feeds into, the biggest fear; what if the intended parents and/ or surrogate changes their mind?
It is not uncommon to catastrophize and jump to worst case scenario, it’s how our brains operate. But these are very real concerns and are quite understandable. Surrogacy in the UK is built around trust and this can be quite a scary concept when you’re worried that you might be left holding the baby, or not holding the baby.
In the UK, the surrogate will always be the legal mother to any child, regardless of biology and even if the child is born in another jurisdiction that will allow the intended parents to be named on the birth certificate. This is often surprising for intended parents to hear. Who will be the legal father, or second legal parent, will depend on whether the surrogate is married, whether the intended parent has a biological link to the child and whether the child was conceived at a clinic. This often means that the legal parents at birth, are not who is intended to raise the child and so parentage needs to be resolved.
At present in the UK the intended parents must apply for a parental order, which will reassign legal parentage to the intended parents. The surrogate, and her husband if she is married, will need to provide their consent for the order to be made.
The future of UK Surrogacy
It is actually very rare for there to be disputes arising from surrogacy arrangements, particularly where everyone has been sensible, and a great deal of thought and preparation has been put in. However, it is is a scary thought to enter into such a life changing arrangement without any legal protection.
The law is without doubt outdated and needs to provide more protection. There are changes being proposed that would see intended parents recognised as the legal parents from birth and without the need for a court application. There are conditions attached and these changes are still a long way off, but we are making small steps forward.
These changes would certainly provide much needed reassurance for the intended parents and surrogates.
Get in touch
If you would like advice on your surrogacy rights, or other family law issues, please contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist surrogacy lawyers here. More
Those embarking on the path to having a child via the surrogacy route are often surprised that in the UK, unlike in many other countries, you cannot enter into an enforceable contract with your surrogate.
This is mainly due to fact that in the UK, surrogacy is an entirely altruistic endeavour. However, this often leaves intended parents and surrogates alike feeling unsure as to how best to proceed, or how to ensure the surrogacy runs smoothly.
Although a solicitor cannot draw up any agreement, as this is a criminal offence under The Surrogacy Arrangements Act, this does not prevent the surrogate, a spouse or partner, and the intended parent(s), from sitting down together to discuss their ‘deal breakers’ and drawing up a formal document, called a Surrogacy Agreement, outlining what has been agreed.
Surrogacy Agreements outline the issues raised during discussions, the specific terms of the shared agreement, and the chosen approach that all the parties will take – although the agreement is still not be enforceable should any party act in contravention of the terms.
When speaking with intended parents or surrogates I provide early advice on the process of surrogacy, confirm their legal position, and give guidance on making an application for a parental order – the process of becoming a legal parent of the child – which is required.
We recommend that you engage in these discussions with all parties, and consider all of implications, before the implantation of an embryo. Take the time, before starting the process, to sit down and have these difficult discussions. Whilst these can be a little awkward, it often helps to open the lines of communication and to build a good relationship between the parties.
What should be included in the agreement?
The agreement should include details of the parties’ positions, discussions and agreements reached such as;
Decisions about the pregnancy
Who will attend scans and appointments
How you would deal with any difficult issues that arise, including medical issues (although of course the surrogate will always retain the right to make her own medical decisions)
Arrangements about the birth and post birth
Arrangements surrounding the application for the parental order
Expenses and arrangements for payments
Any other issues, or moral and ethical decisions you deem necessary to ensure you are all on the same page.
At present, intended parents may also need to consider whether they want their surrogate to have had a Covid vaccine or not and, if the surrogate is going to be vaccinated, whether or not she does this before the implantation of the embryo.
If the parties do not agree on this issue, then they should talk openly about their concerns and include this specifically in the surrogacy agreement. Even if an agreement cannot be reached, discussing the issue can help to understand the others position and can assist with deciding how you move forwards.
Why make an agreement if it is not enforceable?
This surrogacy agreement can be shared with any relevant third parties, such as clinics or hospitals, so that they can understand the situation without the need for you to clarify your circumstances and the details of what has been agreed.
Nobody knows what the future holds, but by formally recording your arrangements you have a definitive record of the agreement to refer to at a later date, should the need arise.
This helps to ensure everyone’s wishes, and the agreements reached, continue to be respected and provide reassurance should there be a breakdown in the relationship.
Although it is unlikely the surrogacy agreement will be able to cover every conceivable disagreement that might arise, it does offer peace of mind by helping you to reduce conflict around the most common issues.
Furthermore, it opens up the channels of communication, facilitating discussions, and helping all parties to see each other’s point of view. This collaborative approach will help you to reach agreements if other issues, that had not previously been considered, arise.
Ultimately, although unenforceable, discussions between the parties and the resultant surrogacy agreement are hugely beneficial, and important for all involved, to ensure everyone’s understanding and expectations are aligned.
Get in touch
If you are considering surrogacy and would like advice on this or other family law issues, please contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist surrogacy lawyers here. More
It’s peak holiday season for UK families as the schools get ready to close for the six-week break. Travelling with kids can be tricky at the best of times but travelling abroad when your kids have a different surname can be complicated.
Emma Newman, the Managing Partner at the Stowe Family Law office in Esher shares her first-hand experience and explains what a parent can do in advance to help prevent any issues.
Many of us are now looking forward to enjoying some time away in the sunshine as the summer holiday approaches but if you have a different surname to that of your child you need to take action to avoid unnecessary stress.
What is in a surname?
Women are more likely to have a different surname to their children; some, like me, may be divorced from their child’s father and have remarried taking on a new name, others are married but have chosen not to take their husband’s surname whilst their children do, and of course, there are more and more unmarried couples who have children.
The checks that are in place at ports, airports and international railway stations are designed to prevent children from being kidnapped and are all very understandable, but they have caused a huge amount of stress, upset and even missed flights for many parents and their children. This can easily be avoided by ensuring you carry the right documents. So, what can you do to ensure your holiday goes smoothly?
Documents you may need
Much depends on your particular circumstances but the officials need to be satisfied with your relationship with your child so the documents you may need are:
Your child’s Birth Certificate:
This document gives the name of your child, their date and place of birth and will match with the details on their passport. It will also give the full names of both parents at the time of their birth. So be careful; if your name has changed since your child was born you will need to take more documents with you.
Proof of your change of name:
This could mean travelling with your Marriage Certificate or a Change of Name Deed. On my last trip abroad I also found carrying an expired passport in the name I held at the time of my child’s birth (and therefore as set out in his birth certificate) was very useful as not only did it show what my name was then but it also had a photograph of me and the Border Official was able to marry up the Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and the expired and current passports.
Prepare your children
You might also want to warn your children that they may be asked questions directly by the immigration officials and they should not be worried and answer clearly and honestly. This is not the time for them to make jokes. When I have been stopped at immigration my son was asked who I was, who my husband was, where he had been and how old he was. It was made very clear that he needed to answer himself and I couldn’t answer for him.
Consent to travel
If you are not travelling with your child’s other parent, I would always ensure that you can prove you have their consent to your taking the child abroad.
If there is a Child Arrangement Order in place which states that the child lives with you, technically you only need to obtain the other parent’s consent if you are going to be out of the UK for more than 28 days.
However, in every other case, you should have the permission of every other person with parental responsibility for the child. If you don’t have this consent or a Court order, you are committing child abduction.
I always recommend asking the other parent to sign a consent form before travel or to write a letter setting out their consent. The document should provide the full contact details of the other parent and specific details of the trip including the dates, destination and address. The other parent should sign the form. It is also a wise idea to attach a copy of the other parents’ passport to the consent form.
Travelling abroad with children can be stressful enough. However, you can minimise some of the costs by ensuring you have enough space in your luggage to pack these multitude of documents. Happy holidays! More
Join family lawyer Sarah Barr-Young and our special guest Tom Nash, aka Mr Divorce Coach and internationally certified Life, Divorce & Business Coach, as he shares his advice on how to navigate and become a successful co-parent following a divorce or separation.In this free hour-long webinar, Tom will share practical tips and techniques to help you improve how you and our partner co-parent, including:
About the speakers
Tom Nash, otherwise known as Mr Divorce Coach, is an internationally certified Life & Business Coach, specialising in Divorce, Separation & Family Coaching. Accredited by the Association for Coaching, he also holds Master Practitioner certifications in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Timeline Therapy, Hypnotherapy & more.
Partnering closely with family law professionals, he offers an alternative support resource for individuals, couples and their families, assisting in multiple disciplines that include but are not limited to:
Understanding, Managing & Overcoming Negative Emotions (anger, sadness, fear, guilt, shame, etc.).
Increasing Confidence & Self-Esteem
Fostering Improved Communications Strategies
Positive Mindset & Emotional Wellbeing Techniques
Couples & Uncoupling Coaching
Co-Parenting & Blended Family Coaching
On a personal front, Tom has experienced divorce, co-parenting and the related ups and downs from a young age. First, during his parents’ acrimonious divorce at the age of 3 years old, and later in life as husband and father of his own marital breakdown. He is a successful co-parent, step-father and blended family specialist.
Sarah Barr-Young is the Managing Partner of our Ilkley and Leeds offices and has far-reaching family law experience. She is widely regarded for her expertise in complex cases involving allegations of domestic abuse and safeguarding issues. She is frequently chosen for her empathy and unrivalled approachability, and as such, a large majority of her clients choose her due to personal recommendations. More