Fertility and Family Law in Action

January 21st, 2016

The last 12 months has been a busy year on the fertility law front. Fertility law and practice and its association with family law has continued to evolve, both nationally and internationally.

We’ve seen evolution of policy and practice around the importance of giving informed consent to fertility treatment at UK fertility clinics licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Informed consent to fertility treatment is one of the most important principles of healthcare.  It is designed to protect fertility patients, children and others involved in fertility treatment and more needs to be done to improve understanding of the legal issues and implications of assisted conception and management of this in practice.  In September 2015, the English High Court highlighted the very real difficulties that arise when informed consent to fertility treatment falls short, which left eight couples embroiled in legal parenthood proceedings following fertility treatment and the birth of their children and highlighted a further 75 similar cases.

We’ve also seen continued debate about surrogacy law and practice. My work as a member of the Surrogacy UK Working Group on Surrogacy Law Reform and the publication of its report Myth Busting and Reform in November 2015 sheds valuable light on the current practice of surrogacy in the UK and sets out recommendations for reform.

UK industry recognition for fertility and family law is to be welcomed. I was delighted to be awarded recognition by Chambers & Partners UK 2016 and delighted the Michelmores’ Family and Fertility Team was awarded a top tier position by Legal 500 UK 2015. This helps raise awareness and promote the importance of fertility law in the UK.  Assisted conception can raise many complex legal and practical issues in the context of increasingly challenging family building expectations and demands of modern day living.  Assisted conception can be daunting and fertility law is not always ‘a good fit’ in practice. The provision of skilled fertility law advice helps place children born through assisted conception and their families on a secure legal footing and provides valuable support and protection if problems arise.

November 2015 saw the launch of the specialist fertility and parenting website at Michelmores www.michelmores.com/what-we-do/services/fertility-law. This contains more information about my legal practice and a wealth of topical and cutting-edge information about fertility, parenting and family law including: fertility treatment, surrogacy, donor conception, co-parenting, embryos, eggs and sperm, adoption, family law and disputes and children and parenting.  It contains articles, publications, a blog and a resource hub to help raise awareness of fertility and family law issues in the UK and what this can mean for those seeking to build or complete their family or parent children on a day-to-day basis.

Fertility, parenting and family law issues have continued to feature in the media. Over the last 12 months I have contributed to public debate and provided legal commentary on BBC World Service radio and BBC Radio London, as well as in the Independent, the Guardian, the Times and legal and fertility sector press. I have also lectured on fertility, parenting and family law issues in the UK and delivered a lecture overseas in Chicago, USA, at the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys Fall Conference 2015. You can find out more about my work here www.michelmores.com/what-we-do/services/fertility-law/publications.

I can be contacted by email Louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com or by telephone +44 (0)207 7886382.




BBC Radio London Interview: Solo Father Through Surrogacy Awarded Adoption Order

March 9th, 2015

I was delighted to be interviewed on BBC London 94.9 ‘Have Your Say’ programme with Vanessa Feltz this morning following the English High Court’s landmark decision to grant a solo father through surrogacy an adoption order. The English High Court described the case as ‘highly unusual’ and the law as a ‘legal minefield’.

The single man became a solo father through surrogacy after his mother carried a surrogate pregnancy for him.  He conceived the baby (with his own sperm and a donor egg), now 8 months old, with the full support of his mother and father and following fertility treatment at a UK licensed fertility clinic. The solo father’s mother stepped in and carried the baby when he was unable to proceed with another female relative due to medical complications.

Under UK fertility law, the solo father’s mother and her husband were the baby’s legal parents at birth and were named as such on his initial British birth certificate.  This meant that the baby and his intended solo father were treated as having the same legal parents and regarded as legal brothers. It was not illegal under UK law for the solo father to enter into a surrogacy arrangement and conceive a child through surrogacy.  However, he was not eligible for a parental order (the legal solution for surrogacy in the UK which reassigns legal parenthood to intended parents) due to public policy restrictions which prevent single people from accessing the parental order regime.  Only couples are eligible to apply for a parental order. As a result, the solo father applied to the English Court for an adoption order to be legally recognised as his baby’s legal father.

In the first legal case of its kind, the English High Court ruled that it was in the baby’s best interests for an adoption order to be awarded in his solo father’s favour.  The case was supported by social services and followed careful consideration of child welfare issues, counselling and ethics assessment and approval at the UK licensed fertility clinic where treatment took place.  The case involved complex legal issues and required very careful navigation because of a range of complex legal restrictions and offences set out in our domestic adoption and children law. The English Court ruled that it would not break the law to award the solo father an adoption order because he and his baby were ‘relatives’ in law.

In the fact specific circumstances of this case, the solo father successfully obtained an adoption order in respect of his baby.  However,  this case highlights the very real legal difficulties faced by single people who are ineligible to apply for a parental order, particularly those who do not have a relative willing to carry a surrogate pregnancy for them. English law also remains a minefield for those undertaking surrogacy abroad.

With increasing numbers of people turning to surrogacy as a family building option of choice, there has never been a greater need to get to grips with the relevant issues and improve awareness.  Surrogacy can raise a whole host of tricky issues associated with developments in assisted reproductive technology, donor conception and inter-generational family building.  Surrogacy becomes even more complicated when people’s family building plans do not fit neatly into the confines of UK fertility law. Family life in the UK and family building expectations are evolving rapidly. There are inherent tensions and conflicts between the positions of intended parents, surrogates, donors and surrogate born children which create a complex legal picture.  Assisted reproduction is here to stay, but there is still much to be done to improve understanding and protect and support adults, children and families alike.

To listen to the whole interview click here.

To find out more about surrogacy law in the UK contact me by email Louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com or call +44 (0)207 7886382.

BBC World Service Interview: Banning Commercial Surrogacy in Thailand

February 24th, 2015

I was delighted to join the debate on BBC World Service Have Your Say on Friday 20 February 2015 following the ban of commercial surrogacy in Thailand.

The programme offered varied views and experiences about commercial and altruistic surrogacy.  Gwen Robinson, Asia Editor for Nikkei Asian Review, explained background events in Thailand which led to the Thai government’s decision to ban commercial surrogacy in Thailand last week.  the programme also featured a US surrogate mother, Minette Briant, Dr Margaret Somerville, Professor and Founding Director at Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, Montreal, Hans Hirsh, a parent through overseas surrogacy, Natalie Smith, a parent through UK surrogacy, Dr Nayna Patel and a UK surrogate mother, Sarah Jones.

To listen to the whole interview click here.

The issues raised by surrogacy will be further debated at the Families Through Surrogacy Conference in London on 21 March 2015, where I will be a keynote speaker. For more information click here.

Louisa Ghevaert recognised as leading expert in UK fertility and parenting law

November 3rd, 2014

I’m delighted to be ranked by Chambers and Partners UK Guide 2015 as a leading legal expert in surrogacy, fertility and parenting law at Michelmores LLP.

Chambers & Partners identifies and ranks the most outstanding law firms and lawyers in the UK and in over 180 jurisdictions throughout the world. Their Guides are trusted by clients across the globe when they need to find a reliable and capable legal expert. Chambers UK Guide covers 50 cities and counties in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and its rankings are the result of in-depth discussions and interviews with both lawyers and clients.

Chambers and Partners UK 2015: says about Louisa Ghevaert

“Louisa Ghevaert is a recognised expert in surrogacy, fertility and parenting law matters.  She has experience in dealing with complex parenting matters, particularly those with an international element”.

This follows on from my ranking in Chambers and Partners UK 2014 edition which said “sources describe her as an expert in a very difficult and specialised area of the law – she knows her subject extremely well and gives knowledgeable and sensible advice”.

Chambers and Partners UK 2015: says about Michelmores Family and Fertility Law Team

The specialist Family and Fertility Law Team at Michelmores LLP is said to have a “strong reputation for advising clients on high value matrimonial finance matters and a range of children law matters.  Notable specialist expertise in surrogacy, adoption and child abduction matters, as well as issues arising from same-sex relationships”.

If you would like more information about fertility, parenting or family law please contact me by email Louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com or by telephone +44 (0)207 788638.

International Surrogacy Law: Time Limit for parental order

October 3rd, 2014

The English High Court has today published a significant legal ruling on the 6 month time limit for issuing a parental order in the English Family Court set out in s54 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has  ruled for the first time in Re X (A Child) (Surrogacy: Time limit) [2014] EWHC 3135 (Fam) that the six month time limit can in some circumstances be extended.  Sir James Munby went on to grant a parental order in respect of the child born through surrogacy in India on 15 December 2011 stating:

“Where in the light of all this does the six-month period specified in section 54(3) stand?  Can Parliament really have intended that the gate should be barred forever if the application for a parental order is lodged even one day late?  I cannot think so.  Parliament has not explained its thinking, but given the transcendental importance of a parental order, with its consequences stretching many, many decades into the future, can it sensibly be thought that Parliament intended that the difference between six months and six months and one day be determinative and one day’s delay to be fatal?  I assume that Parliament intended a sensible result.  Given the subject matter, given the consequences for the commissioning parents, never mind those for the child, to construe section 54(3) as barring forever an application made just one day late is not, in my judgment, sensible.  It is the very antithesis of sensible; it is almost nonsensical”.

That said,  Sir James Munby was careful to make clear that each case will be fact specific and he went on to state:

“I intend to lay down no principle beyond that which appears from the authorities.  Every case will, to a greater or lesser degree, be fact specific.  In the circumstances of this case the application should be allowed to proceed.  No one – not the surrogate parents, not the commissioning parents, not the child – will suffer any prejudice if the application is allowed to proceed. On the other hand, the commissioning parents and the child stand to suffer immense and irremediable prejudice if the application is halted in its tracks”.

If you would like to discuss your situation or you would like more information about UK surrogacy law please contact me by email Louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com or call +44 (0)207 7886382.

Louisa Ghevaert joins Michelmores

August 25th, 2014

I’m delighted to join Michelmores Solicitors as a partner to head up a specialist fertility, family and parenting law practice. Michelmores have offices in Chancery Lane in London, Bristol and Exeter.

I can be contacted by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com, by telephone +44 (0)207 7886382 or visit www.michelmores.com.

My award-winning, innovative and pioneering legal practice includes international and UK surrogacy, donor conception, co-parenting, fertility treatment law, posthumous conception, inter-country adoption, divorce and finances, cohabitation and complex family and children law.

I’m ranked as a leading lawyer in fertility and family law by Chambers & Partners UK 2014, which says ‘Sources describe her as “an expert in a very difficult and specialised area of the law- she knows her subject extremely well and gives knowledgeable and sensible advice”.’ I’m also ranked as a leading expert by The Legal 500 UK 2013.

I’ve represented fertility patients, parents and intended parents in numerous well known UK fertility law cases including, embryo storage and surrogacy disputes, landmark applications for parental orders in the English Family Court following commercial surrogacy and disputes over NHS fertility treatment funding.

My specialist fertility and family law practice was High Commended at The Law Society Excellence Awards 2013 in the Category of Business Development and Innovation.  I was also shortlisted at The Family Law Awards 2013 in the Category of Most Innovative Family Lawyer of The Year.

I’m joined by Rachel Cook, a leading authority on adoption and children law.  Rachel’s specialist expertise brings added depth to the fertility, family and parenting team at Michelmores.  Rachel is a member of the British Association of Adoption and Fostering Legal Group Advisory Committee, a member of the Department of Education Adoption Stakeholder Group, an Independent Panel Chair of a Local Authority Adoption Agency and a trustee to a large Voluntary Adoption Agency.


Fertility and family law in progress

December 4th, 2013

2013 has been another busy year in terms of the practice of fertility and family law.  The law continues to evolve and face many challenges in view of the globalisation of fertility treatment, increasingly complex family building expectations and modern family life.

I was delighted to be invited to lecture at The Fertility Show at the London Olympia on 3 November 2013 on the legal issues arising from UK and international surrogacy arrangements. This was closely followed by my attendance at the American Association of Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAARTA) autumn conference in Charleston, South Carolina from 10 – 12 November 2013 where I delivered a lecture on European Fertility law. This follows on from my previous lectures this year on fertility and family law at the College of Medicine’s Annual Conference in London in June 2013 and at the American Bar Association’s spring conference in Alaska in April 2013. These events provide a forum to raise awareness and discuss the challenges and lessons learned by all those involved in the fertility sector.

I welcome the UK industry recognition that has been attributed to fertility law this year.  For my part, I am delighted to have been ranked as a leading lawyer in the field of fertility and family law by Chambers & Partners UK 2014 and Legal 500 UK 2013.  I was also delighted that my legal practice was Highly Commended at The Law Society Excellence Awards 2013 in the category of Business Development and Innovation and that I was shortlisted at Jordans Family Law Awards 2013 in the category of Most Innovative Family Lawyer of the Year. Industry recognition marks the rising profile attributed to fertility law and its increasing association with family law.  It also helps to raise awareness of the complex legal issues associated with fertility treatment and modern family building options.

Surrogacy continues to spark much debate around the world and challenge law and policy makers.  I provided expert evidence to the Hague in relation to its ongoing work in the arena of international surrogacy in September 2013 and like many, I await its further report next year.  There have also been several recent legal challenges in the European Court of Justice brought by intended mothers in surrogacy cases in relation to maternity rights (one brought by a woman based in the north of England). I welcome the government’s commitment to introduce maternity and paternity rights for intended parents through surrogacy in 2015 and hope this will help to alleviate the difficulties many intended parents currently face.

Fertility law and its association with family law remains work in progress. As such, there is still much work to be done.


Shortlisted by Family Law Awards 2013

July 24th, 2013

I’m delighted to be shortlisted by Jordan’s Family Law Awards 2013 in the category of Most Innovative Family Lawyer of the Year.  This helps to further raise the profile of fertility law in the UK and its developing association with traditional family law and helps those struggling to have a much wanted family of their own.

The Family Law Awards recognise and celebrate the important work of leading family lawyers across the country.  The panel of judges includes the heads of leading practitioners bodies, journal editors and important legal figures.  Three of the awards, including ‘Most Innovative Family Lawyer of the Year’, are voted for by the general public. Please vote for me as every vote really counts.

I am committed to delivering an innovative and specialist fertility and family law service for fertility patients, children and families. This includes groundbreaking legal solutions for a variety of alternative family building options and parenting issues, including domestic and international surrogacy, donor conception, IVF, adoption, children and family disputes.

Voting for the Family Law Awards ends at midnight on Sunday 15 September 2013.   The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on Wednesday 9 October 2013.

The HFEA is here to stay

February 8th, 2013

The Department of Health has recently announced that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will continue to regulate fertility treatment at UK licensed fertility clinics and research on human embryos in the UK.

The Department of Health has commissioned an independent review to look at ways the HFEA can cut costs. The review will report to the Government by April 2013.

It is excellent news that the HFEA will not be abolished.  It has for many years lead the world in best practice for the regulation of assisted conception, including IVF and human embryo research.  It’s work safeguards standards of fertility treatment for patients across the UK and provides help and support to professionals and patients alike.

If you would like more information about fertility treatment, donor conception, surrogacy or parenting, children or family law please contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Maternity leave granted in surrogacy cases

December 21st, 2012

The Government has recently announced that it will be introducing maternity leave in 2015 to parents through surrogacy. This is a step in the right direction although surrogacy law in the UK remains outdated and needs a thorough root and branch review.

From 2015, intended parents through surrogacy will be eligible for maternity pay and new flexible parental leave if they meet the legal requirements.  This follows a response to a consultation on modern workplaces run by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The new proposals include making intended parents entitled to unpaid leave to attend up to two ante-natal appointments with their surrogate,  to share one year’s parental leave post birth between them as well as eligibility to maternity pay.  This will help to stop the plight of many intended parents who currently have to carry on working or resign from work to care for their baby, placing enormous stress on them and their family.

The Government’s proposals will be worked out in greater detail next year ahead of their introduction in 2015.  The announcement of these proposals gives intended parents through surrogacy greater legal recognition than ever before, although there is still much to be done to place family building through surrogacy on an equal footing with other family building options.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or you would like more information about surrogacy, fertility, family or parenting law please contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.