Archive for the ‘Parenting law’ Category

Fertility and Family Law in Action

Thursday, 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

Monday, 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.

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

Monday, 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.


Louisa Ghevaert joins Michelmores

Monday, 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.

 

Elizabeth Banks welcomes second surrogate son

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Hollywood actress, Elizabeth Banks, 38, has hit the headlines again this week following the announcement of the birth of her second surrogate born son.

Baby Magnus joined older surrogate born brother Felix, aged 20 months, at her home earlier this week.  Elizabeth said “As 2012 winds down and Thanksgiving approaches, I have much for which to be thankful – personal, professional and Presidential.  However, nothing can match the joy and excitement my husband and I felt when we recently welcomed our second baby boy, Magnus Mitchell Handelman.  Like Felix, Magnus was born via a gestational surrogate. This experience has exceeded all expectations, taught us a great deal about generosity and gratitude, and established a relationship that will last a lifetime.”

Elizabeth captured the hearts of many following her honest account of her own battle with infertility and her and her husband’s decision to turn to surrogacy for the birth of their first son, Felix.  Elizabeth quickly became a role model for those looking to build families of their own through surrogacy with her sensitive approach to infertility and her decision to speak so openly and honestly about her own journey to parenthood through surrogacy. To read my previous article about Elizabeth Banks in magazine Fertility Road entitled Surrogacy and the Celebrity factor click here.

Earlier this week, Elizabeth went on to say “I am also so very thankful to our family and friends for their support throughout this process, as well as the Center for Surrogate Parenting for helping make all this possible.  I now turn my attention to managing two boys under two. For which I am thankful.  And all their poop. For which I am less thankful. Wish me luck”.

Celebrity endorsement of surrogacy by people like Elizabeth continues to help raise the profile of surrogacy.  Elizabeth has publicly given an honest and positive experience of the process and the joy it has brought to her and those around her.  Her story helps to give hope to others battling infertility and shows that surrogacy can deliver the life-changing gift of a child.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or you would like more information about the legalities of  UK surrogacy law please contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Three reasons why surrogacy can go wrong

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Surrogacy offers hope of a much wanted family to many.  It can bring immense happiness and joy.  However, it can be a risky business and not all experiences are positive.

Your surrogate fails to give valid consent

A landmark legal case in the English High Court decided earlier this month, D and L (Minors) (Surrogacy) 2012, illustrates the problems that can happen when a surrogate mother fails to co-operate and relinquish her legal status for the child.  In D and L, a  UK gay couple applied for parental orders for their twin boys, conceived with the help of an Indian surrogate mother through a clinic in Hyderabad, India.  They never met their Indian surrogate mother, dealing instead with the Indian clinic directly.  The couple were unable to obtain signed forms from their Indian surrogate mother consenting  to the grant of parental orders to enable them to become the twins’ legal parents under UK law. Their Indian clinic refused to help secure their surrogate’s written consent and the couple were unable to trace her themselves after the twins’ birth.  All they received was a package in the post, containing a single sheet of paper with an obscene gesture on it.

The couple did everything they could to comply with UK legal requirements and they were badly let down by their clinic. Following complex court proceedings, the judge eventually granted them parental orders and dispensed with the requirement for the legal consent of their surrogate who could not be found.  The judge did, however, issue a warning that future intended parents should learn the lesson that clear lines of communication with their surrogate are established to ensure they can obtain the necessary consent after the six week cooling off period post birth.

Your surrogate has a change of heart

Although rare, a surrogate mother sometimes has a change of heart and decides she wishes to keep the baby.  This can happen for a variety of reasons and if a dispute arises, it creates difficult and challenging legal proceedings and the court will make a decision in the best interests of the child.  As surrogacy agreements are not legally binding in the UK, this creates tension between the rights of surrogate mothers and intended parents.

The pregnancy is unsuccessful

Sadly, not all surrogate pregnancies result in a live birth.  This can be devastating for all involved and it raises difficult issues.  This can hit home even harder in circumstances where intended parents have already had a long and difficult fertility journey.

With so many risks, there is no substitute for obtaining expert legal advice, working with reputable clinics and agencies and maintaining direct links with the surrogate throughout the process.  If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or you would like more information about surrogacy law, a parental order or what to do in the event of a surrogacy dispute please email me louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Mother in surrogacy case fights legal battle for maternity rights

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

An intended mother from Kent is taking legal action against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for the same maternity rights as adoptive parents.

The woman has taken her case to the High Court arguing that she has been discriminated against under The Human Rights Act.  She is arguing that the Government has failed to ensure respect for intended parents’ private and family life in surrogacy cases and that the Government has a positive obligation to avoid discrimination.

The woman and her husband conceived with the help of a surrogate and IVF last year.  When she approached her employer for information about maternity rights and entitlement, her employer advised her that they were under no legal obligation to allow her time off work to care for her child, although they finally offered her a year’s unpaid leave as a gesture of goodwill.

The woman then contacted her local MP, who forwarded her request for help with obtaining paid maternity leave to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.  The Department of Work & Pensions is understood to have refused to help saying that maternity benefits were related to “time off in the later stages of pregnancy and [to] prepare for, and recover from, childbirth in the interests of health and that of their baby”.  The woman queried their response highlighting that leave is given for adoptive parents.

Sadly, having accepted the offer of unpaid leave, the woman was made redundant shortly after the birth of her baby son.  As she did not qualify for maternity leave, her unpaid leave was not legally protected.

Parents of surrogate born children should have the same legal rights and protection as other parents.  The current lack of legal protection can cause immense hardship for intended parents, who can face financial difficulties and worries about job security or even job loss.  This sends out a worrying message that parents and children born through surrogacy are second class citizens and this needs to change.  Current surrogacy laws in the UK are outdated and there needs to be a root and branch overhaul to make them fit for the twenty first century.

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

Fertility and Parenting law team shortlisted for The Law Society’s 2012 Excellence Award in Innovation

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

I am delighted that my team and I at Porter Dodson Fertility have been shortlisted for the Law Society’s 2012 Excellence Award in Innovation. 

This recognizes our cutting-edge, pioneering and innovative legal work helping people all over the world build families through fertility treatment, international and UK surrogacy, donor conception including known donation and co-parenting, as well as our work concerning family, children and parenting disputes.

The Law Society’s prestigious awards ceremony recognizes excellence across the legal profession and outstanding contributions from solicitors and their teams.  Winners will be announced at a black tie event on 18 October at Old Billingsgate, London.



For more information about this and our work click here or contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@porterdodson.co.uk or call +44 (0)207 222 1244 or visit www.porterdodsonfertility.com.

The legacy of Jill Hawkins, the UK’s most prolific surrogate mother

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Jill Hawkins announced this week that she plans to retire from her role as a surrogate mother in the UK.   Jill, a 48 year old legal secretary from Sussex, has given birth to ten surrogate babies and given unimaginable joy to the childless couples she has helped over the last twenty years.

Jill’s legacy puts surrogacy in the spotlight again, at a time when there has never been greater debate about the the practice of surrogacy around the world.  There continues to be strong demand for surrogacy and Jill’s commitment and dedication, as the UK’s most prolific surrogate mother, gives real and meaningful insight into the practice.  Her views stand as clear affirmation of the positive benefits surrogacy can bring to both surrogate mothers and childless couples alike and her views paint an altogether different picture from much of the recent negative coverage, particularly of Indian surrogacy which has once again raised concerns about exploitation, ‘baby buying’ and organized  ’baby farms’.

In an interview with The Telegraph this week, Jill said “I love doing this.  I meet amazing couples who are heartbroken and I want to make them happy.  It will be hard to walk away”.  Interestingly, she says of foreign commercial surrogacy “I can understand why most women in this county might find the idea of an organized baby farm abhorrent.  But I don’t have a problem with it.  These women are host surrogates, they aren’t using their own eggs.  I know from personal experience that it’s perfectly possible to detach yourself and not feel as though it’s your baby”.

She said of her own motivations, “It’s hard for someone who really longs for a baby to understand that I don’t, but this whole journey began because I personally wanted to experience pregnancy, not be a mother”.  She also tellingly and poignantly said “People talk about the gift of life, but surrogacy has saved mine so many times. It has given me purpose, a vocation that brings happiness.  I become part of a couple’s life and, if I’m honest, it’s been a way of distancing myself from my own life, my own problems. The newspapers called me a baby factory and said I got depressed because I gave up my babies.  But they weren’t mine - having them was the best thing I’ve ever done”.

As a lawyer who practices in the field of fertility, parenting and surrogacy law, I often get asked about the reasons why a woman would want to offer herself as a surrogate mother and carry a pregnancy for someone else.  Many intended parents worry that a surrogate mother will change her mind and want to keep the baby and the fact that surrogacy agreements are not enforceable in law in the UK as a matter of public policy.  Those battling infertility are often understandably concerned that their longed for and much-wanted baby might not end up in their care and that they might somehow be held to ransom by a surrogate mother, with little or no legal rights of their own.  Jill’s legacy and views stand as testament that many surrogate mothers want to help someone else achieve their dream of parenthood, and that they are motivated by a personal enjoyment of pregnancy and a strong sense of altruism.

I met Jill in person, when we were both interviewed on BBC Breakfast TV in January 2011.  Jill was forthright, upfront and eloquent about her experience and role as a surrogate mother in the UK.  She was proud of her contribution and legacy and her passion and dedication as a surrogate mother was palpable.  Jill’s experience shows that surrogacy is not a one-way street that favours intended parents and exploits surrogate mothers. Jill’s experience shows that surrogacy is a complex, rewarding and deeply personal experience that creates a life-changing legacy in the form of a baby.  It brings joy, a much wanted-baby and a sense or purpose.  It also gives childless couples the opportunity to have a genetic child of their own.

That said, surrogacy can raise complex legal issues and problems, particularly in cases of foreign surrogacy and on occasions when domestic surrogacy agreements  breakdown.  English law dictates that the surrogate mother is always the child’s legal mother at birth and her consent and co-operation is required for intended parents to obtain full legal parental status for the child by way of a parental order.  A surrogate mother is therefore at the heart of the process in every sense.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or you would like more information about the legal issues surrounding surrogacy please contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Ukrainian surrogacy law dispute: TV coverage places Ukrainian surrogacy under the spotlight

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Ukrainian surrogacy has recently been placed in the spotlight following rare in-depth TV coverage of what’s reported to be Ukraine’s first ever surrogacy dispute.  The TV programme ‘Podrobnosti’, filmed by Ukrainian TV Channel (Inter TV), covers the story of Ukrainian surrogate mother Irina Morozova who gave birth to twin boys  following a surrogacy arrangement with Italian intended parents and who is now embroiled in a legal dispute to retain care of them.

I was delighted to be interviewed for the TV programme as an expert in UK surrogacy law, alongside leading Ukrainian professionals and experts including an official from the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and Vitoriya Rogatinskaya the director of the international surrogacy organization ‘The Supportive Motherhood’ and Jill Hawkins (the UK’s most well known surrogate mother).

The TV programme provides a rare glimpse of the surrogacy sector in the Ukraine and a direct interview with the Ukrainian surrogate mother Irina Morozova.  Irina has been battling legally to retain care of the twins she gave birth to for the last year and a half .  She seriously doubts the intentions of the Italian intended parents who commissioned the twins’ birth.  Shockingly, she is worried that if she were to hand over the twins they would be sold for organ donation.

The programme reports that there is a growing surrogacy market in the Ukraine and that around 150 surrogate babies are born in the Ukraine to foreign intended parents each year. There is no international harmonization of surrogacy law and this can create all sorts of complex legal issues for intended parents, who can experience immigration problems bringing their child home after the birth and an often challenging legal process to obtain full parental status for their child.  Irina’s story graphically demonstrates that surrogacy is not risk free and that surrogacy law disputes can arise, bringing further challenges for all those involved in the process.

If you would like more information about the legal issues associated with international surrogacy, including surrogacy in the Ukraine please email me louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.