In underlining the benefits of sound legal advice, the High Court has warned of the costly pitfalls of foreign surrogacy arrangements after a desperate childless couple, who paid nearly £30,000 to an Indian clinic for a baby, were caught up in a legal nightmare.
The couple, who had suffered a number of miscarriages following fertility treatment, had turned to the clinic which arranged for a surrogate mother to have a child for them. After bringing the baby home to Britain, they had suffered great financial and emotional hardship before achieving formal recognition as the child’s parents.
The Court accepted that the making of a parental order was the only way to provide ‘lifelong security’ for the child, but remarked that the parents had not had an ‘easy journey’ and that people should be aware of the difficulties involved in such arrangements and of the wisdom of seeking specialist legal advice.
The Indian clinic had given the couple the name of the surrogate mother and a copy of an agreement signed by her. However, they did not meet her and were told that the clinic’s policy was that clients were not introduced to surrogate mothers.
The couple’s application for a parental order encountered a number of difficulties, not least a lack of information about the surrogate mother, her ability to understand the document that she had signed and her level of literacy. The clinic did not respond to further enquiries about these matters in a ‘positive or constructive way’ and attempts by the parents to trace the surrogate mother were unsuccessful.
Lawyers representing the couple had made ‘Herculean’ efforts to establish that the surrogate mother had freely consented to the arrangement and the Court was ultimately convinced that this was the case. The Court was ‘entirely satisfied that the parents had acted at all times with good faith and without moral taint’.
The Court warned, “Those who embark on surrogacy arrangements abroad need to be alive to the pitfalls there can be and it may be wise for parents to consider taking specialist advice at the earliest opportunity. To proceed in the absence of such advice can lead to significant emotional and financial hardship and further delay.”