Same Sex Parenting: What to Consider Before Starting Your Family

by | Feb 16 2021 | Family Law, Featured

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Kitty Leask LGBT Lawyers
By Kitty Leask
Kitty is the latest addition to LGBT Lawyers' team. A member of the LGBT community herself, Kitty dedicates her time to promoting the LGBT fight for equality and is here to help all of our clients find the right lawyer to support their case.

Same Sex Parenting | Read Time 5-7 minutes. 

For same sex couples, there are more options than ever for starting a family. However, the laws that surround same sex parenting are still complex and lengthy. Knowing where to start can certainly be a challenge.

LGBT Lawyers has put together a list of some of the most important factors to consider when starting your family. We’ll take a look at what you need to know, from conception and costs to combating criticism.

If you have any questions about same-sex parenting, contact our team today. Whatever your issue, we’ll point you in the right direction of the best lawyer for your case.

What might be a challenge for same sex parents?

Same sex parents may encounter difficulties with the actual conception of the child, such as choosing a conception method that works for them. On top of this, parental rights and responsibilities can be a blurred area for same-sex parents, so registering on birth certificates and clarifying parental rights could be tricky.

One of the hardest challenges may also be facing homophobia and negative attitudes towards being an LGBT family, and continuing to stay strong against this negativity. 

1. Consider your conception route

There are multiple conception methods available for LGBT couples. The most popular are surrogacy, adoption and fertility treatments.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy is a hugely popular option for same sex couples in the UK. It can be a fantastic method of same-sex parenting, especially if you go through an agency or if you use the help of someone who you know and trust

However, commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK. Payments can only be made in the form of reimbursements, not in compensation or “funding” for troubles. Whatsmore, according to UK law, the surrogate mother is the legal parent of the child until a parental order has been filed by the new parents.

Adoption

Adoption can be a hugely rewarding thing for same sex parents and can change a child’s life. Like surrogacy, adoption has a strict set of rules that surrounds the process, such as a rigorous application process and approval system.

Unlike surrogacy, when you adopt a child you become their legal guardian without having to apply, as you have already gone through the legal process. However, be aware that if the child’s birth parents can be located, then they still have full parental rights and must agree to the adoption before it can be accepted.

IVF

IVF can be a complex and stressful process to go through, both emotionally and financially.

However, IVF has some major benefits over other methods of conception. The main reason for this is that the woman who gives birth to the child is legally their birth parent and automatically has full legal parental rights. Because of this, it is a common option for same sex female couples.

However, be aware that there can be complications. For example, if you are a lesbian couple and partner A carries the child, but with partner B’s ovum, then partner A is the legal parent, but partner B may not be.

Similarly, if a gay couple chooses IVF with one of their sperm, then the donor from that couple is only the legal parent if the birth mother is NOT married or in a civil partnership.

2. Consider how much this could cost

Any form of alternative conception could be costly, whether you are heterosexual or LGBT. But for LGBT couples in particular, fees could be more, due to the laws that surround the process.

Surrogacy

As commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK, any financial requirements will depend on the living costs of the surrogate.

The suggested cost for covering the living expenses of a surrogate in the UK is between £7,000 and £15,000 (for things like medical treatments and travel costs).

For a gestational surrogate (where IVF is also involved) the fees are roughly £50K upwards, for treatments that include (but are not limited to):

  • Embryo creation
  • Clinic fees
  • Legal Fees
  • Agency fees
Adoption

Although there is no upfront cost for adoption, there are certain other financial considerations that come into play (general costs of preparing for a child being one).

Adopters who are adopting from abroad will also have to consider the complex costs, which are generally in the region of £12,000. The DoE (Department of Education) alone charges almost £2,000 to process an application.

Whatsmore, an adoption agency legally cannot charge you for your adoption, but you may have to pay for things such as police checks or legal fees if necessary.

IVF

Same-sex couples have to undergo 12 cycles of self-funded artificial insemination before the NHS will consider funding their IVF treatment. Because of this, many same-sex couples choose to have IVF privately.

Private IVF can be expensive and each round of insemination can cost between £3,000 and £4,000. Donor sperm also isn’t funded by the NHS, and this can cost upwards of £1,000 per vile.

 

LGBT Lawyers Baby Feet Same Sex Parenting (2)
3. You might need to apply for a parental order

In the UK, the only way to legally change a child’s parent is to do so through adoption or by a parental order. A parental order is essentially a legal solution to reassign parental rights and responsibility when same sex parenting. The criteria for parental orders include:

  • At least one of the parents needs to be biologically related to the child.
  • The applicants must either be in a civil partnership, married, or defined by the court as in an “enduring family relationship.”
  • The child’s home must be with the applicant
  • Applicants/s must apply within 6 months of the date when the child was born.
  • The surrogate has entirely agreed with the application.

To apply for a parental order, you must fill in a C51 form and take it to a family court, along with the child’s birth certificate and payment of £215. Without an appropriate parental order, you might have to face a variety of issues, including:

  • Not having the authority to make basic decisions for the child
  • Inheritance problems
  • Issues in the event of a divorce or separation
4. What if we are starting our family from outside of the UK?

If you are coming to the UK with your family, your status as a parent may not be automatically recognised, even if you are named on a foreign birth certificate or court order. If you are using an international surrogate, or adopting a child from abroad, then you will need to look at the nationality of your child. Each country may differ in legislation’s and processes for the child to become a British citizen

As previously stated, the surrogate (regardless of nationality) is the legal parent of the child. When same sex parenting, you can apply for a parental order that reassigns parenthood fully to the couple, and removes it from the surrogate. 

Adopting a child from abroad is particularly complex for British citizens. If you are choosing to adopt an international child, there are some areas to consider. For example, some countries have adoption restrictions, including Cambodia and Nepal. Take a look at our article on gay adoption for more information. 

LGBT Lawyers Same Sex Parenting (2)
5. Same sex parenting for female couples 

In the UK, IVF and fertility treatments are generally preferable for same sex female couples, due to the obvious fact that woman can naturally carry children. In the case of a same-sex female couple, parental responsibility will automatically fall with the birth mother, even if they have used the other partner’s ovum.

– Can you have two mothers on a birth certificate in the UK?

In the UK, the birth mother will always automatically be put on the birth certificate, as she is always the first legal parent. The non-birth mother can register on the child’s birth certificate if both mothers were married at the time. However, if the birth mother is not in a civil partnership or married, then the next person for parental responsibility will be the male sperm donor. This will only be different if the child was conceived in a fertility clinic, in which case both mothers can elect the have the non-birth mother on the birth certificate as opposed to the sperm donor.

6. same sex parenting for male couples

For same-sex male couples, surrogacy and adoption are the most popular options As previously stated, when a surrogate is used, she will have automatic parental responsibility. If she is married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception, then her spouse will also automatically gain parental responsibility.

However, if the surrogate is not married or in a civil partnership, then shared parental responsibility will fall between the donor of the sperm and the birth mother. The non-donor male partner can choose to apply for a parental order, which will reassign total legal parental rights to the couple. When it comes to adoption for same-sex male couples, an application for an adoption order can be made after the child has lived with the couple for more than 10 weeks. This order will grant the couple with full, legal parental responsibility. 

child in a yellow dress during same sex parenting
7. Not everyone will understand your decision 

Technicalities aside, the emotional and personal effects of same-sex parenting can seem a little overwhelming. Not everyone is going to understand or accept your decision to raise a child with your same-sex partner.

“The teacher asked us to draw a family tree and I drew two mum’s. She said that it is not possible to have two mum’s, so she drew an ‘X’ on one of my mum’s and she drew a man with a beard.”

Everri, M. Mimesis, Milano.

One of the largest critiques of the same sex parenting system in the UK is its tendency to be slightly discriminatory. This can be seen when you compare the IVF process for heterosexual couples against the process for same-sex couples.

You may find that your child has a different experience at school than other children. School’s seldom teach children about nontraditional family models, and so they may not be used to seeing a child with same-sex parents. Just remember that this is your decision and, although it may be different, it isn’t wrong.

Thinking about starting your family?

Get in touch with our team today and we can connect you with one of our LGBT family partners.

Need an LGBT Lawyer on your side?

We’re here to assist. Just tell us what you need help with and we’ll call you back to arrange a meeting.

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