FAM­ILY CHOICES

Ways to start your fam­ily

Pride Life Magazine - - SPONSORED FEATURE - Louisa Ghevaert is a lead­ing ex­pert in UK sur­ro­gacy, fer­til­ity, par­ent­ing and fam­ily law. Louisa has suc­cess­fully han­dled nu­mer­ous land­mark UK fer­til­ity law cases. She heads up the Fer­til­ity and Par­ent­ing law team at Michel­mores LLP, michel­mores. com. She

Same-sex cou­ples can achieve par­ent­hood in a va­ri­ety of ways – as a foster par­ent; an adop­tive par­ent; through for­mer het­ero­sex­ual re­la­tion­ships, as a step par­ent – and for fe­male same-sex cou­ples via a sperm donor (a male friend) or an anony­mous sperm donor. Con­cep­tion can take place at home or at a UK fer­til­ity clinic li­censed by the Hu­man Fer­til­i­sa­tion and Em­bry­ol­ogy Au­thor­ity (HFEA). For male cou­ples, egg do­na­tion and sur­ro­gacy is be­com­ing an in­creas­ing pop­u­lar route to par­ent­hood. FOS­TER­ING Fos­ter­ing of­fers a tem­po­rary home to chil­dren who may need a break from or have been ne­glected or suf­fered harm in the care of their birth fam­ily. The ex­pec­ta­tion is that th­ese chil­dren will ei­ther re­turn to their birth fam­i­lies (if this is fea­si­ble) or a long term place­ment will be iden­ti­fied. Foster par­ents do not ac­quire any le­gal rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties (known as parental re­spon­si­bil­ity) to­wards the chil­dren that they foster. Fos­ter­ing can take many guises in­clud­ing; • respite (for ex­am­ple, one week­end a month); • full time foster car­ers of­fer­ing ei­ther short term care (less than a year) or long term care (older child un­til they achieve in­de­pen­dence); • main­stream foster car­ers and • spe­cial­ist cares for chal­leng­ing chil­dren with ad­di­tional needs.

If you are in­ter­ested in fos­ter­ing, the first step is to con­tact your Lo­cal Au­thor­ity, who wel­come ap­pli­ca­tions to foster from same-sex cou­ples. Any­one who is aged 18 years and over can foster: there is no up­per age limit.

Ap­pli­cants will be com­pre­hen­sively screened and in­ter­viewed by a so­cial worker to con­firm they are a safe per­son to care for chil­dren and that you can cope with the chal­lenges and re­wards of fos­ter­ing. In ad­di­tion, an in­de­pen­dent Fos­ter­ing Panel will make a rec­om­men­da­tion about suit­abil­ity to foster. Ap­proved foster car­ers are el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive a fos­ter­ing al­lowance from the Lo­cal Au­thor­ity fos­ter­ing team of £123 per week min­i­mum. ADOP­TION The law has per­mit­ted same-sex cou­ples to adopt for nearly 10 years — since 1 De­cem­ber 2005.

Un­like fos­ter­ing, an Adop­tion Or­der ter­mi­nates the le­gal rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties (parental re­spon­si­bil­ity) and le­gal par­ent­hood of the child’s birth par­ents and per­ma­nently trans­fers parental re­spon­si­bil­ity and le­gal par­ent­hood to the adopters. An adopted child is treated in law as if he or she has been born to their adop­tive par­ents.

If you are con­sid­er­ing adop­tion, First4A­dop­tion (first4a­dop­tion.org.uk) of­fers an on­line in­for­ma­tion ser­vice, guid­ing you through the process. Like fos­ter­ing, adop­tion re­quires com­pre­hen­sive screen­ing, in­ter­views with a So­cial Worker and a rec­om­men­da­tion from an in­de­pen­dent Adop­tion Panel. SUR­RO­GACY For male same-sex cou­ples, sur­ro­gacy is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a fam­ily build­ing op­tion of choice. Us­ing your sperm and a do­nated egg, a sur­ro­gate mother can carry your baby for you as in­tended par­ents. How­ever as the law around sur­ro­gacy is com­pli­cated and ever-chang­ing, there are some key con­sid­er­a­tions to ac­quir­ing le­gal par­ent­hood and parental re­spon­si­bil­ity — and ex­pert le­gal ad­vice is strongly rec­om­mended.

Sur­ro­gacy in the UK is legally re­stricted. English law treats a sur­ro­gate mother (and her spouse) as the sur­ro­gate-born child’s le­gal par­ents at birth. Com­mer­cial sur­ro­gacy (where the sur­ro­gate is paid a com­mer­cial sum and en­ters into a legally bind­ing con­tract) is il­le­gal in the UK but is per­mis­si­ble else­where in the world.

In the UK a Parental Or­der is the le­gal so­lu­tion for sur­ro­gacy, which re­as­signs le­gal par­ent­hood and parental re­spon­si­b­lity to the in­tended par­ents and per­ma­nently ex­tin­guishes the le­gal par­ent­hood and parental re­spon­si­bil­ity of the sur­ro­gate (and that of her spouse). If the sur­ro­gate is not mar­ried, then the in­tended father will usu­ally be­come the le­gal father at birth, pro­vided that he is the bi­o­log­i­cal father. How­ever, if treat­ment takes place in a li­censed fer­til­ity clinic in the UK, there is a choice as to who is the named se­cond le­gal par­ent. For same­sex cou­ples, the non-bi­o­log­i­cal par­ent could be named as the other le­gal par­ent.

In­ter­na­tional sur­ro­gacy is com­plex with no in­ter­na­tional har­mon­i­sa­tion of sur­ro­gacy law which can re­sult in over­seas sur­ro­gate born chil­dren be­ing left “state­less and par­ent­less”. SUM­MARY

• Fos­ter­ing – tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tion. You do not ac­quire any le­gal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties or rights in re­la­tion to the child you are car­ing for. You are act­ing on be­half of the fos­ter­ing team.

• Adop­tion — tod­dler/preschool child from the care sys­tem. Per­ma­nent for­ever fam­ily achieved via an Adop­tion Or­der.

• Sur­ro­gacy — cre­ation of a baby with a bi­o­log­i­cal con­nec­tion to you. Need to ap­ply for a Parental Or­der in the UK

• Sperm and egg do­na­tion also raise nu­mer­ous com­plex le­gal is­sues, par­tic­u­larly if a known donor is used and/or in­sem­i­na­tion takes place away from a li­censed fer­til­ity clinic. Ex­pert le­gal ad­vice is strongly rec­om­mended.

LOUISA GHEVAERT

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