Month: March 2019

Surrogacy now
an option for single parents

The number of parents using surrogates in the UK is rising thanks to high-profile celebrities, changing public attitudes, and corresponding law reforms. Barrister Jennifer Lee told Merrick Life the latest law change is most welcome.


Just over a year ago the government published its first ever guidance on how to start a family using a surrogate.

The publication was recognition that surrogacy rates are increasing. That’s in part due to a relaxation in the law that allowed same sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples to apply for parental orders, which confers legal parenthood for a child born through surrogacy on the intended parents. Parental orders are ‘transformative’ and last for the child’s entire life.

In 2016, 368 parental orders were awarded – that’s up from 194 in 2012.

And in January this year, after a prolonged legal fight, the law was further changed to extend the same right to single people wishing to have a family this way. To apply, single parents must have a genetic link to the child born through surrogacy.

For Jennifer Lee, the changes reflect shifting views on an often-controversial area.

She said: “The law allows more people to apply and reflects the fact that society has moved on.

Surrogacy for single parents

“It ends the discriminatory bar against single parents from applying to become the legal parents of children born through surrogacy. The reform will pave the way for a wider group of people to apply to become parents via the surrogacy route, whether they be single fathers or single mothers, including older women who are increasingly seeing surrogacy as a viable route to starting a family.

“I think we will see more people resorting to surrogacy. I would expect an increase in applications from single people; just as we saw more same sex couples applying after the law was changed in 2008 to allow those couples to apply.

“Also, celebrities such as Tom Daley and Elton John (who have both had children through surrogate mothers) have raised awareness about surrogacy in general.

“It has huge relevance for modern people’s lives. Advances in science now allow older women to conceive, or to have a child through a surrogate if they wish.

“A lot of women are freezing embryos. It’s becoming a feature of modern life.  When you are slightly older, you may be more ready financially and mentally to have a child. But biologically, you might no longer be at a stage where you can carry a child yourself.

“With the recent advances in technology and the increasing number of women choosing to freeze their eggs, surrogacy is becoming an increasingly attractive option.”

Ms Lee said that while the latest law change has been widely accepted, there are still issues to be addressed.


“There are still a lot of misconceptions among the general public about the legal position under English law. I would certainly urge anyone considering surrogacy to seek specialist legal advice at the outset, before embarking on that journey.”

The now retired former president of the Family Court, Sir James Munby, has suggested we reconsider the current restrictions on paying surrogates anything more than “reasonable” expenses. And that we draw upon the model used in other countries – such as the United States and Canada. In those countries highly-regulated, commercial surrogacy systems are in operation, supported by surrogacy-friendly laws.

Ms Lee explained: “Because surrogacy arrangements are enforceable in certain states in the United States, and in Canada, that framework minimises the risks for all concerned. It ameliorates the risk of the surrogate mother changing her mind, and indeed the risk of the commissioning parents changing their minds.

“At the moment, under English law, those scenarios are entirely possible and we know it happens. That’s why pursuing surrogacy abroad, in countries where such arrangements are supported by surrogacy-friendly laws, can be an appealing option.

“In England, surrogacy agreements are entirely unenforceable. Surrogacy is legal, but advertising for a surrogate, or entering into a surrogacy arrangement for profit, is not. We are years behind places like California.

“Sir James Munby has called for better regulation and a more transparent system, which provides safeguards for all concerned.

Altruistic surrogacy

“This ensures that surrogate mothers are protected, not exploited, and are properly paid for their trouble. And that if someone changes their mind down the line you have a contract in place to fall back on.

“There is an argument that surrogacy done out of goodwill with no commercial element, in other words altruistic surrogacy, has worked well here for the past 30/40 years.

“However, because surrogacy arrangements are not enforceable, it is not an airtight system. Issues do arise for both the surrogate and the intended parents.

“So, for instance, a surrogate may decide to retain the child. And there have been cases where the intended parents have had to bring their surrogate to court.

“A system of informal arrangements is not entirely in keeping with the increasing numbers of people who are looking at surrogacy as a way of starting their family. There is uncertainty built in, which has led to increasing calls for the advanced system we see in California and Canada, for example, being replicated here. You would have to adapt these systems to suit the UK context but, in my view, a more watertight, legally-binding arrangement would provide certainty for everyone concerned.”

Ms Lee thinks there is still some way to go before we are ready to accept that carrying a child for another should involve contracts, with the threat of court sanction.


“The move to a California type system is controversial. It has been the longstanding position here that commercial surrogacy is a criminal offence. It will take time for people to find such a concept palatable, but it is certainly gaining ground.”

Ms Lee said there are valid concerns that such an arrangement would incentivise vulnerable women to become surrogates.

However, provided there are robust safeguards to ensure that potential surrogates understand the risks involved, and are not being pressured into an arrangement, her view is that it might well be a model that works.

Right now, she argues, it is most important there is greater public awareness of what the law actually means.

“There are children in this country born through surrogacy who are living with parents who are not in fact their legal parents because no parental order was ever made. Many people do not realise that, under English law, the surrogate (and her partner if she has one) will be the legal parent(s) until and unless a parental order (or an adoption order) is made.

Legal advice

“Real problems can arise. For example, if there’s a dispute about the child’s upbringing between the surrogate and intended parents, or if one of the parents dies. Not being the legal child of that parent might have real ramifications when it comes to inheritance.

“It is also not uncommon to see intended parents entering into a surrogacy arrangement without first obtaining specialist legal advice.  The intended parents may have decided to embark on a surrogacy arrangement, paid a lot of money to an agency overseas, but rather left the taking of legal advice until the very end.

“You might be faced with the baby’s due date being a month away and the parents realising at that stage that they’ll have to apply for a parental order upon their return to this jurisdiction, and leaving themselves very little time.

“Some parents may not realise that they need to apply for a parental order in this jurisdiction, so as to secure legal parenthood for their child born through surrogacy.

“Those are the sorts of cases that can become tricky.”


Jennifer Lee is a specialist family law practitioner at Pump Court Chambers in London.
She has a thriving practice in matrimonial finance, and wide experience of complex children cases. She has developed a niche practice in surrogacy and modern families, having acted for commissioning parents in Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act cases. Jennifer also acts in Court of Protection matters. She is ranked as a “leading junior” in The Legal 500, and in Chambers & Partners.

Addiction ruins relationships, take it from my experience

Addiction and controlling behaviour can ruin relationships. Jonathan Edgeley knows the story from both sides.

Behavioural health advisor Jonathan Edgeley is uniquely qualified to help people beat their addictions and guide their families through the turmoil of dysfunctional relationships.

As a teenager filled with fear, inadequacy and self-loathing he began looking for other activities to fulfil his inquisitive mind and channel his insatiable appetite to change how he felt. At secondary school he found a new world of drink and drugs that would take his life on a rollercoaster ride of highs and ultimate lows.

Throughout his 20s, while outwardly successful professionally, his life was spiralling out of control.

Finally, after an intervention from his father, he accepted that he needed help and so started the long road to recovery. That journey began in 2006 and four years ago Jonathan decided to put his own experiences of addiction to good use helping others.


He said: “I grew up in a world where money was deemed a token of success and well-being. If you were wealthy you were well.  I watched my mother and father’s marriage break down due to alcoholism on my mother’s side which had a devastating effect catapulting my already self-destructive behaviour to another level.

“My mother and father eventually divorced and my mother began to drink more heavily.  Sadly, four years ago my mother died due to drinking. The loss of my mother hit me like a train

“However in her death she provided me with the greatest gift. The evidence I needed – alcohol kills. I had stopped, and other people can too. I just needed to get the message out that recovery is possible.

“What enables me to connect with a family or somebody who’s got an addiction, is the fact that I am an addict. I am in recovery, I have been there and I know the route out.

“I’ve been through the whole process of having to go through treatment, and the run-up to that, and how bad things had to get in order for me to actually realise that I’d got a very serious illness.

“I can talk to people about that and explain how my life spiralled out of control, and how I’ve managed to gain a degree of power over it. I have experienced relapsed. I’ve experienced marriage, children, births, deaths – all of those things in recovery. The takeaway from this is I didn’t have to use mind or mood altering substances to get through it.

Emotional mood swings

Jonathan’s work now involves him linking with family lawyers. They call on his expertise and experience when a problem is identified and a family member needs professional help. The situation has typically got to the stage of wanting to leave a loved one because of their drinking, emotional mood swings or volatility or the children are suffering and at risk of psychological trauma.

The work is much easier if the person concerned is open to help.  In that scenario Jonathan will talk to those involved to get background and understand their situation in granular detail before putting together a tailored pathway to meet their needs, including therapies.

Jonathan added: “When I have that conversation with their families and loved ones, I can really connect with them. Meeting them where they are at that particular point and help them make some realisations and compassionately guide them throughout the process.

“I can connect with somebody who says, ‘this guy gets it’. What I’m able to do is go in at a different level completely from, say, a GP.

“I can say something like ‘I understand, you’re all right, you’re safe, you are going to be ok. I’ve been where you’ve been. I want to help because I’m sure that you don’t want to live the life that you are living now. Would you agree?’

“And often, they will say ‘no, I don’t. But I’m petrified of doing something about it because I’m not quite sure how it’s going to end up. What I know for certain while I’m using drugs or I’m drinking is what the outcome is going to be. I get high, I drink, I forget’.”

Rebuild relationships

The best-case scenario is the person receives the help they need and the partner and family members are willing to try to rebuild relationships with professional guidance.

But frequently those with the addiction are not prepared to accept they have a problem that needs tackling. The family concerned may then have to go through an emotional and often painful process that includes an intervention.

Jonathan said: “You know, this is the dark side of the addiction. The disease is so powerful that it wants to keep you in its grip. The important thing is that an intervention is approached with love and compassion. The family often require a degree of education to help them understand that addiction is a disease not a choice.

“I know all of these things and feel all these emotions going on. Whatever the addiction might be, it changes how they feel. And they’re scared of these feelings coming very powerfully back when they stop taking drink or drugs, or whatever it is they’re doing.

“And, it is really, really sad but that’s where it goes. So, if you can imagine that the people on the receiving end of that, the children, the wives, the husbands, the family members, the fathers, the mothers, all of these other people that are witnessing somebody who is in the grips of an addiction.

“They see they are slowly killing themselves. But that person is in such denial, people around them feel quite powerless to do anything.

Enabling behaviour

“They don’t know how to approach it; they don’t know what to say. They’re fearful that they push them further away, they are fearful that they may then leave. They are fearful that they may then carry on drinking or taking drugs and die early.

“This enabling behaviour unfortunately is pushing the loved one further into their addiction and supporting their using. This has to stop, as it can lead to further upset and ultimately death.

“All of these things have got a counter-argument to them. It is a positive counter-argument, that if you don’t do something, they are going to die anyway. If we don’t do something now, then this thing will only get worse.

“I’ve never seen anybody get better without clinical or therapeutic intervention to help them overcome their issues.”

The second part of this interview Intervention: How do you help someone who doesn’t believe they have a problem? will be published shortly.


Jonathan Edgeley is the Founder of Montrose Advisory which offers independent support and guidance to families seeking a solution to a behavioural health problem. He takes a family through the complex world of addiction and mental healthcare and creates robust care pathways to meet their loved one’s specific needs, circumstances and budget.