Family Building in the UK

The United Kingdom has an established history of supporting altruistic surrogacy arrangements since at least 1988, principally through the work of consumer-run non-profits such as COTS and Surrogacy UK. Since April 2010 it has also been possible for same-sex couples to undertake surrogacy in the UK. Singles have been able to be legally recognised as the parent via domestic UK surrogacy since 2019.

While altruistic Surrogacy is legal in the UK, there are rules about its practice.

  • No third party should be involved on a commercial basis – that is, receive fees for ‘brokering’ a surrogacy relationship.
  • The surrogate can only receive payment to cover the expenses that she has incurred in being pregnant for her intended parents

UK surrogates are altruistically motivated. Instead of financial compensation, they are looking for an ongoing, meaningful relationship with the intended parents they carry for.

So as intended parents, you need to be prepared to invest significant time into your surrogate and her own family. If that makes you uncomfortable, then an international arrangement may be the best way forward to ensure your surrogate can be well-supported.

Limitations of Domestic Surrogacy

Given there is not currently professional screening and matching of UK surrogates, the matching process requires significant effort and time, as well as honesty between all parties.

A significant proportion of women who come forward as potential altruistic surrogates, whether a friend, family member or stranger, ultimately decide not to go ahead. This means that intended parents need to have patience and understand that matching in the UK context can take many months or years.

Those with limited timelines or preparedness to invest in time building relationships with a local surrogate are better off engage overseas where this is legal, engaging agencies that specialise in sourcing screening and supporting  potential surrogates in what are very complex arrangements. 

Support Available for Domestic Surrogacy

Surrogacy UK  formed in 2002, by a group of experienced surrogates who believed that a successful journey for both surrogates and intended parents was one based on trust, mutual respect and, above all, friendship.

Surrogacy UK has grown into a professional organisation, run by a Board of Trustees, an external ethics committee, 18 staff members and a bank of volunteers – all of whom are committed to ethical surrogacy and the ‘friendship first’ model.

Surrogacy UK provides support for its members through a support team, its own members app and second to none peer support. The organisation has a thriving community of surrogates, known egg donors, intended parents and families through surrogacy, with numerous social events every weekend.

COTS (Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy)

Run by people dedicated to helping others through surrogacy, their prime objective is to pass on their collective experience to surrogates and would be parents helping them to understand the implications of surrogacy before they enter into an arrangement and to deal with any problems that may arise during it. They offer a wide range of practical support and advice to COTS members.  Their membership is regularly closed to new IP’s.

However they can instead join COTS open Facebook group COTS Surrogacy The Ultimate Gift. The organisation tend to invite couples to join COTS from that group when spaces are available. If you have your own surrogate you may join COTS immediately.

Please note that neither of the organisations above cannot support those engaging in international arrangements

Nappy Endings

A surrogacy and fertility support agency, who share their experience with others and we assist with matching Intended Parents with surrogates, or assisting already matched Intended Parents and surrogates guiding and assisting throughout their entire journey and beyond. Carrying out all the relevant DBS and health checks required to ensure a smooth journey.

Brilliant Beginnings

Brilliant Beginnings is a non-profit professional surrogacy agency which supports intended parents (who are based in the UK or are British living overseas), surrogates and professionals. They are part od a wider team with Natalie Gamble & Associates law firm

Helen Prosser and Natalie Gamble founded Brilliant Beginnings in 2013 to offer a fully-managed surrogacy service. Their vision was to underpin the relationship-based ethos of UK surrogacy with stronger safeguards.

My Surrogacy Journey

Tailored more for the gay market, offers a pricey fee-based concierge-based service to support UK surrogacy, including information documents, recommended affiliate lawyers, donor support, Sperm test kit provider, finance, foreign exchange, antenatal classes, IVF , doula support, nutrition and midwifery services.

Bolt-on services are also available to assist in locating a UK surrogate and/or egg donor.

What is the legal process in the United Kingdom?

In law, the legal mother of the child will be the surrogate, while the legal father will usually be either the surrogate’s spouse if she has one, or the intended father where his sperm was used. In Scotland, the man whose sperm fertilised the egg would be the legal parent only if he took steps to have himself named on the birth certificate, or a court order was made declaring that he was the child’s parent.

It is also possible for an intended parent – male or female – to use certain provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 to become a second parent, again where the surrogate has no spouse or civil partner.

Therefore, at the time of birth often neither, or at most one, of the intended parents will be the legal parents of a child born following a surrogacy arrangement. Since 1994, there has existed a legal mechanism to transfer legal parenthood to the intended parents and to extinguish the surrogate’s legal parenthood. This is called a parental order.

As well as transferring legal parenthood, a parental order also provides the intended parents with parental responsibility (in England and Wales) or parental responsibilities and parental rights (in Scotland). These are all the duties and rights that a parent has in relation to a child. For example, making decisions about the child’s living arrangements, medical care and education. Parental responsibility is not synonymous with being a legal parent; some legal parents will not have parental responsibility, whereas people who are not a child’s legal parents can have parental responsibility for the child.

A parental order cannot be applied for until after the birth. The court cannot make a parental order less than six weeks after birth. That is because the parental order requires the consent of the surrogate, and the law says that her consent can only validly be given once that period of time has passed. In practice, intended parents wait at least six months before a parental order is made because of the time it takes for the proceedings to come before the court.

In order for the court to make a parental order, certain requirements must be met. It is not always clear, simply by looking at the statute, whether or not the requirements are met in a particular case.

When considering whether to make the order the court’s paramount consideration is the child’s welfare throughout his or her life. In practice, where the requirements are met the court invariably makes a parental order.

This problem is partly a practical one: intended parents who are not legal parents lack parental responsibility for the child, which affects their ability to take decisions about the child in their care. It is also a problem of identity; intended parents would like the child to be part of their family from birth, so that legal parenthood reflects social and psychological parenthood. Surrogates would like the law to reflect the fact that they do not consider themselves to be the mother of the child that they have carried for the intended parents.

Overseas Surrogacy for Uk Nationals

UK law supports its citizens in engaging in overseas arrangements with transfer of parentage available. However the options and costs vary hugely depending on which country and agency you engage with.

Growing Families can offer specialised advice and recommendations on legally protected surrogacy in a range of countries to suit a range of budgets. There are significant traps in cross-border arrangements, so you are urged to seek professional advice from Growing Families or your own lawyer.

We can advise on the pros and cons of surrogacy arrangements and the strengths and weaknesses of specific providers in the US, Canada, Greece, Georgia, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Uganda, Ghana & Kazahkstan.


We recommend obtaining quotes from a number of lawyers

Recommended Lawyers

A City Law Firm has excellent reviews from intended parents, and will offer free initial consultations

Engage with Growing Families 

Potential parents often embark on alternate family building journeys without adequate understanding of the risks. That’s where Growing Families comes in. Our team has been helping international families since 2012, with over 3000 successful cases. We draw on our global experience to help you choose the best option for your unique situation.

Our Assessment and Support Consultation Packages offer a secure pathway with personalised guidance and care. Fill out our assessment form, and we’ll reach out for a 15-minute consultation.

Want to learn more? Join us for one of our regular events, featuring expert service providers, surrogates, and recent parents. Check out our Event Schedule for upcoming dates near you.

Trust Growing Families to support your surrogacy journey.