Surrogacy & Fertility Law
For many in Ireland, meeting someone, falling in love and getting married is closely followed by thoughts of settling down and starting a family.
With almost 65,000 births a year at first glance it would appear that the thought of having a family is alive and well in Ireland and without major complication. For some couples though this may not be the case as medical complications may preclude some from conceiving naturally, whereas for same-sex couples a natural conception just isn’t possible.
If a couple has really set their heart on starting a family, the desire will be strong and when complications arise it can leave them with a genuine sense of loss no matter the circumstances. At this point a lot of couples will look to other options such as IVF or Adoption as an alternative route towards parenthood.
Whilst very successful for some couples, IVF can be a long road fraught with heartache when things don’t work out. Adoption in Ireland is also not without its own challenges as waiting lists are long and the process complex leaving some couples too old to adopt by the time they get to the end of the process.
In recent years, a growing number of Irish couples have started to consider Surrogacy as an option to start a family of their own. Surrogacy in its simplest terms involves a surrogate mother being willing to carry a child and giving birth to it on someone else’s behalf. In Ireland, surrogacy is currently unregulated although the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill is currently being drafted and will, when enacted, deal with domestic surrogacy.
Domestic Surrogacy or International Surrogacy
Surrogacy is typically termed as either domestic surrogacy, i.e. the surrogate mother is living in and gives birth in the Irish State or international surrogacy whereby the intended parents enter into an arrangement with a surrogate mother in another country.
Because of the current legal position in Ireland, couples considering domestic surrogacy will be stepping into an unofficial and unregulated surrogacy arrangement. This is something which if not properly managed can lead to major complications for the intended parents (and the child) as many question can arise not least who is the legal parent of the child (in Ireland the parents of a child are legally defined as the women who physically gives birth to the child and by the DNA of the father)?
The ‘unofficial’ and ‘unregulated’ nature of domestic surrogacy in Ireland has lead to many couples exploring international surrogacy as the best option for them. Some countries permit international surrogacy arrangements and will have clinics and other professionals dedicated to helping foreign couples to source a child through surrogacy. For many having the surety of a commercial contract will allow all parties to know what is expected of them and should allow the process to progress in a dignified and professional manner with all efforts focused on the birth mother and the baby’s health along with a smooth process for transferring the baby to the intended family.
Different countries will have different arrangements in place regarding surrogacy. Some ban surrogacy completely, whereas others permit altruistic surrogacy and not commercial. Likewise, some countries will allow both altruistic and commercial surrogacy arrangements whereas others may not allow same-sex couples to receive a child through surrogacy. We would therefore advise all couples considering surrogacy to do their research on the host country, look into possible clinics to contact, look up the websites of international surrogacy organisations and draw up a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
It is important to note that costs associated with an international surrogacy arrangement can still be significant owing to the possibility of several trips to the host country, accommodation costs (you may need to stay in the host country for a number of days whilst various paperwork is produced), medical expenses for the surrogate mother and your legal costs (including making sure you have the right travel documentation to travel home with your new child and to comply with various Irish legal requirements when returning to Ireland with a newborn surrogate child). You will also need legal representation in the host country.
Key Points When Considering International Surrogacy
As you pursue your surrogacy journey, we would strongly advise the following:
Research your Clinic
Websites: Look beyond the clinic website in order to ascertain that there are no issues/problems regarding compliance with the laws in that jurisdiction.
Forums: Join online forums and speak with couples who have recently dealt with the clinic you are considering. Learn about other experiences and make sure the clinic’s website reflects the experiences of these couples.
Google: Search to see if there have been any problems/issues with the clinic and try to find out if the clinic is represented in general surrogacy articles in that country.
Fees: Make sure you know what you are paying for. Do not be tempted by less expensive fees as it may end up costing you more in the long run.
Make contact with your Irish Solicitor
Before you sign any contracts get in touch with your solicitor in Ireland so that they can discuss the surrogacy process, share their experiences with you and offer their guidance and assistance.
Contact The NISIG
The National Infertility Support Information Group offers support, advice and guidance for intending Irish parents throughout the surrogacy process. They can be contacted via their website: www.nisig.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and telephone: 087 797 5058.
At Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan, we believe that couples considering surrogacy as an option to realise their dreams of becoming parents need as much relevant information as possible so that they can make informed decisions which are right for them. Surrogacy can be a complex area with many different rules in different countries and various legal implications based upon the decisions you make.
You can be assured that Poe Kiely Hogan Lanigan has extensive experience advising Irish couples looking at surrogacy as an option to start a family of their own, however, we also recognise that at the end of the day, no matter the paperwork and legislation involved, it is all about people, both parents and child, and we bring an empathetic and compassionate approach to our advice.
Owing to a lack of credible and up to date information available we have produced several important guides and lists to help you along the way. We would therefore recommend that you visit our Surrogacy and Fertility Law Resource page to try and understand the process better and learn more about the processes involved. Should you decide to look more closely at the possibility of a surrogacy arrangement, we can also make introductions to lawyers in several different countries should you need them.
We would also welcome the opportunity to talk to you to understand your own particular circumstances and help to provide an overview of what might be involved from a legal point of view. If you would be interested in booking a free, initial consultation, please click the link and complete our short form with your details and we will be in touch to organise a time which suits you.
Lastly, we understand this is most probably new ground for you and your partner and may lead to you feeling apprehensive and confused about taking things further. If you are currently considering surrogacy as an option for starting a family of your own, please take your time and talk to friends and family, talk to others who have had a child through surrogacy, look up surrogacy websites, join online forums and discussion groups and try to find out as much as possible to help you make as informed a decision as possible.