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Gwynneth Knowles QC acts in High Court Surrogacy Case

01/01/01

Reception

Atlantic Chambers QC, Gwynneth Knowles appeared before the UK High Court representing the children involved in a high profile international surrogacy case this month.

Ms Knowles QC acted on behalf of the children, who were born in India to two different surrogate mothers, and cared for from birth by the intending parents.

The key issue in the case was whether the payments made by the intending parents to the surrogate mothers fell foul of the provisions of s.54(8) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 and, if they did, whether any payments made could be retrospectively authorised by the court.

The High Court granted parental orders to the couple, ruling that payments made to the Indian surrogates were not 'disproportionate'. England and Wales' most senior family court judge ruled the parents were "acting in good faith" and not trying to "defraud the authorities".

As well as acting for the children in the case, Ms Knowles QC was responsible for instructing an expert on Indian law to advise if the surrogacy arrangement breached Indian law in any way. Ms Knowles QC also took an active role in identifying the legal and procedural issues engaged in the case and in taking steps to resolve these, as well as preparing the detailed case summary which forms the bulk of the actual judgement.

The case highlighted the complex issues faced by couples contemplating the surrogacy process abroad. The requirements of s.54 must all be complied with and the Court will scrutinise any payments made to surrogates.

Ms Knowles QC said: "It is predictable that applications for parental orders arising from international surrogacy arrangements will increase given both the limited availability of surrogacy in the UK and the relatively inexpensive and legally straightforward surrogacy processes available in some other countries such as India or the United States.

"This is a complex area of law and great care is required not only to ensure compliance with s.54 but also the requirements of Part 13 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010. Additionally, specialist immigration advice is necessary to navigate the guidance issued by the UK Border Agency."

Gwynneth Knowles QC is head of the Family Law Group at Atlantic Chambers and is primarily a child law practitioner but also undertakes community care and Court of Protection work.