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The revolving door of international surrogacy destinations explained

AuthorsCara Nuttall

The revolving door of international surrogacy destinations explained

The legal approach to surrogacy is constantly evolving and varies significantly across the world. 

Common surrogacy destinations frequently close their doors — either by restricting access for foreign nationals or banning the practice altogether. In their place, new destinations emerge — and the UAE may now become one such place, after unexpectedly ending its ban on surrogacy.

Here, family law and surrogacy expert Cara Nuttall reveals why international surrogacy destinations are something of a revolving door — and why it’s so crucial to take the right legal advice early on in the process.


The UAE — a future surrogacy destination?

Changes to surrogacy laws can happen almost overnight, particularly where restrictions are brought in, rather than relaxed. Until now, surrogacy has been illegal in the UAE. However, it’s important to note that while this is undoubtably a significant step forward, decriminalising ('allowing') surrogacy is only the first stage of the legal process — it remains to be seen what the permissive system will look like and what the legal framework will be.

When it comes to surrogacy, there are many issues at play including the enforceability of surrogacy arrangements, payment structures, how legal parenthood is attributed and how disputes are resolved — as well as whether foreign nationals should be allowed to undertake the process within the country’s borders.

This issue has proved sufficiently thorny in the UK, resulting in delays to legal reforms. Even now — several years on from an extensive Law Commission consultation and its resulting recommendations — there is no significant progress on the horizon. 

It will be interesting to see not just how the UAE elects to deal with these issues but also the speed with which it will do so. For now, the change doesn’t mean that the UAE is an alternative destination for surrogacy, just that it may be in the future.


No substitute for thorough research

With such differing approaches around the world, there is simply no substitute for careful and thorough research if you’re considering an international surrogacy arrangement.

Taking the right legal advice in all countries is paramount, as is understanding the legal framework and how the respective laws from country to country interact with each other. Some are complimentary, whereas others clash horribly.

An experienced lawyer can give you a ‘heads up’ as to whether any changes to the law are likely and what the timescales look like, so that you can factor this into your decision making. Though of course — as the UAE’s announcement (and many previous ones) demonstrate — there isn’t always much advance warning.


Experts in international surrogacy law

With all the medical, legal, ethical, social and religious considerations that surrogacy brings, there is unlikely to be any unified international approach — nor are settled laws likely to stand still, especially as medical and social norms evolve. 

The best advice to anyone considering international surrogacy remains to ensure that any decision is well informed and based on up-to-date legal advice to keep the risk of complications to a minimum.

If you’re thinking about starting the process, talk to us.

Our award-winning family law team contains experts in surrogacy law who can advise on the various approaches taken around the world.

Find out more about surrogacy in England and Wales, including when to speak to a solicitor.

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