Complex Children and Family Law

The creation of modern families and those built through assisted conception can raise a wide range of complex, unforeseen and unwanted legal and practical issues, including:

  • Relationship issues with an existing or previous partner, known donor, co-parent or surrogate.
  • Uncertainty about legal status of a new partner for a child.
  • Lost or impaired fertility (illness, injury, medical negligence) thereby requiring fertility treatment, donor conception and surrogacy.
  • Age, social, cultural, gender (including transgender and non-binary), medical and religious issues affecting family building and family life.
  • International lifestyle legal and practical issues (e.g. international conflicts of law about legal status and rights of children, parents and families across different jurisdictions or following relocation).
  • Issues arising from a direct-to-consumer DNA test (e.g. applications for a Declaration of Parentage, Orders for DNA testing, rectification of birth certificates and management of relationships with previously unknown genetic relations).
  • Problems with consent to storage and use of eggs, sperm and embryos for posthumous conception following death of a loved one.
  • Issues with consent to legal parenthood following fertility treatment at a UK fertility clinic (e.g. errors or loss of HFEA consent forms).
  • Novel, unusual, high net worth and high profile personal situations affecting family building and family life (e.g. heightened confidentiality needs, additional VIP service levels, multi-disciplinary expertise requirements, need for cutting-edge legal solutions).

We provide expert specialist legal advice.  We operate at the forefront of law, policy and practice , delivering innovative legal solutions to meet the needs of modern families and those with complex personal situations.

How we can help

Our legal services include:

  • Legal packages
  • Bespoke legal advice tailored to your situation, needs and wishes
  • Preparation of legal documentation
  • Legal support and representation in court proceedings


Package One

Complex personal or family situation - legal review

This provides initial tailored expert advice for those with complex personal, children and family issues. It can encompass a wide range of issues, including:

If you require legal assistance or wish to discuss a complex children and family law matter contact us

 +44 (0) 20 7965 8399

Leading cases

Louisa Ghevaert has dealt with numerous leading cases in the UK dealing with complex children, fertility and family law, including:

X v Y [2022] EWFC 77, representing the applicant in a complex application for a declaration of parentage in the English High Court following an ancestry website search and a 35-year quest to find her biological father to resolve issues relating to her identity and her birth certificate. In granting the application, the court highlighted the fundamental importance relating to identity, status and parentage and the re-registration of birth certificates to provide properly maintained records not just for the benefit of individuals but for the public as well. In doing so, the court navigated complex legal issues and drew inferences from the respondent’s refusal to undergo DNA testing.

Re X,Y and Z (Children: Parental Orders: Time Limit) [2022] EWHC 198 (Fam)an important legal ruling where the English High Court stepped in and granted parental orders for 3 surrogate born children following complex international conflicts of law between the US (California & Oregon), Denmark and the UK, extending the six-month statutory deadline for issue post birth and carefully navigating complex legal issues associated with the collapse of a US surrogacy agency, a pending criminal charge of assault against one of the intended parents and serious legal difficulties in Denmark where Danish authorities threatened to deport the children.

Whittington Hospital NHS Trust v XX [2020] UKSC 14, a landmark ruling where the UK Supreme Court by a majority of 3:2 dismissed the defendant hospital’s appeal. This enabled the recovery of damages for commercial surrogacy, donor conception and fertility treatment in the US for a woman rendered infertile and unable to carry a pregnancy following a delay in detecting cancer in smear tests and biopsies. Louisa Ghevaert gave expert evidence in the case, which featured in The Guardian (1 April 2020) and in BioNews (6 April 2020).

XX v Whittington Hospital NHS Trust [2018] EWCA Civ 2832, where for the first time the Court of Appeal awarded damages for the costs of fertility treatment, donor eggs and commercial surrogacy in California for a woman rendered infertile and unable to carry a pregnancy following a delay in detecting cancer in smear tests and biopsies. Louisa Ghevaert gave expert evidence in the case, which featured in The Telegraph 19 December 2018 and The Times, The Telegraph, The Mail Online and The Mirror on 27 January 2019.

AB v CD, EF, GH & IL [2018] EWHC 1590 (Fam), representing an intended mother in international contested assisted reproduction and modern family law proceedings in the High Court concerning 2 surrogate born children. This case marks a legal first in the treatment of blended families in the UK following assisted reproduction, divorce, re-marriage, serious allegations of domestic violence and abuse as well as the legal status and identity of two surrogate born children, their biological, intended and social parents and arrangements for the children’s care and upbringing.

Y v A Healthcare NHS Trust & The HFEA & Z (by his litigation friend, The Official Solicitor) [2018] EWCOP 18, a first-of-its kind judgment in which Louisa was part of the wife’s legal team and secured a unique legal ruling from the Court of Protection to extract and store sperm from a fatally injured man for use in posthumous fertility treatment and featured in The Independent (13 July 2018) and The Times (14 July 2018).

XX v Whittington Hospital NHS Trust [2017] EWHC 2318 (QB), being the first legal case in the UK in which the High Court awarded damages to a woman for altruistic UK surrogacy and fertility treatment following a delay in detecting cancer in smear tests and biopsies. This case marks the cross-section of fertility, family and medical negligence law. It highlights the importance of fertility, surrogacy and family law aspects when medical negligence renders a woman infertile and unable to carry a pregnancy. Louisa Ghevaert gave expert evidence in this case.

In the matter of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (Case V) [2016] EWHC 2356 (Fam), obtaining a declaration of parentage in the High Court for a woman in a same-sex relationship for a child conceived through fertility treatment at a UK fertility clinic licensed by the HFEA.  The HFEA Consent Form WP was missing from the clinic file. The case for the first time gave guidance on the practice of making interim costs orders in favour of patients to fund litigation and access to justice following errors in the completion of consent forms at UK fertility clinics.

In JP v LP & Ors [2014] EWHC 595 (Fam), acting for the intended father in a high profile complex UK surrogacy dispute case following marriage breakdown and divorce. This case established for the first time a legal framework for cases where the legal criteria for a parental order cannot be met, including wardship, and featured in The Telegraph, BBC News and Mail Online (6 March 2014).

Read more here.

News and commentary

Our expert lawyer Louisa Ghevaert regularly commentates on family and fertility law and cases with a genetic aspect, including:

“Declaration Of Parentage: Will This Resolve My Personal Identity, Legal And Biological Parenthood?” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 29 December 2023).

“UK Adoption Order granted to a single non-biological mother for a child born through a Californian surrogacy arrangement”, (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 3 March 2023).

“Our Father, DNA testing & what do we mean by ‘parentage’? (by Louisa Ghevaert for Fertility Help Hub, a fertility lifestyle platform, 24 August 2022).

“Later-life parenthood: what do I need to consider?” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 5 August 2022).

“Declaration of parentage: the importance of identity, status and parentage” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 19 July 2022).

“DNA testing, parentage disputes and the law” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 15 June 2022).

“Declaration of parentage: confirming family ancestry and biological parentage following adoption” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 8 June 2022).

“Netflix’s Our Father: DNA testing, paternity disputes and questions about biological and legal parentage”, (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 16 May 2022).

“International surrogacy law: existing conflicts unresolved” (BioNews, comment piece by Louisa Ghevaert, 14 March 2022).

“Declaration of Parentage: resolving family ancestry, questions about parentage and birth certificates”, Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog (30 November 2021).

“The global legal identity gap”, Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog (21 August 2020).

“The UK Supreme Court awards damages for commercial surrogacy” (BioNews, comment piece by Louisa Ghevaert, 6 April 2020).

Apple podcast on Speak From The Body with Avni Touch entitled “Fertility law for modern families with Louisa Ghevaert” (26 February 2020).

Click here to read more about our media and commentary work in relation to family and fertility law, policy and practice.

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