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Fertility Law, Family Building and Modern Family Relationships in 2022

The start of 2022 brings new opportunity to revisit future family building plans and re-imagine family relationships.  Family creation and the achievement of a happy and stable family life remains a central goal for many people.

Having practised family law for over twenty years and specialised in fertility law in the UK since 2008, I have helped many people build a family or re-structure their personal and family lives.  Advances in assisted reproductive technology, societal changes and law reform over the last two decades has significantly widened our reproductive choices and redefined family life. In doing so, we have seen growing uptake of egg-freezing, fertility treatment, later-life parenthood, surrogacy, known and identity-release donation, co-parenting arrangements and greater numbers of solo, same-sex, transgender and blended  families.

However, modern expectations about family building and family life continue to challenge and outpace legal frameworks.  The global nature of the fertility sector is not matched with harmonisation of assisted reproduction law. This can create legal parentage gaps, problems with birth certificates and a lack of legal parental responsibility powers for parents with which to safeguard their children’s upbringing.

There are ongoing legal risks and ambiguity for intended parents and donor conceived children in practice. Individuals born from donor eggs and sperm procured by brokers sourced from lower-income countries or the third world can find that they cannot trace vital historical data such as biological origins, testing and screening records, health and genetic factors and indicators later in life. This can also create significant issues and gaps for intended parents as they navigate family life raising donor conceived children.

Growing demand for direct-to-consumer tests to explore personal ancestry can create unforeseen and challenging issues about genetic identity, legal parentage, donor conceived origins and recently discovered genetic relatives. Whilst this information can have positive outcomes, it can also cause distress and have a serious impact on individuals and families in the absence of expert management.

Many employers do not have a workplace policy to support workers undergoing assisted reproductive technology and existing English law does not fully cater for the often long lead in times associated with fertility treatment. Historically, there has been a laissez-faire attitude towards fertility management and a lack of a joined-up approach to this in practice.

Additionally, growing trends in later-life parenthood increasingly sit at odds with our natural biological clocks driving increasing reliance on assisted reproductive technology and complex fertility law frameworks.

Top tips

As such, the demands, complexity and expectations associated with modern life mean it is very important to proactively manage personal family building goals and family plans.  My top tips are:

  • Check, preserve and protect your fertility (e.g. fertility testing, egg, sperm and embryo freezing).
  • Ensure careful management of genetic aspects of family building (e.g. genetic screening, genomic medicine and genetic identity issues where donor gametes are used).
  • Put together a viable family building action plan, don’t leave creating a family to chance.
  • Review your finances and budget for family creation, fertility treatment and raising a family.
  • Get expert legal advice on the issues and outcomes associated with fertility treatment, family building and modern family life (e.g. storage and use of gametes and embryos, legal parentage, parental responsibility, birth certificates, arrangements for the care and upbringing of children).

Need a fertility lawyer or a family lawyer? If you would like to discuss your situation or you require specialist fertility and family law advice and assistance contact Louisa Ghevaert by email louisa@louisaghevaertassociates.co.uk  or by telephone +44 (0)20 7965 8399.

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