Later-life parenthood: what do I need to consider?

5 August 2022

Women and men are increasingly delaying having children in their twenties and thirties, choosing instead to focus on their jobs and careers, becoming a homeowner and building a more stable economic position. In addition, increasing acceptance of non-traditional family forms and growing numbers of people choosing to become parents in second-time relationships are driving trends in later-life parenthood.

Does my age matter?

Yes, advancing age can increase the risks of developing a serious health problem such as cancer or heart disease, which can unexpectedly delay and disrupt family building arrangements and parenthood and result in loss of individual fertility. Furthermore, later-life pregnancies bring with them a higher risk of medical complications including birth defects, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and a difficult labour and delivery.

As a result of growing trends in later-life parenthood, more people are turning to fertility treatment, donor conception and surrogacy to overcome issues associated with age-related fertility decline and advancing age. Demand for fertility treatment is further fuelled by increasing awareness that a woman’s fertility is finite, typically showing significant falls in fertility levels and successful birth outcomes as from age 35.

However, recent scientific and medical research has found that advanced paternal age can influence IVF live birth rates more than was previously thought as well. Research presented recently at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting found that live birth rates declined when the paternal age was over 40 and the woman was aged between 35 – 39 years old. Advanced paternal age over 40 years was associated with declining sperm quality, impaired embryo development, chromosomal abnormalities in embryos and compromised pregnancy outcomes. Overall, the research found that live birth rates declined from 39.1% in men under 35 years old to 25.9% in men aged 40 – 44 years old, 23% to men aged 45 – 50 and 22.9% in men aged 51 -55. Although interestingly, no significant issues were identified with advanced paternal age on pregnancy outcomes when treatment used donor eggs as well, suggesting the possibility that maternal age could counteract male age-related fertility issues. As such, it is important to consider male fertility too and not simply assume that maternal age should be the main focus when looking to conceive or undergo fertility treatment.

Click here to read Human Reproduction Journal Volume 37, Issue Supplement 1, July 2022 article “Does advanced paternal age influence live birth rate independent of woman’s age: analysis of 18, 825 fresh IVF/ICSI cycles from a national (HFEA) database”.

Does later-life parenting impact family life?

Later-life parenting can enable people to devote more time to parenthood and the joys that this can bring. Later-life parents can have better financial stability, more security over their job prospects and a greater ability to strike a more comfortable work-life balance. In turn, this can enable them to offer a wider range of opportunities for their children, including travel and holidays, sporting activities and pursuit of hobbies.

However, later-life parenting can also create a range of complex family dynamics arising from second time relationships, blended families bringing children from previous relationships and larger age gaps and generational differences between parents and their children. This can put strain on family relationship and require careful management of a range of legal and practical issues including:

  • Difficulties about a child’s name and identity.
  • Issues about a new partner’s exercise of parental responsibility for a step-child.
  • Difficulties managing relationships with ex-partners.
  • Issues about an ex-partner’s time, care and upbringing of your child.
  • Issues about legal status of a step-parent and the blended family unit.
  • Issues in conceiving a child with a new partner through assisted conception.

Does individual and family legacy matter?

Yes, later-life parenting also requires awareness, understanding and management of personal and legal issues affecting individual and family legacy not just for individuals but for spouses, partners, children and relatives as well. This includes the importance of Wills, inheritance provision and appointment of guardians to care for children in the event of unexpected death. It also increasingly extends to biological and genetic legacy to address unexpected illness or injury, donor conception, surrogacy, adoption, gaps in personal history or to navigate all manner of complex issues associated with direct-to-consumer DNA testing.

Click here to learn more about management of complex personal situations.

Click here to find out more about posthumous conception.

Click here to read more about the issues associated with direct-to-consumer DNA tests.

Should I get fertility and family law advice?

Yes, it is advisable to obtain specialist fertility and family law advice because assisted conception and later-life parenthood raises complex legal and wider issues. Bespoke expert fertility and family law advice helps effectively project manage your family building journey. It also enables you to identify, understand and proactively navigate a range of legal issues and risks, place your family building and life on a firm foundation and get the best outcome. In doing so, it can:

  • Legal issues and options where women and men face impaired fertility or lost fertility due to cancer diagnosis or other illness, unsuccessful conception attempts, change in gender, change in personal circumstances, delayed parenthood (e.g. fertility preservation and maximisation, management of existing personal relationships and implications of using donor gametes and fertility treatment).
  • Legal issues and options associated with assisted conception involving a known donor, co-parent or surrogate (e.g. legal parentage, parental rights, financial responsibility and dispute mitigation).
  • Difficulties with storage and use of frozen eggs, sperm and embryos in fertility treatment in the UK (e.g. problems with consent).
  • Issues associated with import of frozen gametes and embryos into the UK for use in fertility treatment and surrogacy (e.g. due to anonymous and commercially obtained gametes and embryos which engage UK public policy restrictions).
  • Issues concerning the export of frozen gametes and embryos abroad for use in fertility treatment and surrogacy (e.g. consent and storage term difficulties).
  • Unexpected death of a loved-one and related issues associated with posthumous storage and use of eggs, sperm and embryos in fertility treatment (e.g. due to an accident or illness).
  • Legal parentage issues and disputes (e.g. concerning DNA testing, direct-to-consumer genetic testing, rectification of birth certificate, declaration of parentage, step-parent adoption, recognition of overseas adoption, parental order).
  • Care and upbringing of children following a dispute with an ex-partner, parent, donor or surrogate (e.g. contact, residence, financial arrangements, parental responsibility, specific issue or prohibited steps).

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 please contact Louisa by email  or by telephone +44 (0)20 7965 8399.

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