We met Jemimah Fleet, family lawyer from progressive Buckinghamshire Law Firm BP Collins, on her visit to Pinewood Studios recently. Jemimah spoke openly about Surrogacy, the niche area of family law she has grown to love, and the positive impact it has on so many lives.
Jemimah talked about the current legal obstacles within the climate on surrogacy law in the UK (described as ‘unwelcoming’ by Sir James Munby, the former President of the Family Division) and how it is very difficult to find a surrogate, or indeed for surrogates to come forward, due to the various restrictions concerning payments and even offering/advertising to be a surrogate. In contrast, in the USA, there is a more progressive attitude towards surrogacy which has meant that many people from the UK are drawn to go overseas.
But she is hopeful that with the proposed reforms that are presently in motion with the law commission, around the complex issues of surrogacy law, that there may well be light at the end of the tunnel.
Overall Jemimah remains positive and passionate:
‘It is a real privilege to work in this area of law’ say Jemimah ‘and I enjoy navigating the legal obstacles for clients, setting out a clear plan of action and supporting them on their surrogacy journeys.
In relation to the law commission’s current consultation and proposals to reform UK surrogacy law:
‘I absolutely welcome the proposals for regulation and reform and see it as hugely positive. I have seen an increase in the number of clients who are seeking advice on surrogacy, especially internationally, in recent years. The lack of uptake of the surrogacy process in the UK is undoubtedly due to the obstacles and uncertain legal framework that intended parents (and surrogates) currently encounter. One important issue is that the surrogate (as the birth mother) is always considered the legal mother and intended parents can only apply to court for a parental order, to be recognised as their child’s legal parents, once the child is born. This inevitably places the child in a legal limbo and vulnerable position until legal matters are resolved, which can take months.
The Law Commission’s consultation will help to reform the law which is outdated and doesn’t meet the interests and needs of those involved in surrogacy journeys. Importantly, the reform aims to ensure that the child’s welfare remains the key focus, but provides a clearer legal framework and reassurance to all those involved.’
As she touched upon aspects of her work that she was permitted to share, she told us that she has encountered some wonderful surrogates and that they usually have one or more children already, and are committed to the surrogacy journey and rarely stray from their decision to help a couple who cannot conceive. So the obstacles faced were in the law itself.
Jemimah works with single parents, same sex couples, older parents and parents who are unable to conceive naturally for medical reasons, and she feels that in spite of the current legal challenges, it is a privilege to work in a profession that brings joy to so many people.