What Legal Issues Face Couples Who Try Surrogacy In Europe?

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While many couples around the world can decide to start a family by just allowing the woman in the relationship to become pregnant, not everyone has this path easily open to them. Some couples, for example, are the same sex, and so it’s biologically impossible for a pregnancy to occur between the two people. Other couples have serious medical obstacles, such as a heart condition that would put both mother and child at risk or a hysterectomy that beat cancer by removing the uterus, and thus the childbearing capability.

Fortunately, we now live in a time when these couples don’t have to accept a life without children. Alternatives do exist, such as surrogacy, where another medically suitable woman agrees to become pregnant on behalf of a hopeful couple. Once the infant is born, that baby is then united with the new parents so life as a family can begin. There is, however, a new wrinkle in the growing popularity of surrogacy, as many couples now consider leaving their home country and going abroad to continents like Europe to undertake their surrogacy journey there. This is often done for many different reasons, such as better financing, but for those who choose this path, there may be legal considerations to face.

Legality Of Compensated Surrogacies

For some hopeful families, one of the important features of surrogacy early on is the ability to have a lot of choices for available surrogate mothers to choose from. However, having a wide range of suitable candidates available at any one time is largely dependent on whether compensated surrogacies are permitted in a particular country. Every country that permits surrogacy permits a type called “altruistic surrogacy,” which is where a woman volunteers her time and personal resources to help a couple with no expectation of any profit or financial return. It’s easy to see why, when a woman is sacrificing her time and body for nine months with no expectation of reward, women who are willing to do this are understandably fewer.

Compensated surrogacy, however, is where there is significant financial recognition of the role the surrogate mother plays. The recognition is often significant enough to make a big difference in a woman’s life, so there is usually a much wider pool of willing candidates. However, not every country in Europe permits compensated surrogacies. The United Kingdom, for example, only allows altruistic surrogacies. So, the legal status of the type of surrogacy you want is a major factor.

Legality Of Couple Status

Another issue that must be looked at is how progressive a country is when it comes to accepting the status of a couple. There are some countries, for example, where even though surrogacy services are offered, and even compensated surrogacies are permitted, these surrogacy services will only be offered to “traditional couples” of a man and woman. Same-sex couples will be refused these services.

So, if you are a same-sex couple, then your legal status may or may not be an issue, depending on which countries you are looking to engage their clinics or agencies for surrogacy services. Look carefully into this issue, and be as transparent about it as you can when talking to clinics and agencies so as to avoid negotiating for surrogacy only to find it denied at a later stage once it comes out that legal conditions make it impossible to service you because you are not considered a valid couple in that country.

Legal Custody

For hopeful parents who want absolute peace of mind when it comes to matters of child custody and legal guardianship, even countries that permit surrogacy don’t always have clearly laid out laws protecting parental rights. Most of the time, this isn’t an issue, as carefully laid out legal contracts are usually enough to provide the legal framework parents will need to ensure they are recognized as a child’s legal guardians.

However, some countries take things a step further and ensure that even in national or federal level documents such as the constitution, parental rights in surrogacy cases are both recognized and protected. Greece, for example, is the only country in the European Union that has parental rights enshrined in its constitution in cases of surrogacy.


A final legal consideration to face when going to Europe is ensuring the legal status of the newborn as a citizen of the country you intend to return to is properly enacted. Returning home with a baby, especially if the woman in the relationship was not pregnant when leaving, in no way guarantees automatic citizenship status upon return.

In many cases, a couple will need to consult with the laws of both the surrogacy country, and the laws of their intended country of residence, to see what steps must be taken to apply for and acquire citizenship for a newborn baby. Failure to do this before arrival may even mean a child is legally “stateless” and not allowed to enter the country.