The start of 2022 brings renewed opportunity to revisit personal and family lives and reproductive choices, and think about goals for the year ahead.

Whilst the global Covid-19 pandemic has caused immense disruption, uncertainty and loss, better times lie ahead. As our knowledge and understanding, deployment of vaccinations and treatments evolves at pace, we will continue to adjust to the changes in our lives brought about by the pandemic and increasingly look to the future.

The New Year therefore provides an opportune time to reimagine personal lives and make plans to build a happy family life. The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us that life is short and fragile. It has also brought into sharp focus the importance of spending time with loved ones, protecting our health and fertility and proactively managing our conception and family arrangements.

It has caused many of us to take a long hard look at ourselves, our relationships and our work-life balance. The decision to have a baby or restructure personal and family life is a big step, with life-long consequences, making it important to think through decisions carefully and make informed choices.

There are many different ways to have a baby and re-shape family life. This brings a breadth of options including:

  • natural conception with a life partner
  • fertility treatment
  • unknown or identity release gamete donation
  • inter-family or known donation
  • surrogacy
  • co-parenting
  • adoption
  • posthumous conception
  • the creation of solo, same-sex, heterosexual, transgender and blended families.

It can also create a wealth of complex legal, practical and emotional questions for parents, children, donors, surrogates and modern families, compounded by the fact that there is no international harmonisation of assisted reproduction law.

Legal parentage is a critical part of the creation, stability and protection of modern families and those formed through assisted conception. However, all too often parents, children and families experience problems, uncertainty and anxiety about legal parentage in the UK and around the world. Legal frameworks applicable to modern families, birth certificates, passports, parental status and responsibility and the care and upbringing of children can also vary depending upon the circumstances of conception, relationship status, operation of English common law, statute and geographical location.

Modern family building and family life is also evolving, as are the options and implications associated with assisted reproduction and genomic technologies. Questions include:

  • Should I undergo genetic testing or get my embryos genetically tested to maximise the chances of a healthy child?
  • Should I undergo egg or sperm freezing?
  • Should I create and store embryos?
  • Should I store my child’s cord blood?
  • What would happen to my frozen eggs, sperm or embryos if my partner or I passed away unexpectedly?
  • What would happen to my eggs, sperm, embryos or family building plans if I split up with my partner?
  • How could direct-to-consumer DNA tests impact my family unit following gamete donation?
  • What legal rights would I have if my surrogate had a change of heart and tried to keep my child?
  • What would happen if a dispute arises with my co-parent or known donor?
  • Should I draw up, and how effective would a parenting, known donor, co-parenting or surrogacy agreement be?
  • What options are there for securing legal parentage for my child?

Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has caused disruption and delayed conception and family arrangements, it continues to influence and intensify trends in later-life parenting and demand for assisted reproductive and genomic technology, donor conception, surrogacy and modern family structures.

There are now more issues and options to consider than ever before in deciding when and how to create a family or re-shape our personal relationships and family lives.

Top tips for making personal and family goals and plans

I have practised family law for over twenty years and fertility law since 2008 in the UK. During this time, I have drawn alongside people from all walks and stages of life, guided them along their journeys to parenthood and informed decisions about their personal and family lives.

I have listened to their problems, issues and dilemmas and created bespoke solutions to help safeguard their fertility, maximise their family building opportunities and protect their much-wanted families. I have also witnessed their happiness, relief and peace of mind when their personal and family life has been put on a firm legal-footing.

As you start 2022, take some time to think about your personal and family goals and plans.

Proactive management helps ensure issues are identified, options are considered, pitfalls are avoided and the best outcomes are achieved.

In doing so, my top tips are:

  • Check, preserve and protect your fertility (e.g. fertility testing, egg, sperm and embryo freezing).
  • Look after your health, identify medical issues early and tackle symptoms promptly.
  • Put together a family building plan – don’t leave creating a family to chance.
  • Review your finances and budget for family creation, fertility treatment and childcare.
  • Get expert legal advice on the issues and outcomes associated with fertility treatment, family building and modern family life.

For more tailored support and advice, please feel free to contact me and make an appointment.