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Kara Swift
Kara Swift
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Lady Hale speaks on the evolution of the concepts of marriage and family

Date:10 JUL 2019
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Lady Hale, President of the Supreme Court, has given a speech at the International Centre for Family Law, Policy and Practice on the subject of ‘What is a 21st Century Family?’. In her speech, given on 1 July but published yesterday by the Supreme Court, Lady Hale considers the evolution of the concept and history of the institution of marriage and the changes to the role of the family. 

In her speech, she concludes that ‘three things stand out from the developments of the last 50 years:

‘The first is an increasing desire and respect for individual autonomy in adult decision-making – by both men and women. … At the same time, we increasingly respect their decisions to bring their adult relationships to an end and their autonomy in deciding upon the financial consequences of doing so... 
Secondly, at the same time, the interests of the children involved are increasingly seen as paramount… Their rights to understand and develop their relationships with their parents – of all sorts – while feeling secure in their care arrangements lie at the heart of this. So children’s interests are seen as being individual to them in a way that would have been unthinkable in the past.
But thirdly, therefore, is there a tension between these two evolving trends? Can we allow adults their individual autonomy if this conflicts with the best interests of their children? To what extent should the shouldering of child and family care responsibilities be compensated by the family, as its own little social security system, rather than the state?’
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In her speech, she also talks extensively on the subject of surrogacy, with regards to the Law Commission’s consultation paper ‘Building families through surrogacy: a new law’.

She summarises the key proposals for reform as:

  • ‘The creation of a new pathway to legal parenthood in surrogacy, which will allow intended parents to be legal parents from birth
  • Requirements and safeguards for the new pathway
  • A regulator for surrogacy
  • Removal of a requirement of a genetic link between the intended parents and the child where medically necessary (although a genetic link will still be required for international arrangements)
  • Creation of a register to allow those born of surrogacy arrangements to access information about their origins
  • Unified guidance on nationality and immigration issues, and provision for recognition of legal parenthood across borders’.

The consultation period is open until 27 September 2019. Comments and responses to the consultation can be sent using the online form.

Lady Hale’s speech can be read in full here.