A surrogate baby's birth in Leicester has led to a High Court judge warning parents about informal arrangements.
The boy was born at Leicester Royal Infirmary four years ago in a surrogacy agreement between two friends.
Justice Eleanor King said a relationship breakdown led to a row over custody and all parties seeking court recognition of parenthood.
Calling it a "cautionary tale" she said "serious difficulties" could arise when regulated clinics were not involved.
She said licensed fertility clinics would consider the welfare of a surrogate child and provide counselling services, including advice and information about the repercussions of a surrogacy.
'Valuable cautionary tale'
In the case a friend had acted as a surrogate mother for a couple, said the judge.
The couple's relationship broke down a few months after the birth and the surrogate mother left with the child.
Family court proceedings then began to determine recognition for the boy's legal mother and who should have parental responsibility.
Justice King added: "Whilst ultimately, the parties have been able to agree a way forward in the interests of the child.
"The facts of this case stand as a valuable cautionary tale of the serious legal and practical difficulties which can arise where men or women, desperate for a child of their own, enter into informal surrogacy arrangements, often in the absence of any counselling or specialist legal advice."
She said it was hoped procedures could soon be introduced at health authorities in England and Wales to give surrogacy information and advice.
"Outside the regulated clinics, advice is hard to find, there are few firms of solicitors specialising or even passingly knowledgeable in the field."
"Surrogacy is... becoming increasingly common and the number of applications for parental orders around the country is increasing rapidly, particularly since the amendments to (legislation) now quite properly allow same sex and single women to apply for parental orders."