Articles Tagged with “surrogacy laws”

This past April, the District of Columbia reversed a 25-year-old law that banned surrogacy contracts, which beforehand contracting with a surrogate was a criminal offense, and altruistic surrogacy could land you a $10,000 fine or even a year in jail. Laws are beginning to be updated as the meaning of family evolves and technology advances. D.C Council member Charles Allen stated, “In the District, we are a place where we respect all couples and how they choose to start a family.” This law permits intended parents to establish their legal parentage during the pregnancy, so their names can be printed listed on the birth certificate upon the child’s birth. As well as allowing intended parents to be paid for carrying their child. The law applies to any intended parent(s), whether single, married, gay, or straight.

The Council has set out a list of agreement guidelines that the parties must follow, including: the surrogate being over the age of 21 and having delivered her own child, both parties having independent counsel, and both parties passing a psychological evaluation. Several states still have minimal or no laws that regarding surrogacy. For example, while Indiana has an antiquated statute regarding the unenforceability of surrogacy contracts (click here to read more about this statute and why surrogacy agreements are nevertheless completed in Indiana) and no other statutory laws on surrogacy, Indiana has strong case law that provides a favorable environment for the establishment of parentage in children born through surrogacy.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients in all areas of family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy, and other areas of reproductive law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

icelander-flag-large-300x216In just a few short weeks, the Supreme Court of Iceland will rule on its first surrogacy case involving two women who wish to be recognized as the legal parents of their child born via gestational surrogacy. A U.S. surrogate carried the same-sex couple’s child, which was created using donor egg and sperm. The baby was born in 2013 and received a US passport and citizenship. The intended mothers established their legal parentage in the U.S., but things became complicated when the mothers tried to return to Iceland with the child. Surrogacy is illegal in Iceland, and when the mothers tried to register their child as an Icelandic citizen and themselves as the child’s legal parents, the National Registry of Iceland rejected the registration attempt. Although the child eventually received Icelandic citizenship and an identity number, the mothers sued the National Registry and the Icelandic State because they were only granted a fostering agreement rather than legal parentage.

This decision will have a great impact in Iceland because it will affect many couples and individuals who wish to have children through gestational surrogacy. This case also shows that in many countries, the laws are a bit lagging on how to address surrogacy. Make sure to stay tuned for a follow up blog post about the Supreme Court of Iceland’s decision.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

Spain
Last month, the Supreme Court of Spain issued a landmark ruling that recognizes the right to paid maternity leave for parents of children born through surrogacy. Although gestational surrogacy is illegal in Spain, the Court held that the need to take care of children outweighs any legal barriers set forth by Spain’s surrogacy ban. The decision also extends various rights to mothers of children born through surrogacy, such as a reduced workday for nursing mothers and the right to take one year of unpaid leave after the maternity leave. Spaniards who seek to build their family through surrogacy must go abroad, and two such scenarios, one involving a surrogacy arrangement in the United States and the other in India, set this case in motion.  In October, Spain’s congress also voted to equalize paternity and maternity leave, awarding fathers the same sixteen weeks of paid maternity leave that mothers receive.

The decision comes at a time when the issue of maternity benefits is in the spotlight in the United States.  A New Jersey woman is suing her former employer, Verizon Network Solutions, for denying her paid maternity leave when she had children through surrogacy in 2013. Various arguments exist for both sides of the issue. For example, some posit that since mothers of children born to a gestational surrogate did not give birth, they do not need time to recover physically. This argument is often used to justify the denial of extended paternity leave for fathers. On the other hand, proponents of maternity benefits for mothers of children born through surrogacy contend that a new mom needs time to bond with the baby, especially when she did not carry the child.

Although the Verizon lawsuit is one of the first of its kind (there was a federal lawsuit to claim benefits for paid leave by a woman who had children through surrogacy in 2011, but the case was ultimately dismissed), this issue is likely to become more prevalent as gestational surrogacy continues to grow as a family-building option. Stay tuned to our blog for more discussions on emerging reproductive law issues.

8-10-09-193-thumb-667x1000-60849As gestational surrogacy continues to increase in the United States, so do opportunities to observe its trends and outcomes. Many states presently permit gestational surrogacy, although the laws vary by state and are rapidly evolving. Researchers from the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility compiled information regarding the below trends arising from the continued practice of gestational surrogacy in the United States:

  • In the past 15 years, the number of gestational carrier cycles has grown by more than 470%.
  • Almost 70% of fertility clinics throughout the country now offer gestational surrogacy.

Constitutional
A California woman, Melissa Cook, who agreed to act as a surrogate for a single man, is seeking custody of one of the children after giving birth to triplets. The intended father allegedly requested a reduction, as he only wanted twins. Cook is challenging the constitutionality of a clause in the contract that allegedly allowed the intended father to request a reduction.

Californian law currently permits commercial surrogacy, but Cook is aiming to change that, hoping that the court will deem both the contract and the law unconstitutional. Cook’s lawyer claims that children born through a surrogacy arrangement have a “fundamental right to get to know and love their mother,” and that the current law in California violates that right.

After a state court ruled against her, Cook appealed and is now waiting for a decision. The court will determine whether a surrogate mother has any parental rights and whether commercial surrogacy is constitutional. The court will also consider whether a surrogate may be sued for damages by an intended parent.

when-the-bough-breaks.jpgLast week, one of our staff members went to the movies and saw a trailer for a film called “When the Bough Breaks.” The movie features a married young professional couple unable to conceive naturally, so they decide to pursue surrogacy. They match with a seemingly perfect surrogate and she becomes pregnant with their child. As her pregnancy progresses, she develops an obsession with the intended father, and attempts to seduce him. When he dismisses her advances, she becomes psychotic and threatens to hurt the baby. According to the official synopsis, “the couple becomes caught up in [the surrogate’s] deadly game and must fight to regain control of their future before it’s too late.” Sony Pictures Entertainment is marketing the film as a thriller, using the tagline “Find out how #ItAllWentWrong.” Our staff member was not only appalled by the entire plotline, but also by disturbing scenes such as one where the surrogate dangles a knife over her belly after the intended father rebuffs her advances.

While such plots make for juicy storylines that may attract moviegoers, these depictions of surrogacy are inaccurate and misleading. Surrogacy is normally an overwhelmingly positive experience for both the intended parents and the gestational surrogate. Gestational surrogates are scrupulously screened by agencies. Many fertility clinics require that the intended parents and the surrogate complete a mental health evaluation prior to starting the surrogate’s medications. The parties must usually stipulate in their surrogacy agreement that they have undergone mental health evaluations and that they have discussed the potential psychological risks with a mental health professional. In the unlikely event that something goes wrong, it hardly resembles the plot in “When the Bough Breaks.” More realistic issues that may arise can include disagreements during the contract negotiation phase, pregnancy complications requiring bed rest, or insurance-related uncertainties. Agencies, clinics, physicians, attorneys, social workers, and other professionals work tirelessly to ensure that gestational surrogacy arrangements are based on the underlying principle of good faith. While the emergence of problems in a surrogacy is not inconceivable, the level depicted in “When the Bough Breaks” is extreme and sensationalized.

To those who enjoy thrillers and plan to “find out how #ItAllWentWrong” when the film hits theaters in September, we encourage you to keep in mind that this movie does not accurately represent surrogacy. For an excellent and thought-provoking read on another recent misrepresentation of surrogacy, this time on television, check out this blog post by attorney Rich Vaughn from the International Fertility Law Group.

Gavel and Earth2.jpgOnce the gestational surrogacy agreement is executed, the legal work is not always complete. Depending on the state, Intended Parents may need to establish their legal parentage in the courts. Intended Parents pursuing this route file pleadings with the court and then obtain a court order declaring their parentage (assuming the court grants their petition). The terms “pre-birth order” or “post-birth order” may come to mind here, and Intended Parents should consult with an attorney to determine what the state’s laws permit as well as what type of court order they should seek. This begs the question of where the Intended Parents should file for parentage.

Intended Parents should file for parentage in the state where the child is born. They must complete all of their court pleadings and any other necessary legal documents in accordance with the laws of that state. This is especially important to note for Intended Parents who live in a different state than the Gestational Surrogate. It’s imperative that Intended Parents consult with an experienced reproductive law attorney who is familiar with that state’s surrogacy laws to assist them with filing for parentage. Remember that surrogacy laws vary among the states, and each state may have different procedures to establish legal parentage.

The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients in all areas of family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.

france+flag.jpg
The Cour de cassation, France’s highest court, ruled last week to legally recognize children born abroad through surrogacy. The decision stems from two cases where the respective fathers sought birth certificates for their children born to surrogates in Russia.

The ruling legally connects the children to their parents, and registers them as French citizens. France did not previously recognize the children’s foreign birth certificates, and they were unable to obtain identification cards, French passports, state health care, and other services to which French citizens are entitled. Children born to surrogates abroad are now granted the same legal rights as French-born children. Although surrogacy remains illegal in France, this holding remedies the situation of children stuck in legal limbo as a result of France’s failure to grant them legal recognition.

The court’s decision follows several recent European rulings that have been favorable to surrogacy. In December 2014, Germany’s highest court ordered Germany to legally recognize children born through surrogacy. The European Court of Human Rights issued two similar rulings in June 2014. Stay tuned to our blog for more updates in the evolving field of surrogacy law.

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On December 19th, 2014, the highest court in Germany issued a landmark ruling that recognizes German intended parents as the legal parents of children born through surrogacy. The case involved a same-sex couple whose child was born through a surrogate in California. A California court issued a decision that the couple was the legal parents of the child. Upon their return to Germany, the couple petitioned the Berlin courts for a birth certificate listing them as the child’s parents. However, this request was denied because under German law, the California surrogate was considered the child’s mother. The couple appealed the decision, and the Berlin appellate court upheld the refusal to recognize the couple as the child’s parents. The court reasoned that the California court order was null and void in Germany, where surrogacy agreements are against public policy. The appellate court held that German law superseded; therefore only the woman who gave birth could be the child’s legal mother.

The couple further appealed the decision in the Federal Supreme Court, which reversed the previous courts’ rulings. The court ordered that the couple be registered as the child’s legal parents, reasoning that the California court order requires the presumption of validity under the comity principle and that German courts may not question a foreign court’s ruling. The court explained that comity can only be surmounted if the foreign ruling is incompatible with the basic principles of German law. Although German law prohibits surrogacy, the court established that a child born through surrogacy did not control the circumstances of its birth and is entitled to have legal parents. The court also reasoned that denying the couple legal parentage would be incompatible with basic human rights, as the child’s mother is not recognized as such in her jurisdiction and is not prepared to take responsibility for the child.