What happens if a couple enters into a surrogate agreement and later splits?
Surrogacy and gestational carrier laws have proven historically tricky for family courts to unravel, especially if the relationship between the father, mother, and surrogate sours before the birth of the child. To better understand the dynamic, there are two types of “surrogates” involved in the process. The first, which is a traditional surrogate mother, is artificially implanted with the father’s genetics and carries the pregnancy on behalf of the intended mother. In this scenario, the surrogate is actually the biological mother of the child, and usually agrees to a “surrogacy contract” wherein she promises to relinquish all parental rights upon the birth of the child. However, these contracts are sometimes overruled in Arizona – particularly if the surrogate did not understand the terms or decides to change her mind.
Alternatively, a “gestational carrier” is a woman who is implanted with an embryo from the intended mother and father, resulting in no genetic connection between the surrogate and the baby whatsoever. While slightly preferable in terms of determining biological parenthood, the arrangement is not without problems – such as those outlined below.
Sherri Shepard ordered to pay $4,000 per month
Television personality Sherri Shepard – known for her work on The View and other daytime television shows – entered into a surrogacy arrangement with her husband and another woman in 2014. During the gestational period, Shepard and her husband divorced – leaving the fate of the baby up in the air. Citing “fraud” by her husband for purposes of collecting child support, Shepard fought the arrangement and declared she had no interest in pursuing parental rights over the child – despite the fact she was the child’s biological mother.
Nonetheless, after much legal wrangling, Shepard was ordered in July, 2015 to pay $4,000 month to her ex-husband to support the child – which will then be increased to $4,600 once the child turns 13. Shepard’s ex-husband maintains sole legal and physical custody over the child, and whether Shepard intends to relinquish her parental rights (and try to avoid child support all together) remains unclear.
If you are considering a surrogacy or gestational carrier arrangement, contact the experienced Phoenix, Arizona family law attorneys at Cohen Family Law today: (602)714-8898.