With all of the medical concerns related to hiring a surrogate mother for your child, it's easy to overlook the legal concerns as well. Unfortunately, surrogacy can be a surprisingly controversial topic when it comes to state laws. Consequently, without the right legal advice, you may have trouble getting IVF treatments or obtaining parental rights to your child after he or she is born, and you could even end up in legal hot water just for hiring a surrogate in the first place.
Clinics May Not Let You In Without A Lawyer
Most clinics that perform in vitro fertilization actually require you to have a preexisting agreement with your surrogate before they will begin the procedure. This policy helps protect the clinic from any legal fallout if you end up in a dispute with your surrogate afterwards, but it can also help protect you and your surrogate.
Having a clearly stated agreement signed by both parties means that you and your surrogate both have a good understanding of what will be expected of you after the procedure. This greatly decreases the risk for arguments during gestation about responsibilities. For example, if your surrogate thinks you'll be paying for her to eat a special diet during gestation and you think she should be paying for it, not working out this disagreement before IVF is performed could result in a legal fight over who pays.
A good surrogacy agreement also puts guidelines in place for unexpected costs or situations. Who pays, for example, if the surrogate gets sick or injured for reasons unrelated to the pregnancy? Will you cover additional treatment costs if there are complications with the pregnancy? These sorts of questions must be answered in order to protect all parties, including the clinic that performs the procedure.
Your State May Make Things Difficult For You
You would think that surrogacy would be seen as a positive by everyone, but unfortunately you'd be wrong. Many states have laws that either ban surrogacy entirely or refuse to enforce legal agreements regarding the practice. In the District of Columbia, for example, you could be fined thousands of dollars or even sent to prison just for hiring a surrogate.
Fortunately, if you live in a state that isn't supportive of your desire to be a parent, you can still hire a surrogate from a different state. Legally, the most important factors are the surrogate's resident state, the location where the contract is signed and carried out, and the place where the surrogate gives birth. So if you hire a surrogate from a state that supports the practice and she carries out the pregnancy and birth there, you should be legally in the clear.
Be careful though: even in states where surrogacy is not banned, you still need to be informed on the exact laws before you hire a surrogate. Some states ban paid surrogacy but not unpaid, and some ban certain forms of surrogacy but not others. In states that simply do not enforce surrogacy agreements, you run the risk of the surrogate deciding to keep the child or making it difficult for you to gain parental rights. Hiring a surrogate from such a state should only be done with a lawyer's guidance, and only when you truly trust the woman.
The process of hiring a surrogate and supporting her throughout the pregnancy can be extremely stressful for hopeful parents, even without adding legal troubles on top of it. Be sure to talk to your lawyer about your state laws before you hire a surrogate, and vet your surrogates thoroughly before finally choosing one. As long as you make sure everyone involved is a trustworthy professional and have a qualified lawyer assist you, you should be able to quickly deal with the legal aspect of surrogacy and get on to the fun part: preparing for your new child.
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