Surrogacy offers a wonderful pathway to parenthood for couples unable to conceive or carry a child. However, unless you’re careful, legal pitfalls can doom the arrangement from the start.
For couples who cannot have children naturally, advances in reproductive technology have led to new horizons in overcoming infertility. One such advance - in vitro fertilization (IVF) - allows couples who struggle with fertility to have biological children. For those unable to carry the child to term, surrogacy is a promising pathway for bringing a son or daughter into the world.
What exactly is surrogacy?
In a gestational surrogacy arrangement, a woman who is not the child's biological mother - called the surrogate - agrees to carry and give birth to the child of another couple. Typically, the surrogate is implanted with the couple's embryo, which was conceived through IVF. In more traditional arrangements, however, the surrogate uses her own eggs to conceive the child through artificial insemination.
The legal framework for surrogacy arrangements
A surrogacy agreement is the legal foundation for the arrangement. Essentially a contract, the agreement must clearly define all parties' roles and expectations. It must address issues such as:
- Who are the child's biological and intended parents?
- Will the surrogate receive compensation for her services? How so?
- Who will cover the medical expenses associated with the surrogacy and pregnancy?
- What will happen in the event of a dispute?
As the intended parents or prospective surrogate, you should never enter into a surrogacy agreement without first consulting with a legal professional.
Why involve an attorney?
Missouri law does not expressly address surrogacy arrangements. However, it does impose a general presumption that the birth mother is the legal mother of the child and her husband is the legal father. Avoiding this presumption requires a well-written surrogacy agreement.
Because Missouri's stance on surrogacy is unclear, it is all the more important to ensure that you have a well-thought-out, carefully drafted agreement in place. A sloppy surrogacy agreement could run afoul of child trafficking laws, which make it a crime to buy or sell infants. Any compensation for the surrogate - including payment of pregnancy-related expenses - must be carefully defined to avoid rendering the agreement invalid.
Without a solid legal framework in place, a surrogacy arrangement can end in heartbreak for all involved.
If something goes awry, you could become embroiled in heated disputes over paternity and child custody. You could even end up losing the child entirely.
Choosing the right lawyer
The key to a successful surrogacy arrangement lies in choosing the right surrogate - and the right attorney. At Stange Law Firm, PC, we can help you with all aspects of the surrogacy arrangement, giving you peace of mind and hope for your new family. Based in St. Louis, our lawyers handle fertility issues and surrogacy statewide.