While surrogacy is full of complexities, signing the legal contract may feel like one of the most overwhelming moments in the process. With all of the nuances and legal jargon, it can be difficult to understand exactly what you’re committing to.
It’s important to remember, though, that the contracts are for your protection, and that’s why it’s imperative that both you and your surrogate have experienced representation. If you’re new to surrogacy, you may not only be considering why you need an attorney but also how to know if you are hiring the right surrogacy attorney.
We’ll explore 7 reasons it’s so important to hire legal representation for surrogacy.
In an already complicated journey, the legal portion has the potential to make or break your entire surrogacy experience. At ConceiveAbilities, we take our services one step further to alleviate stress by offering an in-house legal department, so you don’t have to worry about where to find an attorney. Not only does this streamline the complexity of surrogacy contracts, it gives you the peace of mind that they’re being drafted properly.
Surrogacy laws change by state – sometimes even by county. And they can change rapidly. It’s imperative that your attorney is attuned to the current laws where your surrogate lives and where your child will be born.
“One of my many duties is to make sure I find the legal team in each state,” explains Meg Ledebuhr, J.D., ConceiveAbilities’ Director of Legal Services. “I’ve done the legwork to find the golden legal team for both the intended parents and the surrogate.” You will need separate representation, so attorneys who are well versed in the current law in both your state and your surrogate’s state will help prevent any surprises. According to Meg, “I find not only the most talented and experienced in each state,” but she also confirms that they are still active in the courtroom, connecting with the hospital and – this part is key – that they offer good customer service. “They need to be responsive to the agency and the intended parents.”
A conversation with your surrogacy attorney not only addresses your legal questions, but it can also explain what you should realistically expect from your surrogate and the hospital. Discussing who will be in the delivery room when the baby is born, for example, who can make certain medical decisions, and whether the hospital will accept a pre-birth order based on state law are important points to reference in the contract. This keeps everyone on the same page and can help prevent any unnecessary surprises.
It’s one of the most basic but critical aspects of the surrogacy process: establishing your legal parentage to your baby. Either a legal document must be signed or a court order must be obtained with the legal parents’ names. Since the laws vary by state, a surrogacy attorney will help you strategize the most efficient way to get this done. Working with an agency that has in-house legal counsel mitigates risk even further by establishing a plan before you’re matched with a surrogate.
It’s not just one legal document you’ll be reviewing as an intended parent; you can reasonably expect to sign multiple surrogacy contracts, a birth certificate, estate planning documents, and apostille documents. A surrogacy attorney will help you navigate the best way to minimize risk across the board.
The relationship between intended parent and surrogate can look different for each match. Whether it’s a close one with regular contact and open dialogue, a more streamlined, business-like arrangement, or anything in between, an experienced attorney and an in-house legal team can establish details in the contract that respect and uphold the rights of all parties without anyone feeling uncomfortable.
There is one thing intended parents simply don’t have when it comes to surrogacy law: experience. No amount of research or speaking to other parents who have been through the process can give you the same benefit of experience as a reputable surrogacy attorney.
Practicing family law is not the same thing as fertility law. “Many do say they practice fertility law because it’s a fantastic area of law; however, it’s very nuanced,” Meg says. “It’s important not to take someone at face value. They may understand their state’s parentage law, but fertility law is different.”
At ConceiveAbilities, we recognize the need for professional support and experience throughout your surrogacy journey. Our legal team offers you the greatest protection in this crucial step. If you’d like to learn about surrogacy in your state, contact us for more information.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.