Modern families have evolved to include same-sex couples, step-children, blended families, and surrogate pregnancy. While the notion of modern marriage has changed, so has the modern divorce. The case that once was about a custody battle over an unborn child has now become a more complicated debate about giving up a child born through surrogacy. According to The New York Post, a woman with a pending surrogate child on the way is facing a divorce—and no longer wants custody of the unborn child.
When sorting through the messy finances of a divorce, a judge will also be forced to decide who will get custody of the child and who will be required to pay for a child conceived through surrogate reproductive technology. Our Birmingham child custody attorneys are experienced in helping Alabama parents protect their rights and the best interests of their children. In addition to providing informed and strategic advocacy to parents facing custody disputes, we are abreast of legal developments that may impact families throughout the state and nationwide.
Though the divorce is still being litigated and the child is not yet born, the cases raises questions about surrogacy technology as well as the importance of court intervention. Sherri Shepherd is a 47-year-old and former TV host of “The View” who is divorcing her estranged husband. The couple married only three years ago and during that time conceived a child using a surrogate. The surrogate was impregnated through in-vitro fertilization and contracted to carry the child through birth.
The case is heating up and creating waves in both the legal world and in the medical community. According to TMZ, Shepherd has amassed a personal fortune of about $10 million and though she paid for the costs of in-vitro and the surrogate, she does not plan to pay the expenses for the unborn child. Her argument is that she is not the biological mother of the child, even though she commissioned the pregnancy. She wants to give up all parental rights and obligations, raising the question—who is legally responsible for a surrogate child?
According to The New York Post, the baby, conceived by the estranged husband's sperm and a donor egg, is due later this month. Some legal analysts claim that it is possible she could evade all obligations. In this case, Social Services may become involved and it is possible that the infant will wind up in foster care. This case is seen as a personal and legal disaster, both for the unborn child and for parents who are seeking medical technology to help conceive a baby. In typical cases, a surrogate may receive $40,000 for carrying a baby, plus lawyer's fees and costs of egg donation. It is possible that this pregnancy was a $150,000 investment and now the child has no clear legal guardians.
Critics say that the system exploits women who can make money carrying children for the rich, while the wealthy have no duty to provide continued an ongoing care for unborn children. Other celebrity couples have gone the surrogacy route, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Mathew Broderick. Though agreements for surrogate births are recognized as valid in California, it is unknown how the court will rule in determining parental responsibilities. As a legal defense, Shepherd filed divorce papers in New Jersey, where surrogacy agreements are not recognized. This could give her full custody of the child and the right to give up her parental duties.
Contact Birmingham divorce and family law attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.