There is a Contract to Protect Your Legal Rights When You Become a Surrogate Mother
The decision to become a surrogate mother is life changing for not just the woman but her family as well. In order to make an informed decision, a potential surrogate mother needs to understand what is involved in the surrogacy process and what surrogacy requirements she will need to comply with. When first considering becoming a surrogate mother, the woman needs to:
- Be age 21-39;
- Have at least 1 child;
- Be a non-smoker, non drug-user with healthy lifestyle and weight;
- Have no major pregnancy complications;
- Have a BMI under 34;
- Have no felony convictions;
- Be a resident of a surrogacy friendly state, CA, CO, OR, IL, TX or NV;
- Be a US citizen or legal resident; and
- Have a spouse or significant other who is in agreement with the decision to become a surrogate.
Once a woman realizes that she fits the surrogacy requirements and wants to move forward, it’s time to select an agency to work with. Why an agency and not just matching up with someone who is online looking for a surrogate? Peace of mind. A surrogacy agency or medical center will have a complete system in place, with every step in the process being performed so all parties are covered legally. These centers will work with lawyers who are familiar with the surrogacy laws in their state. As a best practice, and to keep both parties in the surrogacy process protected, most agencies will make sure that the intended parents and surrogate have their own lawyers who are well-versed in surrogacy law. The intended parents pay for both lawyers.
What does a surrogacy contract cover? The surrogacy contract lays out exactly what is expected of both parties and who pays for what and when. Most agencies will have a contract that covers all the basics already but the parties involved can add to the contract before it is signed. The financial side of the basic contract will cover the surrogate’s base compensation as well as additional payments for items such as maternity clothes and child care for existing children. The contract should also determine added compensation in the case of any complications or other possible circumstances, like carrying multiples or going on bed rest. There will also be a compensation schedule set up so all parties involved know how much money gets paid at specific milestones, like starting medication injections and embryo transfer. The funds for this will be kept in a trust account set-up by the intended parents, the trust account assures the surrogate that the money will be there when it’s time for it to be paid out.
Along with the financial pieces of the contract, there will also be the social pieces that will cover the surrogate’s basic responsibilities throughout the pregnancy: abstaining from tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, for example. Most contracts also include certain social agreements between the intended parents and the surrogate, such as who will be present at key prenatal appointments and at the birth. There will likewise be a section on how many times the surrogate is willing to try to get pregnant, if selective reduction is an option if more than two embryos take, and other variables that the surrogacy contract will call out. It should also discuss the legal ramifications after the baby is born. In most surrogacy-friendly states, the intended parents can work with their attorney to file a pre-birth order. The pre-birth order essentially expedites the post-birth legal process and allows the baby to be discharged from the hospital to the intended parents. The surrogate and her spouse will need to file paperwork stating that they intended to relinquish any legal rights they have regarding the child once he or she is born. This paperwork will be provided by the lawyers for the intended parents for the surrogate and her spouse to sign before the birth of the baby.
The intended parents will be signing a contract that obliges them to follow through on:
- The promises made in the surrogate’s contract.
- The financial obligations they have agreed to.
- That they are legally and financially responsible for the child being carried by the surrogate, regardless of any health issues that may arise.
These contracts, the one signed by the surrogate and the one signed by the intended parents, are in place to protect everybody’s rights and to assure as smooth a surrogacy process as possible. When everybody’s responsibilities are agreed upon ahead of time, and the money is deposited in a trust account, there is generally a smooth and predictable surrogacy journey. As you’re researching the surrogacy process keep in mind that a good contract assures peace of mind.