Last month, I blogged about starting a family the old fashioned way in the face of infertility and/or other impediments. Adoption, whether domestic (US) or foreign, is the most popular way of starting a family when biology fails us.
As technology grows, Assisted Conception has grown to be a viable option. There are many choices, depending upon the reason these methods are chosen. The choices and the reasons for these choices must first be a medical decision between you and your doctor. As a lawyer, my comments are limited to the legal implications of those choices.
In Pennsylvania, and in most other states, a woman need not put a father’s name on the birth certificate. In vitro fertilization, where the husband and wife’s egg and sperm are used, fertilized outside of the womb, and the embryo implanted back into the woman, is treated as a natural birth.
If artificial insemination has been used to achieve a pregnancy, the sperm donor may be anonymous. Most, but not all sperm donors donate to a medical facility only if their identity is protected. A competent medical facility will have a social and medical profile of the donor and will have the receiving woman also agree to the guarantee of anonymity. If the woman is not married, the child has one parent. States may treat the woman’s partner differently. It is not uncommon for married couples of different sexes to keep the impregnation secret and to have the husband’s name put on the birth certificate. However, this is not a good idea in this era of DNA and internet issues. The same-sex partner or the husband is free to adopt the child in most states. From a lawyer’s point of view, this is the preferred method of proceeding.
In some cases, close male friends may volunteer their sperm to a woman. If this is the case, the sperm donor can be held liable for child support and may seek custody, no matter what the donor and donee agree, as there is no guarantee of anonymity. The support obligation and the right to custody last until the child is emancipated, usually at the age of 18 after graduating from high school. However different states have different rules.
Using an anonymous egg donor is also possible. Again, this method is most like artificial insemination, with the donor’s identity protected and the resultant pregnancy treated as though it was achieved through sexual relations.
Surrogacy is also an option. In gestational surrogacy, a third party female, carries the fetus for a couple. In this case, the surrogate and the child are NOT biologically related. Most frequently a surrogate in this arrangement is a close relative or close friend. Sometimes the surrogate is located through an agency or through an advertisement. In Pennsylvania, surrogacy arrangements may be allowed. However, you must carefully check the agency, the doctors, and the lawyers involved to make sure they are experienced, insured and specialize in this area. Questions of genetics, diseases and disasters must be anticipated and ruled out before you commit to these arrangements. If you do your homework, this is a viable option. In Pennsylvania, there is a procedure to ensure that the birth certificate carries the biological parents’ names, and not the surrogate’s. This should be taken care of by your lawyer prior to the birth.
Another option is to use a surrogate and her egg. The same issues as in a gestational surrogacy must be addressed, but here the birth is usually similar to an adoption, in that the surrogate’s parental rights need to be ended after the birth.
In all surrogate arrangements, the legal and medical issues are complicated. There is a lot of information on the internet, but each state treats these matters differently. The genders of the couple or the single parent, the ages, physical and financial health are only some of the issues that need to be examined. Never rush into matters, always consult first with your physician, and then with your own lawyer.
There is nothing better than beginning your family. We hope to help make it a wonderful experience for you.