GoStork Interview Series: How Surrogacy Law Impacts Your Journey with Richard Vaughn, Esq. from International Fertility Law Group

Rebecca Hochreiter
CMO of GoStork

Richard Vaughn is a father to twin boys through surrogacy and egg donation. He’s also founding partner of International Fertility Law Group – one of the world’s leading firms focusing on assisted reproductive technology law. 

We had a very informative conversation – essentially a free 101 from the leading expert to help intended parents get prepared for and protected throughout their surrogacy journey, which you can view here: 

Here are some main takeaways from our Instagram Live for a (very) quick overview of surrogacy law:

First things first

Laws on egg donation and surrogacy vary from state to state. What applies in one state, may not necessarily apply in another.

What to look for when researching surrogacy attorneys

One of the first things to check is where they are licensed – they might be limited in what they can do if, for instance, they’re located in a different state to the surrogate. You should also be looking into their level of experience, who they are affiliated with or if they are a part owner in an agency you’re working with. The latter can still be okay, but if this is the case, see that you’re comfortable with such an arrangement. The important thing is that you make an informed decision.

What is the role of a surrogacy attorney in the surrogacy journey?

At a general level, the surrogacy attorney:

Experienced surrogacy attorneys also offer the following additional services: 

In Richard’s own words, “all intended parents should be thinking of the future”.

Some intended parents also prefer to share the agency agreement with an ART attorney before they sign it. An attorney can also answer any questions and help you address any concerns you may have.

What to include in a surrogacy contract

Despite the work that surrogacy entails, including all the professionals and documents involved, it’s ultimately “a human process, deeply human, very emotional and life-affirming process with real people”. 

Before getting into a contract with your surrogate:

Once contract is signed:

The surrogacy agreement also addresses the gestational carrier’s conduct during pregnancy, mainly lifestyle restrictions as part of a normal healthy pregnancy. 

Filing the parental order

The law varies from state to state so procedures and timing and the documents needed to confirm someone as a parent also differ. There are two main categories though:

Pre-birth state – the majority of states allow a pre-birth order. Basically, it’s when the attorney obtains a court order signed by a judge during a pregnancy, but this is only effective once the baby is born. Parents become legal parents upon birth.

Post-birth state – in these states, intended parents have to wait until the birth before filing a parental order.

In both cases, you’re presenting to the court an agreed petition, which tells the judge there is no dispute.

Timelines: 

Establishing parental rights – LGBTQ+ couples

As the intended parents are the legal parents, in most cases, it is not necessary for the non-genetic parent to do a further adoption. However, there are some exceptions in some states – this is yet another reason why to get a lawyer early on to see which states are more suitable for you. 

International intended parents doing surrogacy in the US

Intended parents who are not US citizens have specific considerations to make. One of the main issues to deal with is to look at your and your partner’s nationality and decide which one you want for your child. Some countries have no position on surrogacy, others are strongly anti-surrogacy. Your attorney will also advise you on how to prepare the birth certificate for the country in question.

Insurance for baby

New York’s CPSA

The CPSA became law in New York on February 15, 2021 and it legalizes compensated surrogacy for US citizens with a gestational carrier who’s been a New York resident for at least 6 months and a surrogacy attorney licensed in New York. We went into this in more detail during the Instagram Live which you can listen to here. You can also check out our article in collaboration with Richard: Compensated Surrogacy Legal in New York starting on February 15th.

To conclude…

Richard shared that the most common question they get from intended parents is, “What if the gestational carrier changes her mind?”, and from gestational carriers, “Are you sure she’s going to take the baby?” He explains that this question is normal and natural – there are extremely rare cases out there, but these things happen because best practices are ignored and steps skipped. Richard’s advice is – in any surrogacy journey – “Don’t skip steps”.

“Surrogacy is worth everything you go through – all the research, all the stress, all the money, all the time.. It’s absolutely worth it in the end.”

Richard Vaughn, Esq.

If you’re considering becoming a parent using assisted reproductive technology, the team of experienced ART attorneys and paralegals at IFLG can answer all your questions about how to legally protect your family. You can also follow IFLG on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube