Advancements in technology have allowed countless families in Florida and the rest of the United States to expand their families through in-vitro fertilization, surrogacy and other fertility options.
However, the laws have not had enough time to catch up with the changes so it’s up to family courts to attempt to navigate these unchartered waters.
In an example of this, a former co-host of “The View,” Sherri Shepherd, is involved in a heated custody battle with her estranged husband, Lamar Sally, over a child that was born via surrogate on Aug. 5.
According to reports, the child was conceived using Sally’s sperm and a donor egg. The surrogate mother is said to have been six months into the pregnancy when Shepherd told Sally that she wanted out of the marriage.
Now, a legal question remains over whether Shepherd should be held financially responsible for the child, who is being raised solely by Sally.
Sally has asked for full custody of the baby boy and has asked Shepherd to pay child support. He is also asking that Shepherd be named the baby’s mother on the birth certificate.
However, since Shepherd is not biologically related to the child, a parent-child relationship would need to be established based on the surrogacy agreement that was signed by Sally, Shepherd and the surrogate.
Complicating the issue further is that surrogacy agreements are not legal in all states. A pretrial hearing has been set for next month in the case.
At this point, there is very little case law setting precedent on the issue. Anyone who is involved in conceiving a child through surrogacy or other artificial reproduction methods should seek guidance from an experienced family law attorney so that their rights — and the rights of the child — can be protected.
Until the courts or the state legislatures can catch up, this will continue to be a complex and contentious area of law.
Source: People, “Inside Sherri Shepherd’s Surrogate Baby Drama,” Michelle Tauber and Gabrielle Olya, Sept. 19, 2014