Why do we need a lawyer?
Beginning a journey to conceive through third party reproduction involves working with skilled medical professionals, but it also requires working with knowledgeable legal professionals. “Third party reproduction” means working with donors (sperm or egg) to conceive and/or gestational carriers to carry the pregnancy. It is important that everyone involved in the reproductive arrangement understands the legal issues. Many ART arrangements cross state borders, with a donor in one state, a gestational carrier in another state and intended parents in a different state from both. Since the laws governing assisted reproduction arrangements vary significantly from state to state, things can get complicated. Protecting and establishing your rights as intended parents is a critical part of the process that requires legal attention. An experienced assisted reproduction lawyer can help guide you through the legal process of ensuring that your rights as intended parents are protected and secured.
Pre-Conception Legal Work
If you are working with a known donor and/or a gestational carrier, your lawyer will need to draft contracts. These types of contracts clarify the legal rights and obligations of the parties involved. They also address issues such as compensation, insurance coverage, lifestyle restrictions for a donor or gestational carrier and many other important details. A contract will need to be negotiated and signed by all parties involved prior to any assisted reproduction medical procedures. The intended parents will need to have their own lawyer to draft the contract. The sperm or egg donor will also need his or her own separate legal counsel to review the contract. If a gestational carrier is involved, she will also need her own lawyer to review and negotiate the contract from her perspective. Each party involved needs separate legal counsel because there is the potential for a conflict of interest between the parties. Separate counsel ensures that everyone involved fully understands the process, expectations and his or her own legal rights.
Post-Conception Legal Work
The contract alone is not the end of the legal process. Once a pregnancy is achieved, you may need to take steps to formally establish the legal parentage of the intended parents. This could be in the form of an adoption after the child is born or, if you are working with a gestational carrier, a pre-birth parentage order. Your ART lawyer will evaluate your own situation, the laws of your state, and determine the best way to protect and establish your parental rights.
How to find an ART attorney
ART law is a highly specialized area of law, and is not something your cousin who is a real estate lawyer should be handling. You will need a lawyer with experience in ART arrangements who is licensed to practice in the state that will govern the contract and the legal parentage of the child. You can find an experienced ART lawyer through a professional organization such as the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA). AAARTA is a credentialed, professional organization dedicated to the advancement of best legal practices in the area of assisted reproduction law. AAARTA attorneys must adhere to a code of ethics and have handled at least 50 ART cases prior to being accepted into membership. Find an AAARTA lawyer.
Tiffany L. Palmer is a partner and founding member of Jerner & Palmer, P.C. in Philadelphia whose practice is focused on family formation through assisted reproductive technology and adoption. Tiffany has received national recognition for her work in assisted reproduction law and was counsel to L.S. in the Pennsylvania surrogacy case, Baby S. case.