In the state of Illinois and beyond, countless families face various family law issues every single day. Some are fairly straight forward and others are complex, while others still test the boundaries of the law completely. One child custody and visitation dispute that recently climbed the ranks of its state's court system exposed weakness in legislation around the country, and illustrates how a growing number of families may face similar legal issues.
The case in question involves two couples that were friends. One couple agreed to help the other have a baby, arranging for the wife to serve as the surrogate by being impregnated with the biological father's sperm. A contract noting the surrogate mother's forfeit of any custody or parental rights was agreed to by both parties and the woman was artificially inseminated.
However, the child custody dispute came about when the surrogate decided she wanted to retain rights to the child. The first judge to rule on the case found that, indeed, the surrogate mother’s parental rights could not be subject to such an agreement, and that the contract was null and void as a result. Later, another judge ruled that the biological father would have sole custody of the child, but that the surrogate should have regular visitation rights as well.
The biological father appealed that judgment, sending the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The validity of the original contract stands once more, as the state’s highest court found that it must be included for consideration in the case when it returns to trial in a lower court. The Supreme Court also ruled, however, that the surrogate’s parental rights may still be in place.
Given the inconsistency on state surrogacy policies, this case may set precedence across the country.
Source: jsonline.com, “Supreme Court says surrogate birth contract enforceable,” Bruce Vielmetti, July 11, 2013