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Surrogacy: Lessons Learned from Texas Case Gone Awry

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The recent case of Joe Riggs and Jason Hanna, a married couple from Washington, D.C., who had twins using a gestational surrogate in Texas is a case that serves as an important reminder about how important it is to understand fully the legal process in a particular state and how important it is that the attorney representing the Intended Parents understands the process, has experience in successfully filing for parentage rights, understands the political considerations in his or her state as it relates to issues of establishing parentage rights and second parent adoptions, if necessary, and has thoroughly explained to their clients, any risks involved in the process.

In this case, Joe and Jason had twins, each biologically related to one of the twins. Their attorney filed a petition to have their names placed on the birth certificate and to grant each father’s petition to adopt their spouse’s biological child. The court denied their request leaving the surrogate carrier’s name on the birth certificate and not providing any legal safeguards to the parentage of these children.

In reviewing the situation, it seems that the county that the Intended Parents’ attorney chose to file was not a county that attorneys experienced in surrogacy would have chosen. While I wondered for about 3.5 seconds if this was done on purpose to bring light to the inequities and inconsistencies with the legal process as it relates to gay rights, I concluded rather quickly that I don’t think these dads were willing to gamble their parental rights on making a point in a test case.

It is imperative that surrogacy agencies who are engaged in matching Intended Parents with surrogate carriers or Intended Parents on this journey independently, thoroughly understand the issues at hand so that they can be assured that once their children are born, they can secure parentage rights.

Surrogacy is not just a process of finding and matching surrogates with Intended Parents – it involves a serious and potentially complex set of legal issues that must be analyzed carefully. One has to ensure that legal counsel has experience in bringing these cases to a successful conclusion.