While building a family through surrogacy requires teamwork, the intended parent’s role in the process is key. You are ultimately the one who makes decisions about your journey, and it’s important to go into the process with knowledge and a general plan.
Why should an intended parent work with a gestational carrier through an agency?
Working with an agency always reduces the risk of complications. An agency has the experience that you naturally don’t - they have managed and seen a variety of issues and can help you navigate them. In order to find an established agency that meets your needs, there are several initial questions you need to ask:
How long have they been established?
What is their screening process for surrogates?
What do they do to protect your finances?
What role will the agency/case manager play throughout the process?
Other important things to consider as an intended parent are financial expectations and insurance options. Both of these issues should be addressed thoroughly with the agency. Explore, too, the kind of relationship you’d like to have with your surrogate. A good agency will take your wants and needs, as well as those of the surrogate, into consideration when matching you. They will help guide you all in developing a relationship that is comfortable, regardless of your locations. Consider how often you plan to have contact through phone, email or Skype, and when you’ll get together for appointments and other events. Giving your preferred relationship some consideration before going into the process will help you express what you need and will, in turn, help shape a smoother journey with your surrogate.
How long does the whole surrogacy process take?
The length of the process depends on several factors. Intended parents should plan on a year and a half from the time they sign on with an agency until they have a child, although it can be quicker or longer depending on the legal requirements involved, citizenship requirements, and the course of the IVF treatment.
What does the legal process involve before and after the birth?
Your agency will coordinate with local attorneys to ensure that you are properly matched with a surrogate in a state where you can accomplish the necessary legal work to finalize your parental rights. Once you are matched, contracts are negotiated with independent attorneys who represent the surrogate. Depending on a variety of factors, your surrogacy legal work may include a pre-birth order, a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, a judgment of paternity, a custody order, or an adoption.
Will I need an attorney?
Yes. For everyone’s protection, legal agreements must be signed between intended parents and their surrogate and egg donor. If you live outside the United States, you may find it advantageous to work with an immigration attorney from your home country. You should consult with a family law attorney and immigration specialist in your country for help finalizing your parental rights and the child’s citizenship when you return.
Can I be a parent if I’m single?
Of course! Most agencies work with intended parents of all backgrounds—single individuals, same-sex couples, and heterosexual couples.
What if I’m in a same-sex relationship?
Same-sex couples often need the assistance of a surrogate and egg donor, and there are certain things to take into consideration. Legal representation for LGBT intended parents is arranged through an agreement with the agency. Intended parents will negotiate agreements with both the surrogate and egg donor, who are represented by separate counsel. Based on where you and your surrogate reside, the post-birth legal work that is necessary to secure your parental rights will vary. Many same-sex couples are encouraged to choose second-parent adoption when available. In these instances, judgment of paternity, completion of adoption or obtaining a custody order is done before returning home with the baby.
If I live outside of the United States, how many visits will I have to make?
You will be required to come to the United States at least 2 times (for the creation of the embryos at the IVF Clinic and the eventual delivery of the child), but it is more common for international intended parents to visit about 4 times during the process. The first preferred visit is to meet your surrogate once you are matched and complete the medical screening at the IVF clinic. The second is for the IVF procedure and embryo transfer. The third visit is for the 20-week ultrasound scan. And the final visit is for the birth of your child. Of course, if you and your surrogate choose, you can visit more frequently.
How long should I expect to be in the United States during and after the delivery?
This varies based the legal work required and the procedures in the state in which the child was delivered. As a general rule, international intended parents are advised to plan on returning home approximately 2-4 weeks after discharge from the hospital, to allow ample time for any DNA testing, court proceedings, the issuance of any birth certificates and the application for any visas and/or passports.
John Weltman is a dad through surrogacy, a lawyer and the founder of Circle Surrogacy.
He was the first to establish the right of couples to get insurance coverage for gestational surrogacy in Massachusetts, and has repeatedly obtained pre-birth orders, step parent and second parent adoptions for gay and straight couples and singles throughout the country.
Circle Surrogacy believes in helping couples and individuals build the families they deserve. Bringing together intended parents, surrogates, and egg donors, they strive to achieve a world in which fertility and sexual orientation are no longer barriers to that dream. For more information, visit www.circlesurrogacy.com.