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Monday, March 23, 2015

Protecting Your Parental Rights—What You Need to Know About New Jersey’s Gestational Surrogacy Law

For couples who can’t conceive and in cases where in-vitro fertilization is not a viable alternative, surrogacy has become a popular method for couples to have a child. An even more attractive option for parents, ‘gestational surrogacy’ involves a couple using their own genetic material to create an embryo. That embryo gets implanted in the surrogate who carries the baby to term, but has no biological relation to the child. But in cases where the miracle of modern science has enabled couples to fulfill their dreams of having a family, the law in New Jersey has yet to catch up. The good news is that changes to the law to protect parental rights are beginning to take shape. 

Today, despite the lack of biological connection between surrogate and child, many states recognize the surrogate’s right as a parent under the law. Under New Jersey law, the gestational carrier has three days to decide if she wants to relinquish her parental rights. While certain measures can be taken in advance to minimize the likelihood of a problem, this legal acknowledgement of the surrogate often gives rise to custody battles as soon as the baby is born.

Recently, Senator Joseph Vitale re-introduced a bill that would update New Jersey’s current surrogacy law building in legal protections for parents. The most important aspect of the new bill is that it completely eliminates the three-day waiting period in which the surrogate may parental rights providing much needed peace of mind for those entering into the surrogacy process. Other key components of the bill include:

Establishing basic guidelines for women who wish to be a surrogate such as requiring that she be at least 21 years old, undergo a psychological evaluation, had given birth previously, and that she retain an attorney; and

Allowing the gestational carrier to be compensated for housing, clothing, and legal costs.

Those additional components of the proposed law, while directed at the surrogate, actually help prospective parents who can be comforted in the fact that their surrogate is mature, emotionally prepared to handle carrying their child and is receiving independent legal counsel.

Currently, the bill has passed the Senate and will move to the Assembly for further consideration. Making the decision to become a parent creates both enormous joy and responsibility, and as surrogate parents protecting your legal rights can be just as important as selecting the right formula.


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