As mentioned in a previous blog, due to recent advents in fertility options, there has been an influx of legal battles over issues like surrogacy and frozen embryos. There are also custody issues that arise over children who are a product of these fairly recent fertility opportunities. One such custody issue that has arisen from a surrogacy pregnancy is the case of Sherri Shepherd and her ex-husband Lamar Sally. Judge Tells Sherri Shepherd - You ARE The Mother!!!, by TMZ Staff, tmz.com, April 21, 2015. The parties had a child together via surrogate, but broke up before the child was born. After the break up, Shepherd no longer wanted the child, and claimed Sally tricked her into the pregnancy so he could get child support from her.
There was recently a hearing on the issue and a Judge ruled that Shepherd is the mother of the child, and that her name belongs on the birth certificate. (Apparently Shepherd did not attend the hearing so it is unknown if the outcome would have been different had she been there to present her case.) The parties have now been ordered to meet together with a Judge to sort out child support and other issue. Now that Shepherd has been named the legal mother, she has custody and visitation rights (if she wants them), but she also has the burden of paying child support to Sally, assuming he remains as the custodial parent.
This case is interesting as it presents the issue from the opposite perspective of what we are used to seeing. Usually, the mother is taking the father to court in a paternity action. This is naturally more common because since the mother has given birth to the child, there is no question that she is the biological mother. With surrogacy, a woman other than the mother gives birth to the child. Sometimes the surrogate carries an embryo with the genetic makeup of both the mother and father. Other times, the embryo has no genetic connection to the mother, father or both. Either way, if one parent decides he/she wants out before the baby is born, an issue such as this will arise and we may see many "maternity" actions before there is a clear answer to how this issue will be resolved.