Today I went to court in Norwich, Connecticut. I met my clients, the intended parents, B and J, and their gestational surrogate, K, and her husband. The carrier and her husband brought their 7-year old son as school was closed because of the frigid weather! Their little son was quiet, attentive and easy to have both at the court proceeding as well as during the waiting beforehand. His easy presence is indicative of how comfortable this group was together. They were happy, respectful of one another, talkative and excited.
We talked for a little while in the court corridor where I let them all know what would happen when we went before the Judge. Basically they had to be prepared for a few questions from me about signing the gestational surrogacy contract and about their rights and obligations under the agreement. For example, the Court always wants to know that the surrogate knows she has a right to make medical decisions for herself and for the baby she is carrying for as long as that baby is in utero. On the other hand, she and her husband have to know that they have no rights to the baby and no decision-making authority for the baby as soon as the baby is born.
The intended parents, as a result of today's court hearing, are the legal parents of the baby as soon as the baby is born. This is the best legal safeguard in surrogacy arrangements. It works both ways. Obviously, the intended parents want to make sure the surrogate cannot decide to keep the baby and so they are relieved when they have the pre-birth order in hand. But on the other side of the coin, the gestational carrier and her husband want to make sure that the intended parents will be there to take responsibility for the baby. They, in turn, are relieved that they will not have parental obligations.
When the case was called after a short wait, we all went up to the tables in front of the Judge, including the surrogate's son who stood quietly in court. The Judge asked me to "canvas" the parties. That means I had to ask them some questions about signing the contract and the decision-making rights as described above. After about five minutes of questions, the Judge looked over the contract and then approved it and signed the pre-birth order. The order is actually a court Judgment that removes the birth mother from the birth certificate and orders the State Department of Vital Records to issue a birth certificate with B and J's names on it. Most importantly, the Judgment states that B and J are the legal parents of the baby to be born.
Once the order is signed, we obtain certified copies and send these to the hospital and the State Department of Vital Records. This way, everyone will know what is going on at the time of the birth. With this kind of foresight and organization, with the details worked out and attended to before the due date, the birth will be a celebration and a joyful experience for all involved.