Berman & Asbel, LLP

Absent clear law, surrogacy agreements need clear documentation

It's kind of amazing to think about how fast the world is changing. Just a few decades ago, the practice of in vitro fertilization was unheard of. That changed in 1978 with the birth of Louise Brown in Britain -- the first successful test-tube baby.

Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, IVF is not common but is estimated to be responsible for more than 1 percent of all births in the United States. Based on 2012 data, the CDC says there are more than 450 facilities in the country offering assisted reproduction technologies (ART). Most are in the Eastern U.S., including several in Pennsylvania.

Among several ART methods, surrogacy is one that appears to be on the rise. It's easy to understand why. The desire for family is one that many adults have and ART services may be the only way for them to realize the dream of having offspring that is genetically theirs.

Unfortunately, the family law codes of many states haven't been keeping pace with the scientific changes and where there is absence of law, there can be ambiguity. And where there is ambiguity, difficulties can arise unless detailed agreements and other documents are properly drafted and recorded.

Pennsylvania's current legal landscape on surrogacy is one that falls into the vague category. Addressing that uncertainty, whether the issue involves details of surrogacy or establishing custody and parental rights in cases of sperm or egg donation, is the kind of thing that should be left in the hands of experienced legal counsel.

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