Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs

What Makes your Agency Stand Out?

What makes your agency Stand Out?

We have a different philosophy here. We are not driven by money. We don’t make decisions based on money. We want to help people that need help and we want the Surrogate Mothers to be appropriate. Sometimes there is a longer waiting list for a couple because we’re just not finding the right standard in a Surrogate Mother and we are just really careful with that.

We do psychological evaluations for everyone, including the Intended Parents. There is no test to determine what kind of parents they will be. But it tells us if they have the coping skills to weather a surrogate arrangement. Even when things go great it’s still one of the hardest things they will ever have to do. We want to make sure that there is not going to be a breakdown and they are not too fragile to withstand the process. We are pretty much the only agency that does that.

And we find that the Surrogate Mothers appreciate that because we are ensuring that the couples are appropriate. And the couple knowing all the evaluations that we do to ensure that their baby is going to ultimately be safe is greatly appreciative.

I would say that the last thing that would be is the contact that we have with everyone. We are literally available to our Couples and their Surrogate Moms 24/7. We are with them in good times and bad times we don’t leave their side until we all reach our goal together.
Carol Weathers

Where are your Surrogate Mothers from?

Where are your Surrogate Mothers from?

Carol Weathers:
They are actually all from Southern California.

And how do you select a Surrogate Mother?

The fact that they are local helps us be really involved and have personal contact during the application process. Besides the obvious height-weight range and health and excellent pregnancy history, we also conduct an in-home study and visit with her and her husband and kids. We want to see that she’s living in a good environment.

We feel that we are walking in as the intended parents and how would we feel if our baby is growing here.

If all that goes well we send her and her husband on to the psychologist. If she is qualified she will be recommended for the program and be available for matching at that time.

Do you meet with all the Surrogate Mothers yourself?

Myself or my staff but I do meet with everyone before they come into the program.

Where do your Intended Parents come from?


Where do your Intended Parents come from?

Carol Weathers:
Literally all over the world. I have couples here in Southern California and all throughout the United States and different countries in Europe, South America and Australia now.

They find me through the internet and Google. More often they are referred to me by their treating physician in their own country or a clinic here. They have to be medically recommended for the program and psychologically cleared as well.

Do you work with other Professionals?


Do you work with other Professionals?

Carol Weathers:
I do. I have a team of professionals that I work with. Dr. Vesna Radojevic is the psychologist for our program and she is the only psychologist that I work with. I depend on her abilities so much and I trust her completely. She has been able to determine who is the right fit for our program for the Surrogate Mothers and Intended Parents. There are two attorneys that I refer to that I completely trust also to handle the couples case and as well as the money. There are a small handful of clinics in southern California that I work with. They do a great job and we have excellent success.

What is your favorite experience with Surrogacy?

What is your favorite experience with Surrogacy?

Carol Weathers:
Well that’s a really difficult question to answer because there is so much beauty in Surrogacy and so many milestones that are incredible. We get excited when we introduce the couple and the Surrogate Mother for the first time. When we see the pregnancy ultrasounds those are incredible because we get to see the baby for the first time. If you have to say your favorite part I think we would all agree that it’s the birth. It’s our mission and our goal and we’re all together and it’s the most beautiful part that we do.

How did your Agency go from a Small Start-up to an Internationally Renowned Program?

How did your agency go from a small start-up to an internationally renowned program?

Carol Weathers:
When I first opened my agency my children we still small and they were my first priority. I didn’t want to take on too many cases, five at the most, and I could still be a mom and a wife and take care of my family. It didn’t take long for news of my agency to get out there. And before I knew it my waiting list was getting really long. So I slowly increased a few cases each year. And finally I was contacted by physicians in Europe and they had asked if they could begin referring their clients and I knew then that I had to kick-it to higher gear and turn it into a larger program. I hired some staff and here we are.

Why did you Decide to Open a Surrogacy Agency?

Why did you Decide to Open a Surrogacy Agency?

Carol Weathers:
Well I did a lot of research before I decided to become a Surrogate. Initially I was living in Texas and it was illegal there and there was no way I was going to be able to fulfill that dream. When we moved to California I discovered not only that it was legal but that there were 2 agencies here. And today that’s nothing but it was nice to have 2 choices when I got here. But I found one to be very cold, it was definitely a business transaction. I understood that in some of the arrangements that the Surrogate and the Couple never even met. And the other had the warmth but lacked the organization. So I knew that there was a definitely need for an organized but warm agency that couples could come to and feel same, surrogates as well and be able to fulfill their dream of becoming parents. And that’s what I did.

Have you ever been a Surrogate Mother?

Have you ever been a Surrogate Mother?

Carol Weathers:
You know I have. Seventeen year ago almost exactly, July 1993 I delivered a baby girl for a couple who had struggled to have kids. It was the most amazing experience. It really affects everyone, my husband, my kids; I remember clearly when I first discussed it with my husband. He was like “are you sure? I’m struggling with the idea of you not keeping the baby”. I haven’t been a surrogate before but I explained to the best of my ability “It’s not ours. It’s not our baby”. There is somebody just like my brother and his wife who need our help. And so he said, “I love you, I’m going to support you, let’s just do it.” The kids were young and weren’t super informed but they understood the basic principle of this and thought it was the coolest thing. My daughter wanted to take me to school for show and tell. The best I could explain it to them. Especially near the end is that I love this baby, how could I not. But as one human being to another she had a mom to take care of her and do everything that a mom is supposed to do. I felt that I didn’t have to go there emotionally and bond in that way. So when it finally came time for the delivery and my husband saw this couple with their new baby and were crying and were happy he said, “I totally get it now.” So what I felt what and what I believed in the beginning certainly came to pass and it was the most beautiful experience I think our whole family has ever experiences.

How did you First Learn about Surrogacy? – Carol Weathers

How did you First Learn about Surrogacy?

Carol Weathers:
I’ve been exposed to infertility pretty much my whole life. I have an older brother whose wife couldn’t have children. And we all went through that with him, with the suffering. But thank God that they eventually did adopt 2 children. That was really good news for us. I got to see early on that bad things happen to good people who are very deserving of having children and it couldn’t happen for them. So that seed had already been planted at that point. I would say that in the mid 80’s I saw a Life magazine article about surrogacy, It didn’t have that name yet, but it was clearly that, it was sister for sister surrogacy and mother to daughter. It was so beautiful and it was then that I knew that this was the best thing ever.

Legal FAQs

Legal Procedures in the Practice of Surrogacy – Paula Mahan, Attorney at Law

Paula Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Section I: Early History

Hello, my name is Paula Mahan. I am an attorney licensed here in CA and I practice in a very limited area of Family Law. That limited area is the law that supports a highly specialized field of medicine. The medical field is called ART… Assisted Reproductive Technology. Today, ART is the new frontier in infertility treatment , and the law that I practice strives to do 2 things: (1) to bring these innovative technologies into the mainstream of our society so they become widely available, and (2) to give legal recognition to the children born through the use of these technologies.

Let me pause here to give you some context…who I am and how I got involved in the law of ART. I graduated in 1978 from Hastings College of the Law. Hastings is part of the University of California system, and is located in the heart of downtown San Francisco. I took and passed the Bar that same year. My first job out of law school was as a Deputy District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles. I was a criminal prosecutor in a very hectic job. 16 hour days, back to back trials…an unsustainable career for someone who also wanted a family.

So, after a period of time I left there and went into private practice with my husband. Part of our new practice involved the full gamut of Family Law, including the good old divorce/custody/support wars. Through this phase of the business, I met a small group of people at bar association functions , professional society lunches and so forth, who were talking and thinking “out of the box” about infertility, and how to fix it. Some were doctors, some were clinic staff, and some were fledgling agencies doing egg & sperm donation and surrogacy, and trying to link into the clinic businesses. The more I learned, the more interested I became. I realized that what they were thinking, talking and doing, even though it was servicing such a small group of people at that time, was ultimately going to change how our culture and our society came to view the sacrosanct “parent-child relationship.”

In the mid 1980’s this whole movement was dealt a harsh blow by a disastrous surrogacy case arising out of New Jersey referred to as the Baby M case. I will give you a great deal more information about this “train wreck” in Video #2. I will also tell you about the huge strides we have made in surrogacy in California as a result of seminal cases that came down in the 1990’s. But at that time, Baby M was truly a downer. Nevertheless, surrogacy advocates pushed forward seemingly undaunted and by the late 1980’s I was fully committed and involved in ART law in California.

Today, in addition to surrogacy, the field of ART encompasses egg donation, sperm donation, and the new battleground in the war on infertility, embryo donation. But back then, few people knew what these things were and those who had heard of them found them threatening and upsetting. Change of any kind is not easy. We are trying to change hundreds of years of thinking about how one becomes a parent. It is proving to be a long uphill battle.

Traditionally our society has only known two types of parents: those who have kids the good ol’ fashioned way, and those who adopt. Adoption has never been the path first chosen. Adoption was always a last resort. Those who did it had such an enormous drive to become parents that they were willing to endure the public exposure, and the humiliation of their infertility. But the most painful concession was their willingness to give up their own dreams, and “settle” for parenting someone else’s child.

Part of my personal objectives in this “war” is to rid society of the “taint” of infertility. It should not be shameful. It is just a medical condition… like an allergy to peanuts!

So back to the late 70’s. Momentum was slow…some gains, some big setbacks. Sperm donation was always easily available. California had passed Family Code7613, known the sperm donor statute and it has been on the books for decades. As long as all the consents were properly signed, and all procedures were done in a doctor’s office, the process was pretty much bullet proof. Sperm donors never had to worry about being saddled with parental responsibilities for children they fathered. The statute stated very clearly that the recipient automatically became the legal father. It was nice and clean and a simple signed release terminated all of the sperm donor’s legal rights.

Egg Donation was not on the radar screen yet, we’re talking about the late 1970’s…as far as the consuming public was concerned. The medical technology in egg donation was not good enough and not many doctors were experimenting with it. Surrogacy did grind on, mostly the artificial insemination kind. But in AI (Artificial Insemination) surrogacy, the surrogate was both the genetic mother and the legal mother by virtue of having given birth. The couple never knew until they had gone all the way through the pregnancy with the surrogate, if she would actually give them the baby. There were no laws that gave them any right to require her to do so.

Eventually egg retrieval did become more commonplace, but the process was IVF using the eggs of the infertile intended mother, merged with the sperm of her husband (or an anonymous donor) and transferred back to the Intended Mother to carry. Success was spotty and very expensive. The technology was learn as you go and often a couple had to do many IVF cycles before achieving a pregnancy, if ever. The process was tedious and expensive. The eggs of the Intended Mother were suspect and were most likely the cause of the couple’s infertility. If a pregnancy was achieved, there were often early miscarriages, which was a totally separate and independent cause of the couple’s infertility.

From the late 70’s through the end of the 80’s big strides were made in medical technology. Clinics were perfecting the IVF process. They found they had much more success when retrieving eggs from a younger, fertile donor. The fetus was carried either by the Intended Mother, or with increasing frequency, a surrogate mother. The genetic father was most often the intended mother’s husband. California was way out on a limb during this time period…pushing forward with the medical technology, without any law in place protecting the couples in these arrangements.

Lawyers labored in the dark during this time. We were burdened by the impact of statutes in the family code that were not intended for surrogacy cases. The biggest offender was FC 76 10. It was a statute that gave voice to the obvious presumption that the woman who gave birth was the child’s legal mother, and made it a hurdle we had to overcome in surrogacy cases. But the only law we had available to us were the stepparent adoption laws. Stepparent adoption was a very long process, taking around 6 mos. to complete, and we still had to rely on the surrogate to consent to the adoption to make it a success. This made the whole arrangement terribly stressful for the couple, and we just had to find a better way.

The task of finding a better way fell to the ART lawyers. Much as we love to hate them, lawyers have a role to play. In ART we are the oil that makes the engine run. Doctors can be out there creating babies in all kinds of unconventional ways but they need lawyers to mainstream these babies back into society. We had to be the interface between these new ways of creating babies and the old ways of thinking about parents and children—thinking that was very resistant to change.

So, we formed lobbying groups and approached the legislators in Sacramento. In 1992 we got state Senator Diane Watson to sponsor a surrogacy bill that held great promise. It was intended to serve as a platform, or a blueprint, for the whole process, start to finish. Lawyers had labored away for years in legislative committees carving it out of whole cloth. It was an innovative, outside the box, game changer. What eventually happened to it, was never anticipated. This too will be part of another video.

The historical perspective of the evolution of ART from the early seventies to the present is riveting. It is full of medical-legal drama, giddy excitement, painful setbacks, and a million anecdotal experiences both good and bad from all those caught up in the maelstrom of cultural change. This will be the subject of a future video presentation and will take us forward thru the last 35 years to the present state of the law. At the same time, I will explore with you how we use this law to obtain the “pre-birth order.” The PBO levels the playing field. It brings new biological parents and new ART parents to the same happy starting line, and eliminates the heartbreak and shame of infertility.

But for now we are going to jump ahead to the modern day Surrogate Agreement…that long and intimidating, but very essential document that opens doorways into the exciting world of Artificial Reproductive Technology.


 

Section II: The Contract

Why do we need surrogacy contracts? And why are they so darn long? Actually we use contracts in all types of ART – sperm donation, egg donation and embryo donation, and surrogacy. But for now we will focus on the all important SURROGATE AGREEMENT. We need surrogate contracts for several very important reasons:

A. Documents the Parties’ Intentions

The appellate courts who decided the three surrogacy cases, relied heavily on the surrogate contracts to discern the mind set of the parties when they entered into this arrangement. They needed this information in order to analyze the claims made by both sides much later on in the litigation case. Courts wanted to know who was not telling the truth. Who was reneging on the promises made to the other party at the time the contract was signed? Who had conveniently changed their minds in order to accrue a greater benefit than originally bargained for? This is the kind of analysis the court will make in any contract dispute.

Along these lines, the courts have told the attorneys, through the language of the rulings, that in all future contracts they want these “intentions “ clearly spelled out. More specifically, they want to see that the lawyers had advised their clients about the law of surrogacy, that the clients (the parties) understood and accepted that law, understood and accepted the rights and responsibilities of both sides in the contract, and agreed that their contract would be governed by these laws. To that end, they wanted to have clear statement that the parties had submitted to the jurisdiction of the California courts for the resolution of all disputes. In the clear language understood by non-lawyers, this meant that the surrogate would have no parental rights to the child, no right of visitation, no right to yearly pictures etc. , no right to contact of any kind, that the child will never be found to be “her” child at any time in the course of this arrangement, and that no adoption will be required.

B. Separate Attorney Representation

Judges want to make sure it was an “arm’s length transaction” meaning that no one had a bargaining advantage and could pressure the other party into doing something unfair or unwanted. Courts wanted to satisfy themselves that there was no predatory behavior in the mix and that the contract was freely entered into by consenting adults. For this inquiry the court will want to be assured that the parties were separately represented by independent attorneys. Again we see here that lawyers actually have some usefulness! They are there to provide a protective barrier, a line of defense against future litigation. They will make sure that their clients were not induced to enter this contract by fraud, misrepresentation or any kind of improper enticement to enter the contract.

C. Documents the Time Line

I am sure you are asking yourselves, what the heck does that mean? Well…this addresses an unfortunate situation that first became public in mid 2011. The incident has deeply affected the entire ART Bar, meaning all of us who practice in Reproductive Law. One of our own, in cahoots with another lawyer, out of state, wandered off the straight and narrow into what has provocatively been called baby selling. Without going into all the gory details, babies who were not products of legitimate surrogate arrangements were transferred into the hands of desperate parents and the legalities were processed through the courts as though they were surrogate babies. The criminal activity in this arrangement was in part revealed by inconsistencies in the timeline……Babies could not have been created in the manner alleged in the paperwork filed by the court because the timeline just didn’t fit. Angry backlash coming from the courts has spawned dark suspicions about all ART lawyers, and has created retaliatory and punitive new rules and regulations on where and how the PBO (pre-birth order) can be obtained.

That court judgment (the PBO) is the heart and soul of the surrogate arrangement. It establishes the petitioners as the legal parents, and instructs state agencies, like Vital Records (that creates the birth certificate) to recognize the Intended Parents as the child’s legal parents. It also officially terminates any right the surrogate or her husband might have been granted by operation of law. (All of this will be explained in detail in later videos when I discuss current California law and how it operates to get the PBO.) When we file for the PBO, we now have to “lodge” the contract with the court so they can make sure that all events follow sequentially and logically from the signing of the contract until the birth of the child. So, if the court documents say the contract was signed in January, med procedures started in March, the surrogate conceived in May and the baby was born the following February, the contract, which predates all of these events better be consistent with that timeline. So, the contract validates the judgment documents, and vice versa.

Now you can appreciate the importance of the contract. It has to be prepared by a highly experienced lawyer with expertise in ART law, and must contain all the parties intentions, all details of the arrangement (including financial arrangements) , and a full explanation of existing law. It cannot be prepared safely by non-lawyers from a one size fits all “blueprint” you get off the internet.

Besides all of the legal requirements the contract must have, what else should it have? It should instruct the parties on how to handle anomalies, or emergencies, that are a usual and customary events in any pregnancy. But because of the parentage issues, financial issues etc. the parties need guidance on who makes which decisions and who is financially responsible for covering the extra costs that these events will generate. For example:

(1) Something goes wrong in the second trimester.

The surrogate is suddenly bleeding and cramping and she is at home alone. It is 1pm and she has to pick up her kids at 3pm. How should she handle this? Wait until after she gets her kids home to deal with the problem? NO! The contract directs her to call the agency immediately, then an ambulance. The agency will alert the surrogate’s family to pick up the kids or will send out one of their own to do the pick up. All this will have been discussed and plotted out in advance. Her OB will be notified so he can visit her in the hospital. If he puts her on disability, the agency will know who to apply to, and how to apply for, disability benefits (if she is eligible). The agency will make sure that she gets the cleaning, shopping and childcare that she needs in order to remain on bed rest. The agency will notify the attorney about this situation and will send along an itemization of expected costs so domestic helpers (even if they are family or friends) will be paid for their services during the entire disability period. This will be part of Intended Parents’ unexpected expenses that the contract already warned them, might occur.

(2) What if by ultrasound, or by amnio, the baby is discovered to have a serious condition that will substantially affect its quality of life?

The doctor recommends abortion. Is this the time for the agency or the parties to discover that the Intended Mother is pro-choice and the surrogate is pro-life? NO! Whose decision is it to make? The contract will spell all this out, including the specific medical circumstances that determine who is to make the decision whether or not to abort. Medical care, recovery time, financial costs and reimbursements, etc. will all be anticipated by the contract, and approved by the parties well in advance of this contingency, just as it would have been for the example above on disability.

(3) Should the agency allow the Intended Parents to eliminate some elements of the program in order to save money?

What if the client wants to skip psych screening and counseling on the surrogate in order to save money? The answer is NO! A good agency is successful because  the agent has learned by trial and error over the years what provides the greatest protections for her clients. I learned years ago from an agency I used to accept referrals from, the terrible cost of sacrificing quality and control…for money. The agency was desperate to find a surrogate for a couple who was about to sign their retainer and pay their fees. The agency relaxed their screening standards and got a psychologist to clear a surrogate that they knew from past experience was a trouble maker. In late pregnancy under the stress of carrying multiples, the surrogate’s “aversion to authority “ took over and she began to exhibit “defiant” behavior. Balking against all the advice she was getting from her doctor, her parents, and the couple, she disappeared for long periods of time, told no one where she was, refused to go to her doctor appointments and told her doctors not to discuss the pregnancy with the Intended Parents. It was a nightmare, especially for the couple. This surrogate had done the same thing in a prior surrogate arrangement but in this case her defiant behavior had escalated to an alarming degree. Personality traits of this kind are easily detectable by a good psychologist and would have totally disqualified her. In the end it all turned out ok. The babies were born healthy and the couple took them home without incident, but the potential for disaster took a terrible toll on the couple. For all of these reasons, the integrity of the program must never be compromised.

Here is one more:

(4) Another agency, which is no longer in business, was run by an agent who was simply unqualified for the substantial responsibilities the agency must undertake.

The agent is responsible for referring the parties to appropriate experts to obtain proper medical insurance. The surrogate worked outside the home and her employer was self insured. The agent didn’t bother to read the policy booklet which clearly stated it would not cover a surrogate pregnancy. Self- insureds never do. The surrogate conceived triplets and the insurance administrator advised the surrogate that they would not cover any part of her surrogate pregnancy. Under the circumstances no replacement coverage could be obtained. She wound up bedridden and in the hospital for the last two months of her pregnancy. The hospital bill alone was $250,000. I am not going to tell you what happened after that. You’ll have to read the book or see the movie!

For all of these reasons, and many more, the contract is an essential part of a surrogacy arrangement. Not only does it cover the law of surrogacy, the rights and responsibilities of the parties to each other, all the financial arrangements, and the necessity of proper insurance, it also plans in advance for the usual and customary problems and contingencies that could arise. For the courts, it confirms separate attorney representation, preserves the timeline and instructs the courts on the parties’ intentions. In order to wrap yourself in all these protections you must start by choosing the right agency. One that has the highest integrity, a long track record of success, a favorable reputation among ART doctors, and decades of proud and happy clients. In my view, Building Families run by Carol Weathers is the best of the best.


 

Section III: The Clearance Letter

Let’s look at a second important document, this is the Clearance Letter. This is the last step in the contract phase before you move on to the medical protocols. It is a letter I write, as attorney for Intended Parents, to the clinic that will handle all of the ART medical procedures. It assures the doctors that the legal phase is finished, that the contract is fully executed, that the parties were separately represented, understand the law and all of their rights and responsibilities, and have entered into the contract voluntarily with all appropriate intentions in mind. It also advises the doctor that the Intended Parents have assumed responsibility for all of the ART treatment for their surrogate as well as for themselves. This declaration of responsibility gives doctors “permission” to seek payment of the surrogate’s medical care from the Intended Parents. Lastly, it lets doctors know that all that could be done, has been done, to protect the parties, the agencies, the clinics and the attorneys from any misunderstandings that could blossom into litigation further on down the line.

In the early days, doctors routinely requested that they be sent a copy of the executed contract to keep in their files. This was totally inappropriate as the contract is a proprietary non-public document. I started sending doctors clearance letters instead of contracts and I am happy to report that it is now a universally accepted substitute!

End of Video #1

 

What Should I Do If I Want To Become a Surrogate Mother?

What Should I Do If I Want To Become a Surrogate Mother?

I can tell you what you don’t want to do. You don’t want to do it yourself. You don’t want to go on-line thinking you are going to provide a benefit for the couple, seeking them out and thinking you can handle it all yourself. This is a brave new word, it’s a neat world but its a brave new world.

You need the experience expertise the education the knowledge and the know how to make it happen folks, people who are totally professional in the process. First seek out an agency who will help you and represent you in the process in becoming a Surrogate and make sure you are dealing with top-line professionals people like us to assist you in the process.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Does the Surrogate Mother Gain Any Rights if the Intended Parents’ Marriage Ends During the Pregnancy?

Does the Surrogate Mother Gain Any Rights if the Intended Parents’ Marriage Ends During the Pregnancy?

No, your rights [as a Surrogate Mother] are really clearly defined in the contract. What you will do is specified and what they will do is specified. Even given the contingency of their marriage breakup. What is expected of them is still specified. They will take that child into their individual homes and raise is as their own and it will be of no further concern to you.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Why Should I Have Separate Legal Representation?

Why Should I Have Separate Legal Representation?

Just as I said its important to have a contract, so you need to have someone explain what all the terms and all the conditions really mean. Even though the contract is ours is so well written, there will still be some terms and maybe some expressions that you don’t fully understand what the implication to that is and you need to have an attorney explain it to you.

The nice thing again about having the contract is that although there may be nuances between relationship between the intended parents and the surrogate, those relationships obligations and responsibilities need to be clearly defined so there can be no misunderstanding about what is to take place, when its to take place and the setting to which it will take place.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

If The Intended Parents Don’t Want The Baby, Will I Be Left With Him?

If the Intended Parents don’t want the baby, will I be left with him?

Absolutely not. The whole reason we have contracts which basically defines the relationships with parties is to make sure that in fact doesn’t happen. If they were to say we don’t want the child, you could potentially sue them to enforce the contract. However, from a practical standpoint, that could be time consuming and rather costly.

But there is a provisional family code, 76.10, that you could avail yourself of, which basically would say this, if they don’t’ want the child, pursuant to that agreement, that’s OK, you as a birth mother would be presumed to be the mother at law and you could then place the children for adoption which would be facilitated in a very quick fashion.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

If I’m Interested in being a Surrogate Mother or Intended Parent, what should I look for?

If I’m Interested in being an SM or IP, what should I look for?

That is an interesting and well founded question. What you really need to think about is what your objective is. Your objective if you’re the couple, is to have a child bouncing on your knee at Christmas time. If your objective is to be a surrogate, it’s to provide a gift to someone that they cannot otherwise provide themselves. In the process of doing that, if you don’t go about it the right way, it is an area rocked with traps. What you need to be using if you’re going to do it, first of all you need to have people who have their heads together as far as what they’re going to do and how they are going to do it. The way you get that is dealing with the Psychologist in the process to make sure they are dealing with a surrogate that understand what her responsibilities and obligations are. A couple who understands what their objective is and what entails to get there. You also need to be dealing with a well done, experienced, knowledgeable agency. Trying to do this on your own is rot with conflicts of interest and rot with pitfalls for the steaks. If you’re dealing with a good agency, they can make sure all these things come to play. In the process of doing it, you also need to deal with an experienced lawyer in the area of reproductive law. A lot of lawyers go out and buy a contract and say, I know how to do surrogacy, but if you really aren’t involved in it and don’t understand the conflicts associated with it, don’t understand where the law has been and where it’s going, you can’t adequately service your clients. In the process of doing it, also, you want to make sure you have lawyers on both sides of the party so that the surrogate is well informed as well as the intended parents. In essence what you must have is experienced, well knowledgeable professionals to effect this process for your enjoyment and benefit.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

How Important is a Contract, Really?

How Important is a Contract, Really?

A contract is really important, not only from the standpoint of having everybody understand what their rights, their responsibilities, and their obligations are. It’s also important that it’s a well written contract to give you some idea of what the whole situation is about. A well written contract, like ours, is basically a road map in the whole surrogacy process. It gives you an idea of how you’re going to get from point A to point B, what is your responsibility in the process, not only for the surrogate but also the intended couple, the lawyers involved in the process, as well as the agency who is bringing it all about. A well written contract informed of all the things as it relates to surrogacy laws is an extremely important thing and quite honestly you would not want to engage into a surrogacy relationship without one.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Can you give us a legal overview of how Surrogacy has changed in California over the years?

Can you give us a legal overview of how Surrogacy has changed in California over the years?

Over the last 15 years, since Buzzanca v. Buzzanca, Surrogacy law specifically as it relates to the right, responsibilities and obligations of parties really hasn’t changed at all. The courts keep going back to those decisions to ascertain what the responsibilities and obligations of parties are and in fact, it is so clear that there really haven’t been many cases that deal with those issues. The only thing that’s really changed is how we perfect and complete the transaction. It used to be that we would file our various cases and subsequent judgements in courts that were familiar and very understanding of Surrogacy practice. However, there has been a slight change recently that we now must file our cases in the area and district in which the surrogate resides. While it is a different way of doing things, it makes things a little more complicated for the lawyers in that we have to file our cases in sometimes remote locations, drive there and instruct the local staff on how to handle a surrogacy matter, but the absolute rights of the parties have not changed, only the effect by which we carry it out.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Do Egg/Sperm Donors have any Legal Rights?

Do Egg/Sperm Donors have any Legal Rights?

Once a donation is made, it’s made. An egg donor or sperm donor has no legal rights to the material they have donated, that embodied in the Sperm Donor Act and continues to be the law in the state of California.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

If a Donor is used, and the Intended Parent’s marriage ends, does the biological parent have more rights than the other parent?

If a Donor is used, and the Intended Parent’s marriage ends, does the biological parent have more rights than the other parent?

No. For example, if the husband’s sperm is used and they use an egg donor, they end up with a judgement ascertaining that he and she are the both the legal parents. Neither one of them has a superior right than the other, even though the husband is the biological father. They have equal rights under the law.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

What Happens if the Intended Parents Marriage Ends During the Pregnancy?

What Happens if the Intended Parents Marriage Ends During the Pregnancy?

The agreement in question that we use, deals with that specific instance. In fact the most famous case in the area Surrogacy is Buzzanca v. Buzzanca who our are clients and they signed our agreement. They were required under case law, to basically be the parents of that child whether the father wanted to be or not because the obligations are very strict and very clear. You will bring that child in your home and raise it as your own and if you in fact you do not, then the other party, in this case the wife, can force a performance of the husband to raise that child as its own, its own legal child because that is the obligation created by the willful execution of that agreement and the surrogate does not have to worry about that process.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

We have heard how some Couple’s funds were stolen by Surrogacy Agencies. How do I ensure that my money is safe?

We have heard how some Couple’s funds were stolen by Surrogacy Agencies. How do I ensure that my money is safe?

In California, lawyers are licensed by the state bar. We are required to keep accurate and good accounting of all funds held in our trust account. That cannot be said of surrogacy agencies, they are not licensed and therefore, if there is someone in an agency who is dishonest, your funds could definitely be in jeopardy. Where as if you are dealing with a lawyer and a lawyers trust account, believe me, his license is more important, that’s his livelihood and therefore, you can feel confident that your funds are safe.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Why Should the Surrogate Mother and Intended Parents have Separate Legal Representation?

Why Should the Surrogate Mother and Intended Parents have Separate Legal Representation?

In law, we are always concerned about conflicts of interest or avoiding the mere appearance of conflict
of interest. In the area of drafting an agreement where both parties are involved in the process of
creating a real life, we want to make sure that everybody is fully and totally informed of their rights,
their responsibilities and the obligations to bring about that objective. In the process we need to make
sure that each has had independent legal counsel to make sure they are aware of those obligations,
those right and those responsibilities.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Why Should I do my Surrogacy in California?

Why Should I do my Surrogacy in California?

California is the best state in the Country, in fact the best location in the world to do surrogacy. The
reason being is that we have has several cases that have come down over the last 15 or 20 years which
define surrogacy, define the responsibilities of the parties and also to find what the objectives are of the
parties trying to accomplish in a surrogacy proceeding. Besides the contractual setting and legal settings,
we also have judges, clerks and vital statistic clerks who are familiar with the process and therefore the
whole situation runs much more smoothly when in fact it’s accomplished in California.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Can the Surrogate Mother keep my Baby?

Can the Surrogate Mother keep my Baby?

No, not in California under California law provided the couple do two things in the process of hiring a
surrogate to have their child. Number one, they must sign the agreement drafted by an attorney who’s
expert in the area of surrogacy law. Number two, they must make sure they do not utilize the eggs of
the surrogate in the process. If they do these two things, they can be assured under California law that
the surrogate cannot take their baby.
Kevin Mahan, Attorney at Law, Mahan & Mahan

Psychological FAQs

Why do you Evaluate Couples? Can you tell who can be Good Parents?

Why do you Evaluate Couples? Can you tell who can be Good Parents?

I get asked that question frequently and there is absolutely no measure to actually evaluate who can be a good parent or not. And that is not why I am performing the psychological evaluation. There is data to indicate, however, and research, we know this in psychology, that previous behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. So if I knew the history of their parenting, then I might be able to say this is what they are going to be like. But that is not what we do. The reason I evaluate our couples is because they are entering a roller coaster ride that could be exhilarating at times, and at times it might feel like that low point, and scary. The journey is not always perfect. I always say it’s not a perfect science, so we want to make sure that we are doing our due diligence and that our couple is stable, emotionally, to start the journey with Building Families.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic

What is Discussed in the Surrogate Support Group Meetings?

What is Discussed in the Surrogate Support Group Meetings?

Well, we have our meetings, they are mandated once a month for the surrogates, and they all have to show up. Because it is important for them to have a vehicle where they can discuss, not only the surrogacy itself and what is going on with them in the surrogacy. I make sure that every single surrogate gets a turn to talk about her surrogacy every month because it’s important for us to understand where they are in the process, it’s important for us to understand where they are in their life. While we focus on the surrogacy, there is real life that happens, and they may be having issues with their child, for example, or other incidents in their lives and we want them to have a place that is safe, that they can come to and talk to us about it. So we may discuss a number of different areas and topics, in addition to their surrogacy and how they’re doing and how their couple is doing. Sometimes it’s a completely joyful group, for example, if we’ve had a birth story. If someone successfully delivered a baby for a couple, and that is ultimately very, very joyful. And other times we are dealing with things like it make take another transfer to conceive for a couple.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic

What are the Possible Recommendations of the Psychological Evaluation?

What are the Possible Recommendations of the Psychological Evaluation?

There are a number of different possibilities after a couple has undergone a psychological evaluation with me. One of them is that, most of the time what we see is that they are “cleared” psychologically. There is no real “pass/fail”, if you would, in the psychological evaluation. Although, I think that most of our couples come into the psych. eval feeling like I am going to “fail” them or that is what I am there for, and I really am not.

I am there to protect them, and to protect the surrogate, and the agency, and everybody involved with the process. So I would not typically reject people right out unless there were some major flags both in the clinical component as well as the psychological test that says to me, “this is not going to work well for this couple”. However, most of the time they are “cleared” psychologically. Other times, they may have to wait several months, maybe 3 months, maybe 6 months, and come for a re-evaluation to start the program.

Sometimes couples will score on the test in a way that, after my clinical component with them, I feel that they have misunderstood the questions, so I may actually go back and call them to go through items, if you would, to see if they actually meant what they endorsed. Sometimes they misunderstand the question, so that is testing the limits, if you would, and in that case it would clarify for me, “yes they are ok to start the program” or “they need to wait longer”, either way.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic

What are the Benefits to Evaluating the Intended Parents?

What are the Benefits to Evaluating the Intended Parents?

Frequently I say it is really critical that we actually do no harm to anyone, especially our couples. They have suffered through many things. Some of them have had tremendous losses. They have lost a baby, in the third trimester that is tragic in itself. Having not dealt with that, they are really not prepared to go forward.

We want to make sure they have dealt with it fully and that they are ready to go forward with the program. They have to deal with the loss and the grief that is inherent in this process before we start. We don’t want to open up old wounds for them, and hurt them in any way. I think that is really important. Some of them have just discovered that they cannot go forward again to carry their own child. So that has to be dealt with, before we begin the program. These are tragedies indeed.

I closely examine their relationship and their current mental status. Are they oriented to reality? Are they prepared to go forward? Do they have any emotional or mental issues, as a result of their infertility history that needs to still be worked through? Do they have the coping skills to deal with a surrogacy arrangement effectively?

We in the program, Building Families and myself, maintain constant contact with the Couples and their Surrogate Mothers, that is true, and the support is ongoing. We must be prepared, ahead of time, before on this journey and that is my job which I take very seriously.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic

Do All Agencies Require Psychological Evaluations of the Couples and the Surrogate Mothers?

Do All Agencies Require Psychological Evaluations of the Couples and the Surrogate Mothers?

Actually, they don’t, that I know of. We are the first surrogate program, Building Families, that actually developed the psychological component. I spent 12 years developing this state of the art, psychological evaluation that is effective and promotes excellent care for intended parents and the surrogate as well.

Actually, I don’t think other agencies do it, maybe they do it at this point, but there is absolutely no mandate to do it. At Building Families, it is mandatory.

No one gets into the program until they have been psychologically evaluated, and we understand that they are ready to start the process.
Dr. Vesna Radojevic