Family Law

Surrogate Mom Unrelated to Twins Wins Ruling She Is Legal Parent

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A surrogate who is not biologically the mother of the twin girls she bore for her brother and his male partner is nonetheless their legal parent, a New Jersey judge has ruled.

In a custody dispute reminiscent of the so-called “Baby M” suit that dominated the headlines two decades ago in another New Jersey family law case of national interest, Hudson Superior Court Judge Francis Schultz found Angelia Robinson to be the babies’ legal mother largely on public policy grounds, according to the New York Times.

In his Dec. 23 opinion, Schultz quoted the1988 New Jersey Supreme Court opinion in the case of surrogate Mary Beth Whitehead. “The surrogacy contract is based on principles that are directly contrary to the objectives of our laws. It guarantees the separation of a child from its mother; it looks to adoption regardless of suitability; it totally ignores the child; it takes the child from the mother regardless of her wishes and maternal fitness.”

Whitehead successfully fought to have her parental rights recognized in the Baby M case, after serving as a surrogate mother for another couple. In that case, however, “Baby M” was conceived using Whitehead’s own egg. In the current case, the twins Robinson bore were conceived with donated eggs and sperm from her brother’s partner.

The same lawyer who represented Whitehead, Harold Cassidy, also represented Robinson in the current case, reports the Associated Press.

As in 1988, laws governing surrogacy arrangements haven’t caught up with reproductive technology and vary from state to state, putting everyone involved in such situations in an uncertain position, the articles note.

Schultz’s ruling now allows Robinson to continue to seek primary custody of the twins. She currently has visitation rights of the now 3-year-old girls, and for most of their lives they have spent time with her family as well as her brother’s family. The two men are legally married in California and registered as civil-union partners in New Jersey, the AP reports.

Related coverage: “Judge OKs Married Biological Mom’s Petition to Adopt Her Own Child”

Bay Windows: “Va. woman fails to give up child to ex-partner”

New York Times: “Building a Baby, With Few Ground Rules “

The Nation (1987): “The Strange Case of Baby M”

Washington Post: “Sharing the Gift of Life”

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