Recently the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the lower court’s ruling in the case of Baby S., the child conceived by Lamar Sally and celebrity Sherri Shepherd with a gestational carrier. Shepherd has since appealed the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The legal issues surrounding the parentage of Lamar Sally, Jr. (Baby S.) was a matter of first impression for the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Prior case law in Pennsylvania had addressed a gestational carrier’s standing to seek custody of a baby pursuant to a surrogacy contract. In the case of J.F. v. D.B, 897 A.2d 1261 (Pa. Super. 2006), the Superior Court declined to comment on the validity of surrogacy contracts but held that the gestational carrier did not have standing to seek termination of parental rights or custody of the children. In Shepherd’s case, the baby was conceived with the sperm of Sally and the egg of a donor pursuant to a surrogacy contract. During the surrogate’s pregnancy, Sally and Shepherd separated and began divorce proceedings. When the child was born, Shepherd refused to follow through with the gestational carrier contract. She further refused to take any financial or custodial responsibility for the child. Instead, the surrogate was listed as the mother of the new born and informed that she could be responsible for Sally’s claim in California for child support.
Shepherd argued that the only way for her to be placed on the birth certificate and be legally identified as the child’s mother was by genetic birth or adoption. This argument was rejected by the Superior Court and the lower court’s ruling was affirmed. The gestational carrier contract was entered into freely by all parties and Shepherd was bound to comply with the agreement. Further, there are administrative procedures allowing for the issuance of birth certificates in these situations instituted by the Department of Health.
This case is important with respect to solidifying the ever-developing law on gestational carrier contracts. If you need assistance with this area of the law, click or call 610-892-3877.