Services

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) - Agreements

Given the frequent medical advances and a constantly evolving legal environment, the legal parentage of children born of assisted reproductive technologies may be uncertain. These collaborative reproductive arrangements involve significant legal rights and relationships. It is important to have knowledgeable counsel, with expertise in this highly specialized area to advise you regarding your rights, obligations and expectations. Prior to entering into any type of collaborative reproductive agreement, it is imperative that each of the parties obtain separate legal counsel to ensure that everyone involved fully understands and consents to the legal ramifications of the proposed arrangement. If you are working with a known gestational carrier or donor, we will also ensure that your carrier or donor is represented by competent, independent legal counsel, who will be responsible for the review and negotiation of the agreement. It is critical that the respective intentions, rights and obligations of all of the parties be clearly stated and defined in a written legal agreement between the parties.

Our clients include all parties to these arrangements - intended parents, gestational carriers, recipients and donors. We will educate you about egg, sperm and embryo donation and gestational surrogacy so that you will understand your legal rights and obligations before the medical procedures begin. We will provide you with a clear understanding of your options and the potential legal risks involved in your reproductive arrangement, as well as the safeguards that can be put in place to help minimize those risks. We help our clients identify the issues most important to them and the family they are trying to build and make sure that the agreement is specifically tailored to include the issues which will meet their individual needs and protect all parties to the fullest extent possible.

We draft, review and negotiate contracts for all types of reproductive arrangements including egg, sperm and embryo donation contracts as well as gestational carrier contracts. In addition to addressing legal parentage, a strong, detailed legal contract will outline numerous other issues which arise, depending on the type of arrangement involved. It is important to be aware that parentage laws in many states are still evolving and may vary greatly by state. For this reason, legal agreements may be heavily and sometimes exclusively relied upon to clarify parentage. These arrangements often involve parties from multiple states, adding a further layer of complexity and increasing the need for a contract which sets forth the parties expectations, consistent with any existing and applicable states laws.

Once the agreement is finalized, we will issue the legal clearance letter required by physicians assisting in these arrangements. The legal clearance letter will indicate that the parties have entered into an agreement, understand clearly the issues set forth in the contract, are proceeding with the arrangement voluntarily and without any coercion or undue influence, and are in full agreement with the terms of the agreement.

• Donor Egg/Sperm Agreements (anonymous and known donors)

The firm drafts legal agreements for individuals and couples using donated eggs and/or sperm to achieve a pregnancy (sometimes with the assistance of a gestational carrier). These contracts will detail the parties' rights, obligations and expectations with regard to the donation, and address legal issues including identity, confidentiality, parental rights, disposition of excess frozen eggs, sperm and/or embryos, obligations with respect to future contact and/or medical information, medical expenses, liability for complications, taxation of monies, and the rights the child, as well as long-term issues that may arise after a child is born.

• Donor Embryo Agreements

We advise clients and draft, review and negotiate contracts to assist in the transfer of embryos from one set of prospective parents to another. There is very little law on the use or donation of frozen embryos – in this rapidly evolving field, even the most experienced attorneys may find themselves in unchartered territory.

• Gestational Surrogacy Agreements

The firm will draft, review and negotiate agreements on behalf of either the intended parents or the gestational carrier and her partner/spouse, if any. Our clients include single parents, same sex and heterosexual couples – both married and unmarried. These contracts can be compensated or uncompensated and are intended to detail the parties' rights, obligations, intentions and expectations in connection with their arrangement. The contract will address issues such as parental rights, custody issues, location of delivery, control over medical decisions during the pregnancy, payment of medical bills, liability for medical complications, future contact between the parties and insurance (both health and life). In addition, the contract should cover financial considerations with respect to the carrier's compensation and expenses, including among other items, lost wages, legal fees and child care.
 We will also handle and/or coordinate the legal proceedings necessary to assure that the intended parents end up with full parental rights and that the carrier is relieved of her parental responsibilities. When possible, we will obtain a court order for gestational carrier arrangements to allow the intended parents to go directly on the birth certificate of their child at birth

Parentage Orders

Whenever possible, intended parents who use the services of a gestational carrier should obtain an order of parentage so that the child’s birth certificate accurately reflects the child’s intended parentage. The order directs the hospital where the child is born and/or the appropriate state department of vital records to place the intended parents' names on the birth certificate of the child delivered by the gestational carrier. When appropriate, this office can provide the legal services to obtain either a pre- or post-birth order, so that the intended parent or parents' names (including those of same-sex parents - in some states) will be on the original birth certificate. Depending upon the state of birth, this is ordinarily done as a pre-birth process. The laws vary from state to state in this regard, and we can inform you of your options and coordinate with out of state counsel, if necessary, to determine the proper course of action for your particular circumstances. Our firm has obtained and helped facilitate birth orders in numerous states In cases where affidavits and other paperwork is necessary in a particular state in order for the names of the intended parents to appear on the birth certificate, we will prepare or assist in the preparation of the necessary paperwork. In the event that the child is born before the pre-birth order is obtained, we can sometimes obtain a post-birth order to accomplish the same thing. If intended parents do not obtain an order, in most cases, one or both intended parents will be required to adopt their child.

Adoption

We offer a broad array of adoption services to individuals and couples seeking to adopt and/or requiring legal assistance with their adoptions, and can offer a wealth of experience in representing adoption agencies. We have significant experience in all types of adoptions including domestic agency adoptions, stepparent and relative adoptions, co-parent adoptions, adoption for all types of non-traditional families and complex international and interstate adoptions - each handled in compliance with all applicable federal and state adoption laws. Our clients include adoptive parents, birth parents and adoption agencies. Our office can provide a comprehensive approach to the adoption journey, from choosing the appropriate agency, or program, to compiling all the documents required for your adoption finalization to smoothly proceed through the court system. We have a good working relationship with the adoption personnel in all the courts in the Commonwealth and can use this understanding to insure that your adoption is completed thoroughly and soundly.

Some of our most frequently addressed issues are the need for step-parent or co-parent adoptions for when one or both parents are not recognized as legal parents or the need to insure legal parentage should a same sex married couple move to a location where their marriage might not be recognized. Additionally, we handle single parent adoptions should a sole parent choose to adopt their “own” child in order to terminate any rights of any other parties involved in the child’s birth and more traditional stepparent adoptions for those who seek to legalize a stepparent relationship, and need our legal assistance in terminating the rights of a birthparent, either through voluntary proceedings or involuntarily, when appropriate. In addition to the finalization of all types of domestic adoptions, we competently, smoothly and expertly handle the finalization and/or “re-finalizations” of adoptions for those children who have been adopted internationally.

Supplemental Medical Consents

Medical programs will, on occasion, require that individuals involved in complex collaborative reproduction arrangements have a supplemental consent drafted before beginning any medical procedure. We are available to advise you of the potential legal implications involved in the medical treatment you are seeking, and draft a supplemental consent which will attempt to define your status as either a parent or a donor, clarify your parentage expectations and address future embryo use.

Agency/Medical Professionals

We are available to consult with medical programs, sperm banks, egg donor agencies, surrogacy agencies and adoption agencies to assure that their program contracts and agreements are up-to-date and legally accurate, and discuss legal, ethical, and practical issues related to their practice areas.