Surrogate fights for child custody in major case

Utah state and federal family law legislation is designed to address the various types of disputes that can arise when settling divorce and custody issues. And in most instances, set guidelines can be used to resolve the majority of conflicts. However, many states around the country may be increasingly mindful of the fact that current legislation can fall short of properly addressing some child custody disputes. Issues concerning the rights of surrogate mothers are testing the bounds of the law in some states, and potentially setting precedence in the process.

The specific case focuses on a woman who agreed to act as the surrogate for friends that wanted to have a baby. After settling upon the terms of the surrogacy, the woman and her husband signed a contract stating that she would give up all parental rights to the baby after giving birth. After that, she was artificially inseminated with the biological father's sperm. Later, though, the surrogate decided not to relinquish any rights to the baby. It was at that time the biological father filed a lawsuit.

The judge presiding over the suit ruled that the contract could not enforce the voluntary forfeiture of parental rights, therefore rendering the entire agreement null and void. In a later hearing, a judge found that it was in the best interests of the child for the surrogate to have regular visitations while sole custody would be granted to the biological father.

Since the biological father and his wife appealed that ruling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently reviewed the case. According to the high court’s decision, the surrogacy contract is valid and should be considered as part of a new trial. However, the Supreme Court concedes that the surrogate may yet retain parental rights to the child.

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