In this day and age, many couples seek to avoid the cost of surrogacy by attempting to complete the process on their own, without the guidance and expertise of an attorney. Although some couples may get lucky, many more may end up regretting their decision to forgo the help of experienced counsel.
Take the case of Tom and Gwyn Lamitina as a prime example. The Lamitinas had a 2 ½ year old son that had been born to them through surrogacy. Fortunately for them, the process had gone smoothly without the assistance of an attorney. When the Lamitinas decided to expand their family, again through surrogacy, they saw no need to change the formula that had worked successfully for them before.
The Lamitina’s found their surrogate, Stephanie Eckard, through the same website where they had found the surrogate who birthed their son. Stephanie was a divorced mother of two and had been a surrogate before. After a brief face-to-face meeting, the parties struck a deal. Stephanie Eckard was fertilized using a syringe and Tom Lamitinas sperm. She sent the couple a congratulations card and balloons shortly after learning she had become pregnant.
Months later, when Stephanie had a change of heart and decided to keep the baby to raise herself, the boilerplate “surrogacy contract” downloaded from the internet, which had only been signed by Tom, proved to be useless. Five months after their daughter Emma was born, the court ruled against the Lamitinas, giving custody of the young girl to Ms. Eckard. The couple, who had initially declined the services of an attorney to save money, spent over $30,000 on litigation that was ultimately unsuccessful and left them brokenhearted.
Determining parentage issues in surrogacy cases can be tricky and difficult. In this area of the law, a bit of legwork on the front end, if done properly, can save a lot of time, money, and heartache on the back end. Intended parents should not rely on the do-it-yourself method or else they could end up childless and out more money than a lawyer may have cost.