Understanding the Surrogate Relationship

Photo of a newborn baby born to intended parents by a surrogate

Wanting to start or grow your family is a BIG decision! When this decision involves including a surrogate mother, that decision becomes even more complex.

At Family Creations, we commit all of our skills and resources to ensuring that the intended parent-surrogate relationship is as positive and supportive as possible for everyone involved. The matching process we use at Family Creations is intentionally designed to introduce like-minded surrogates and future parent(s).

Do Surrogates Have Parental Rights?

This may be one of the most frequently asked questions we receive at Family Creations, and with good reason. Surrogacy is the process of another woman carrying the fetus throughout its gestation period and then giving birth. The unborn child-surrogate relationship is designed to be protective and successful, as bringing a healthy baby into the world is the goal for all parties.  There are two common types of surrogacy that can determine whether the surrogate is related to the baby or not.

Working with a Traditional Surrogate 

A traditional surrogate will be the child’s biological mother because the surrogate’s egg becomes fertilized by the father’s (or sperm donor’s) artificially inseminated sperm. Traditional surrogacy is common when a sister or cousin of the intended mother agrees to carry a pregnancy that the intended mother cannot have. For families that want to retain the strongest genetic link, traditional surrogacy can guarantee that.

Working with a Gestational Surrogate

A gestational surrogate will be the child’s birth mother but will not have any genetic ties. For gestational surrogates, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is used to fertilize eggs from the intended mother or donor with the sperm from the intended father or donor. The embryo is then placed into the uterus of a gestational surrogate.

While both forms require committed relationships between the surrogate and intended parent(s), in the United States, gestational surrogacy has fewer legal complications because the surrogate has no genetic connection to the child. In this instance, surrogates do not have parental rights, and no legal claim can be made. As a result of this safeguard, nearly 750 births happen each year through gestational surrogacy. 

For traditional surrogacy, the answer depends on the state and the surrogate parenting agreement drawn up between the intended parents and the surrogate. 

Regardless of the surrogacy path you take, developing a surrogate parenting agreement with an experienced attorney is always advisable.

Photograph of a woman surrogate holding her pregnant belly

Are There Laws Giving Parental Rights to Surrogates?

In the United States, there is no federal law outlining the rules and regulations for surrogacy, and state laws vary throughout the country. For some states, receiving parents will need to formally adopt the child to gain legal custody. Other states require a completed “declaration of parentage” form that is signed before birth.

To protect the parent’s rights and the rights of the baby, it’s essential to work with an attorney who is familiar with the reproductive laws of the state or states where the parents and surrogate reside. A qualified attorney can write a surrogacy contract and parenting agreement that clearly spells out the parent’s relationship with the surrogate.

Contracts are very helpful in the rare occurrences if legal concerns are raised before or after the birth. A good contract will outline a variety of scenarios, including the course of action if twins or multiples develop or the health of the surrogate mother becomes compromised.

Think About the Kind of Surrogate Relationship you Want to Have

As intended parents, you get to decide on the kind of relationship you want to create with the birth mother. Having close contact does not give the gestational surrogate parental rights, it simply allows you to have a friendly connection with one another.

If you choose, parents can have an authentic relationship with the surrogate, and enjoy receiving updates or attending doctor appointments alongside their surrogate.For parents who prefer less contact with the surrogate, that is also fine. Having less frequent or minimal contact with the surrogate does not reduce your parental rights.

A Good Surrogate Parenting Agreement Can Help

If you’re new to surrogacy, this relationship will be different from all others in your life and may require some time and mutual compassion to understand and navigate.

Here are four time-tested tips we use at Family Creations for creating a surrogate parenting agreement that results in positive parent-surrogate relationships.

1.  Work to understand the other person’s perspective. Being an intended parent can be stressful and full of uncertainty. Being a surrogate holds significant responsibilities. Keeping each other in mind and being compassionate helps to create a trusting and strong bond between both parties.

2. Have a communication plan both sides are comfortable with.  A communication plan details how often you’ll be in contact and what the communication methods will be. Flexibility is always appreciated as changes in the pregnancy occur.

3. Be honest and open with one another. When questions or concerns come up, it’s important to share them in a respectful and compassionate way. As an experienced surrogacy agency, Family Creations is always available to help both parents and surrogates navigate any sensitive topics, if the need should arise.

4. Remember the golden rule. While surrogates do not have parental rights, it’s important to treat others in a manner that you would expect to be treated. Remembering to be empathetic and kind, even when you’re feeling worried or stressed, goes a long way in creating a meaningful surrogacy relationship.

By remembering these tips and incorporating them into your surrogate parenting agreement, intended parents and surrogates can create a rewarding surrogacy relationship that also has the foundation to develop into a beautiful friendship that lasts a lifetime.

Family Creations Can Help You Navigate the Surrogate Relationship

To help you fulfill your dream of starting or growing a family, Family Creations matches surrogates with intended parents that are compatible in their beliefs and expectations. As part of our process, we listen to everyone’s needs to make the best match in our database. When you’re ready to work with a surrogacy agency that can help you create the family of your dreams, contact Family Creations!

by Julia McConnell | Last updated on : March 28, 2023