Expert ART Attorneys Guide Intended Parents Through Legal Complexities

The following article by Rich Vaughn was published April 2 by Global IVF.

As opportunities for creating families have expanded with the advancement of assisted reproductive technology, we at International Fertility Law Group have seen the number of intended parents from all over the world grow exponentially. Often the biggest obstacles encountered by intended parents are created by the specific requirements of the laws governing assisted reproduction and establishment of parental rights, either in the country where the intended parents reside or in the country where their surrogate resides. Because laws governing ART vary widely from country to country, state to state, and because local laws are rarely up-to-date with the rapidly changing technology, it is essential that intended parents understand what steps they need to take in order to ensure their babies are legal citizens of the country in which they will reside and that the parents are legally recognized as such. Although every family’s situation is unique, there are issues to consider and steps you can take to make the process of securing your family as easy and trouble-free as possible.

Attorney Services
We advise any intended parent to talk to a lawyer before beginning any ART process. Your and your family’s future security are at stake. Most attorneys specializing in assisted reproductive technology will offer a free initial consultation to orient you to the ART process, the recommended legal services, and payment options.

For intended parents who reside outside of the United States, additional apostilled documents and newborn passports are usually needed in order for you to travel home with your baby, to be legally recognized as your baby’s parent, and to have your baby recognized as a legal citizen of your home country. For that reason it is essential that you retain an immigration and family law attorney in your home country, who will work with your ART legal team to properly coordinate the acquisition of all required documents.

Surrogate/Donor Selection
Most intended parents will work with a licensed, qualified agency or fertility clinic to help identify and retain a surrogate and/or egg, embryo or sperm donor. Laws governing surrogacy and donors vary from country to country and from state to state within the United States. For that reason, it is important that your surrogate/donor agency and legal team are familiar with any legal restrictions that may impact your surrogate or donor selection. An experienced ART attorney will prepare proper donor or surrogate agreements in accordance with the state or country in which your surrogate or donor resides. Only after your physician has received the properly executed legal agreements will he or she begin the egg fertilization or insemination procedure.

Court order for Parental Establishment
In most U.S. states, a court order is necessary to establish and confirm parental rights to a child born via surrogacy. In many states , you can petition the court to legally establish you as your baby’s legal parent prior to the birth. In some states, you cannot file the parental establishment petition until after birth, and a different process will be followed. It is essential that you work with legal counsel familiar with laws governing parental establishment in your locale.

Confer with Birth Hospital
Prior to your baby’s birth, you will need to meet with the hospital social worker to ensure you are recognized as your baby’s parent when the birth occurs and that the hospital staff completes the associated paperwork in accordance with the court order for parental establishment.

Birth Certificate
Parents living in the United States typically receive their baby’s official birth certificate by mail approximately six to eight weeks following the birth. However, parents who reside in another country may not be able to wait that long to return home with their baby. In that case, your legal team will need to work with hospital staff and their legal team to obtain an expedited birth certificate. Once the birth certificate is in hand, parents can obtain a passport for their baby and return home.

Newborn Passports
Once you have received your baby’s birth certificate, you must obtain a newborn passport in order to travel home with your baby. This application can be completed online or downloaded and printed from the website here, or downloaded and printed from the U.S. Department of State’s website. Typically your passport will be received within two weeks.

If your plans require you to return home with your baby sooner, an experienced ART attorney will be able to help you obtain an expedited passport, usually with the support of a passport expediting service such as A Briggs. An expedited passport will typically be received within three to five days.

Alternatively, if you plan to return to your home country in less than two weeks, you are eligible to schedule an in-person appointment at a regional passport office of the U.S. State Department (check the U.S. State Department website for a listing of these regional offices). To schedule an appointment to receive an expedited passport, call 1 (877) 487-2778. An additional fee will apply, and you may be asked to provide proof of your travel plans. By applying in-person for an expedited passport, you may be able to obtain your passport in as little as one to two days.

Apart from having a healthy, happy baby or babies, nothing is more important to families than the knowledge they are legally recognized as a family in their home country. Retaining the services of an attorney who is experienced in ART and family formation law is an investment in your family’s future security and in your peace of mind.


Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.