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France & 46 Other Member Nations Must Recognize Parentage in Foreign Surrogate Births, EU Court Rules

In a groundbreaking decision June 26, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in two cases that France must recognize the parental relationship of parents who have genetically related children via surrogacy in other countries.

According to our colleague, French attorney Caroline Mecary, the ruling, which applies to all 47 member nations of the Council of Europe, means that French children born abroad via surrogacy will receive passports and French identity cards and will be able to request certificates of French nationality. Mecary says the adoption of children born of surrogacy by the non-biological parent also is expected to be easier.

Because surrogacy is not legal in France, the French government historically has refused to grant legal status to children born via surrogacy in other countries to French parents. The court ruled on the cases of two families, both of whom had children born via surrogacy in the United States, where surrogacy is legal in most states. In both cases, when the parents, both married couples, returned to France with their babies, the French courts refused to recognize them as legal parents of their children born via surrogacy.

The ECHR, which acts under authority of the European Convention on Human Rights enacted by the Council of Europe in 1950, ruled that while France has the right to ban surrogate parenthood within its boundaries, it does not have the right to deny legal status to the parent-child relationships of children and their parents just because a surrogate carried and delivered the children. “Refusal to do so undermines children’s identity,” reported international public service radio station RFI.

In the case of the Menesson family, twin daughters, Valentina and Fiorella, were born via surrogacy in 2000 in California, where surrogacy is legal, and are U.S. citizens. The twins were conceived from the sperm of father Dominque Menesson and the oocyte from an egg donor. A California court recognized Dominique and his wife, Sylvie, as the twins’ parents prior to their birth.

Juliette Labassee was born in Minnesota, where surrogacy also is legal, in 2001 and is a U.S. citizen.

In both cases, following lengthy legal battles, French courts denied the couples’ parental status. On June 26, as reported by RFI:

The ECHR ruled that the French decision was an infringement of the children’s right to respect for their private life, while recognising France’s right to declare surrogacy illegal on its territory.

The status quo “undermined the children’s identity within French society,” the court found and meant that their inheritance rights were less favourable than those of other children.

It ordered the French state to pay each of the children 5,000 euros as well as legal costs.

The French government has said it will not appeal the ECHR ruling, attorney Mecary reports. The ruling, which applies to all 47 member of the European Court of Human Rights, means that all those countries automatically must recognize the parental rights of parents who have a genetic connection to their children born through surrogacy abroad, and grant citizenship to the child, as this is in the best interests of the child. A non-genetic intended parent may still have to establish their parental rights in accordance with the laws of their home country. In countries where there already is a process in place that recognizes the non-genetic intended parent, that process will remain unchanged.

Mecary says she expects the ECHR to rule similarly on three additional French surrogacy cases she is handling.

We wrote more than a year ago about the uncertain legal status of children born abroad via surrogacy following a controversial executive order issued by French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira requiring the issuance of French birth certificates to children born abroad via surrogacy. A stubborn social conservative streak in French society has maintained barriers to legalizing surrogacy and other types of assisted reproduction in France. While today’s ruling may still be appealed by the French government, it is a heartening step in the right direction for families created via assisted reproductive technology.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

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
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
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 SOSA
Paralegal

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
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

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
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
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

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
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

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 TAMAYO
Paralegal

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 CHIEN
Paralegal

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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