Rich Vaughn Blog: French Court Creates Parentage Path for Foreign Surrogate Births

French Court Creates Parentage Path in Foreign Surrogacy

A July 5 ruling by the French supreme court, or Cour de cassation, has brought some clarity but not necessarily made things any easier for French intended parents seeking French recognition of their parental authority for children born via surrogacy. Surrogacy has been illegal in France since 1991, sending a tide of intended parents to seek out surrogates in other countries, only to encounter legal difficulties back home in establishing their babies’ nationality and their parental rights.

In the wake of the recent French court decision, parents of children born via foreign surrogacy, whether gay or straight, must undergo a series of three steps, including second-parent adoption, in order to be recorded as parent on their child’s French birth certificate.

The convoluted process the French court ruling has imposed upon intended parents, although it clarifies French parentage law, is a setback in the wake of several European Court of Human Rights rulings that have tended to treat recognition of parental authority and citizenship for children born abroad via surrogacy as basic human rights. As we reported, the ECHR ruled in two cases in June 2014 that France must recognize the parental relationship of parents who have genetically related children via surrogacy in other countries. French children born abroad via surrogacy would receive passports and French identity cards and would be able to request certificates of French nationality. The decision was applicable to all 47 Council of Europe member nations. As we wrote at the time:

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. 

So what happened? The French court took the position that, while it agrees with the ECHR’s directive to recognize the nationality of the child, refusing to transcribe the intended mother as parent is not a violation of human rights. French law defines “mother” as the person who gives birth to the child; the intended mother who has a child via surrogacy does not fit that definition. The court further ruled that refusal to inscribe the intended mother does not have an excessive impact on the child’s right to privacy and family life, because the intended mother can adopt the child, a recognized procedure to establish parental rights in France. The cumbersome process and added expenses to intended parents is consistent with France’s policy of discouraging surrogacy.

The ruling establishes the following three-step process for intended parents with children born via surrogacy abroad:

  1. Obtain initial birth certificate with bio dad ONLY: French colleagues advise that the initial birth certificate to be submitted to French authorities be completed with only the biological father listed (not the intended mother or second intended father, and not the surrogate). If both biological father and intended parent are listed on the initial birth certificate, the French government will only partially register, or “transcribe,” the birth certificate, listing only the biological father and completely omitting the name of the second parent.

    But what about those cases in which the “biological father” is an anonymous sperm donor, for example, if an intended father were infertile or in the case of lesbian intended parents? The short answer is, we don’t know. Because the French court ruling leaves many questions remaining, it’s likely this and similar issues will be hammered out on a case-by-case basis.

  2. Second-parent adoption: Intended mothers, even if they are biologically related to the child, or second intended fathers in same-sex couples, must adopt their child. If the surrogate birth takes place in the United States, colleagues recommend the adoption take place in a U.S. court if possible (and this is possible in a few states). IPs who adopt in France must undergo a one-year waiting period, followed by another six months to a year to complete the adoption procedure; a U.S. adoption will generally be speedier. Therefore, French intended parents should consult an attorney knowledgeable about adoption procedures in the country where the surrogacy takes place, and in France, before deciding where to do the adoption.

    If an intended parent has already obtained an initial birth certificate with both the biological dad and the intended mom or second father listed, he or she will most likely have no choice but to complete the adoption in France.

    Only married people may adopt under French law; luckily for same-sex intended parents, France legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. It is highly recommended that the bio dad and his spouse be married at the time when the U.S. adoption judgment is delivered.

  3. Obtain a new birth certificate listing both intended parents. Once the adoption is completed in the U.S. or France, and the adoption order (not a parentage order) is accepted by the French attorney general in Nantes (who serves as registrar for French people born abroad), French authorities will issue a new birth certificate listing both parents.

Although the French high court’s July 5 ruling complies with the ECHR’s directive by offering intended parents a legal route to establishing parental authority of their children born abroad via surrogacy, it sure doesn’t make it easy for them to do so, nor does it treat intended parents via surrogacy in the same way as it does other parents whose children were born abroad. In reporting on a 2013 ECHR decision, we pointed out the social conservativism of much of French society and ongoing public opposition to assisted reproductive technology.

While the French government is moving in the right direction to provide legal security for children of same-sex couples and families created via ART, French public support continues to lag behind. When the French assembly passed the gay marriage bill recently, research indicated the majority of French people still had strong opposition to “assisted births.” In fact, French legislators assured constituents that the gay marriage bill would not do anything to weaken France’s ban on surrogacy, in effect since 1991.

When we wrote that piece in 2013, the pendulum of justice seemed to be swinging toward increased reproductive freedom in France and a lessening of societal disapproval of ART. Now the pendulum swings the other way, a pattern common in societies undergoing change. Just as increased visibility and openness have fostered acceptance of LGBT rights, putting a human face to intended parents seeking citizenship and parental authority for their children born via surrogacy may be the most effective way of changing hearts and minds.



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 moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern 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, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. 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 which he received in 2013, 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. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. 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.”


Kim has over 30 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 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.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343



New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016



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.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.