Surrogacy: A delicate yet rewarding process

NPR News recently aired a four part series about the legal issues surrounding surrogacy. Did you know, about 10% of U.S. women—more than 6 million—between the ages of 15 and 44 have trouble getting or staying pregnant? Many turn to surrogacy as a solution.

“According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, more than 1,400 U.S. babies were born this way in 2010, and many more such births are thought to go unreported. This small, but fast-growing field is fraught with risk, and often intense coordination is the only way to avoid a legal nightmare.” (NPR News)

Surrogacy is rarely the first choice for traditional couples beginning a family; most couples try conventional methods until an insurmountable obstacle ends their attempts. Infertility or medical conditions are generally the root of such barriers. Assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures and surrogacy have opened new doors for traditional and non-traditional family formation. “When surrogacy works, it’s like a miracle for people who never thought they'd be able to have a child. But when it goes wrong, it goes terribly wrong. And though that doesn't happen often, those are the cases you're most likely to hear about…” (NPR News) Parental fears about the surrogate deciding to keep the child are normal, and the media tends to emphasize the negative possibilities. But surrogacy can be a smooth process if couples prepare in advance with legal representation, documentation (agreements) and court orders.

Rich-Vaughn-Blog-SurrogacySurrogacy matching, or evaluating a prospective surrogate, is a delicate process. Medical, legal and mental-healthcare professionals, as well as surrogacy agencies, generally look at the prospective surrogate’s lifestyle (the in utero environment), health conditions, the surrogate’s emotions surrounding the potential pregnancy, family risks, and intentions—altruistic or financially driven?. The relationship between surrogate and intended parents must be built on trust and truth, and both sides need to be comfortable with the arrangements from the start. Legal counsel is essential to ensure transparency, safeguard all parties involved, and pave the way for a financially structured, legal, and healthy surrogacy experience.

Surrogacy laws vary from state to state. Some states offer no legal standing for surrogacy agreements and only grant court orders on a per-case basis, which leaves would-be parents and surrogates in precarious positions. Proper screening of the surrogate is only the beginning: having an experienced objective law expert gives couples the edge they need to draft enforceable surrogacy contracts, manage relationships, coordinate financial parameters, and resolve disputes. Surrogacy contracts cover issues such what circumstances would warrant termination of the pregnancy, financial compensation for medical and living expenses, the surrogate’s conduct during the pregnancy, as well as agreements about delivery and the establishment of parental rights.

Making a decision to use a surrogate is difficult due to emotional, financial, medical and legal strains. Remember, there are no uniform laws regarding ART and third-party reproduction. Be sure to obtain professional assistance from an expert in the field. Intended parents who use any form of ART coupled with surrogacy should consider the legal parameters for their specific circumstances. The screening process, agreements, medical requirements and financial arrangements may seem unnecessarily extensive, but the end result is a family you can call your own.


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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.