Surrogacy Vs. Adoption: Pros and Cons

Surrogacy and adoption are different paths leading to a common destination: the creation of a family.

There are other paths to parenthood: Some people are blessed to have the opportunity to take the path of biological procreation, the old-fashioned way, with a partner of their choice. Others have infertility or other circumstances—illness, essential but invasive medical therapies, deployment to the battlefield—that close that path to them.

Still other people want to start a family with a same-sex partner or choose to become a single parent. Adoption and surrogacy and other types of assisted reproductive technology have opened up more paths for those who dream of becoming parents.

Is Surrogacy or Adoption the Best Way to Become a Parent?

Humans become parents for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes biology asserts itself, and no decision-making is involved.

Too often, intended parents who choose to have a child via the surrogacy process rather than adopting a child are targeted by judgmental opinions that one option is morally better than the other, that choosing assisted reproduction rather than adopting a child who needs a home is selfish. Yet, as the author of this insightful Washington Post column points out, how often do we ask the biological parents of large families why they didn’t adopt instead of procreating?

The path chosen—surrogacy or adoption—will and should depend on the individual circumstances of each intended parent. Neither is better or worse than the other, and both paths lead to a loving family. Intended parents should choose the path that is best for their, and their family’s, unique circumstances. Either path, surrogacy or adoption, requires deliberate action and significant commitment of time, money, energy, and emotion.

Here are some ways in which surrogacy and adoption differ, for consideration when choosing between these two family-building pathways.

Cost of Surrogacy Versus Adoption

The cost of surrogacy in the United States varies somewhat from region to region. It also varies depending on whether the intended parent(s) are using sperm donation or egg donation, how many in-vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles are required to achieve pregnancy, and whether or how the gamete donors and/or surrogate are compensated.

At the low end, IVF and surrogacy can range from $30,000 to $40,000 for an “altruistic” scenario (in which the egg donor and/or surrogate are not compensated) to cover medical and legal costs, and up to $150,000 to $200,000 at the high end, including compensation for egg donor and surrogate.

Path2Parenthood, a parenting advocacy organization now merged with Family Equality, offers resources for intended parents considering assisted reproduction or adoption, including this fact sheet on IVF and surrogacy financing.

The cost of adoption in the United States also varies widely depending on region, the age and race of the child, and how the adoption is facilitated, according to this recent New York Times article:

The cost depends on what path you choose: If adopting through the public foster care system, your total out-of-pocket expenses can be next to nothing. If you hope to adopt a newborn, however, the cost can reach $45,000 or sometimes higher if you’re adopting from outside the country.

According to the federal Child Welfare Information Gateway, an “independent” adoption through an attorney costs between $15,000 and $40,000. Adoptions handled through an adoption agency vary in cost from state to state, ranging from $20,000 to $45,000. 

The cost of international adoptions ranges from $20,000 to $50,000, the New York Times reports.

Difficulty of Surrogacy Versus Adoption

One of the cruelest criticisms lobbed at intended parents who have babies via surrogacy is that they are taking the “easy way out”—in other words, that they are choosing to use a surrogate to avoid physical discomfort or inconvenience.

As a parent of twin sons born via egg donation, IVF, and surrogacy, I cringe whenever I run across that unkind stereotype. To begin with, the critic has no way of knowing what drove the decision to undertake assisted reproduction. The intended mother who is being criticized may very well be grieving her inability to conceive or to carry a baby to term.

In my personal experience, as well as my experience as a fertility lawyer helping thousands of intended parents from all over the world, creating a family via surrogacy is life-changing and immensely rewarding… but it is anything but easy.

The path to surrogacy entails numerous steps and significant expense, as we outlined above. The journey, depending on your specific situation, from egg or sperm donor screening and selection, to matching with a surrogate, through pregnancy and delivery, and legal establishment of parentage, will take months.

Intended parents and surrogates working with an agency will receive support and guidance from their agency professionals. An experienced ART lawyer also will be able to provide step-by-step support in ensuring the new family is legally protected.

Likewise, while adoption is a wonderful way to become a parent and create a family, the process involves multiple steps and court proceedings and is rarely “easy.” Adopted parents will be screened for suitability by the adoption agency, if they are working with one, and must successfully pass a home study (and a comprehensive look into their finances and their other overall support systems) before their adoption is finalized.

For more information about adoption options, visit the National Council for Adoption at https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/who-we-are/mission.

Establishing Parentage in Surrogacy Versus Adoption

Under parentage law in the United States, a woman who gives birth is automatically considered to be the legal mother. In surrogacy law, usually governed by a surrogacy agreement, the intended parent(s) agrees to become the legal parent(s), and the surrogate (and her spouse or significant other, if applicable) agrees she is not a legal parent to begin with, or, in some cases, to relinquish any presumed parental rights.

A court order or administrative acknowledgment establishing the parentage of the intended parents also is required, either before (pre-birth order) or after (post-birth order) the baby is born. This court order of parentage is not the same as an adoption order but has the same force and effect—establishing the legal parent-child relationship.

However, in some jurisdictions, an intended parent who is not genetically related to the child must go through a “second-parent adoption” or “step-parent adoption” to be established as the child’s legal parent.

In adoption, legal parentage also is established via a court proceeding, typically following several months of screenings, background checks, and home visitations to ensure the adoptive parents are suitable and that the best interests of the child are protected.

Laws governing assisted reproduction, surrogacy and parentage vary from state to state in the U.S. and from country to country, as well. An experienced attorney with expertise in fertility law will be able to advise you about the laws in your home jurisdiction and what processes and documents are required to establish your legal parentage and secure your parental rights.

Both Surrogacy and Adoption Fulfill Dreams of Parenthood

We are so fortunate in the United States to have accessible and effective options for becoming parents and creating families. While our practice at IFLG focuses exclusively on surrogacy law and other assisted reproductive technology law, our team of attorneys and paralegals support the rights of all individuals to create the families of their dreams. 

For assistance with questions about legal issues in surrogacy and other types of assisted reproductive technology, contact our IFLG team.

Rich Vaughn
Rich 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.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

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.