Posts Tagged ‘US surrogacy’

Louisa Ghevaert joins Michelmores

Monday, August 25th, 2014

I’m delighted to join Michelmores Solicitors as a partner to head up a specialist fertility, family and parenting law practice. Michelmores have offices in Chancery Lane in London, Bristol and Exeter.

I can be contacted by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com, by telephone +44 (0)207 7886382 or visit www.michelmores.com.

My award-winning, innovative and pioneering legal practice includes international and UK surrogacy, donor conception, co-parenting, fertility treatment law, posthumous conception, inter-country adoption, divorce and finances, cohabitation and complex family and children law.

I’m ranked as a leading lawyer in fertility and family law by Chambers & Partners UK 2014, which says ‘Sources describe her as “an expert in a very difficult and specialised area of the law- she knows her subject extremely well and gives knowledgeable and sensible advice”.’ I’m also ranked as a leading expert by The Legal 500 UK 2013.

I’ve represented fertility patients, parents and intended parents in numerous well known UK fertility law cases including, embryo storage and surrogacy disputes, landmark applications for parental orders in the English Family Court following commercial surrogacy and disputes over NHS fertility treatment funding.

My specialist fertility and family law practice was High Commended at The Law Society Excellence Awards 2013 in the Category of Business Development and Innovation.  I was also shortlisted at The Family Law Awards 2013 in the Category of Most Innovative Family Lawyer of The Year.

I’m joined by Rachel Cook, a leading authority on adoption and children law.  Rachel’s specialist expertise brings added depth to the fertility, family and parenting team at Michelmores.  Rachel is a member of the British Association of Adoption and Fostering Legal Group Advisory Committee, a member of the Department of Education Adoption Stakeholder Group, an Independent Panel Chair of a Local Authority Adoption Agency and a trustee to a large Voluntary Adoption Agency.

 

Maternity leave granted in surrogacy cases

Friday, December 21st, 2012

The Government has recently announced that it will be introducing maternity leave in 2015 to parents through surrogacy. This is a step in the right direction although surrogacy law in the UK remains outdated and needs a thorough root and branch review.

From 2015, intended parents through surrogacy will be eligible for maternity pay and new flexible parental leave if they meet the legal requirements.  This follows a response to a consultation on modern workplaces run by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The new proposals include making intended parents entitled to unpaid leave to attend up to two ante-natal appointments with their surrogate,  to share one year’s parental leave post birth between them as well as eligibility to maternity pay.  This will help to stop the plight of many intended parents who currently have to carry on working or resign from work to care for their baby, placing enormous stress on them and their family.

The Government’s proposals will be worked out in greater detail next year ahead of their introduction in 2015.  The announcement of these proposals gives intended parents through surrogacy greater legal recognition than ever before, although there is still much to be done to place family building through surrogacy on an equal footing with other family building options.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or you would like more information about surrogacy, fertility, family or parenting law please contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Elizabeth Banks welcomes second surrogate son

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Hollywood actress, Elizabeth Banks, 38, has hit the headlines again this week following the announcement of the birth of her second surrogate born son.

Baby Magnus joined older surrogate born brother Felix, aged 20 months, at her home earlier this week.  Elizabeth said “As 2012 winds down and Thanksgiving approaches, I have much for which to be thankful – personal, professional and Presidential.  However, nothing can match the joy and excitement my husband and I felt when we recently welcomed our second baby boy, Magnus Mitchell Handelman.  Like Felix, Magnus was born via a gestational surrogate. This experience has exceeded all expectations, taught us a great deal about generosity and gratitude, and established a relationship that will last a lifetime.”

Elizabeth captured the hearts of many following her honest account of her own battle with infertility and her and her husband’s decision to turn to surrogacy for the birth of their first son, Felix.  Elizabeth quickly became a role model for those looking to build families of their own through surrogacy with her sensitive approach to infertility and her decision to speak so openly and honestly about her own journey to parenthood through surrogacy. To read my previous article about Elizabeth Banks in magazine Fertility Road entitled Surrogacy and the Celebrity factor click here.

Earlier this week, Elizabeth went on to say “I am also so very thankful to our family and friends for their support throughout this process, as well as the Center for Surrogate Parenting for helping make all this possible.  I now turn my attention to managing two boys under two. For which I am thankful.  And all their poop. For which I am less thankful. Wish me luck”.

Celebrity endorsement of surrogacy by people like Elizabeth continues to help raise the profile of surrogacy.  Elizabeth has publicly given an honest and positive experience of the process and the joy it has brought to her and those around her.  Her story helps to give hope to others battling infertility and shows that surrogacy can deliver the life-changing gift of a child.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or you would like more information about the legalities of  UK surrogacy law please contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

International surrogacy: US judge denies restitution following surrogacy scam

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

On Monday (18 June 2012), a US federal judge in San Diego denied a claim brought by Sharp Healthcare for reimbursement of approximately $600,000 in medical costs for the medical care of seven surrogate babies delivered as a result of an international baby-selling ring.

This case follows on from the conviction of a former prominent Poway surrogacy lawyer, Theresa Erickson, earlier this year for fraud and her sentence to a 14 month term (with five months to be spent in prison) for her part in the surrogacy scam.  Two others, Carla Chambers of Las Vegas and Hilary Neiman of Maryland received similar sentences for their parts in the scam as well.

The seven surrogate born babies were delivered at Sharp hospitals.  Several of the babies were premature and medical costs for their care exceeded $600,000.  The intended parents respectively paid between $100,000 and $150,000 for their surrogacy arrangements and believed everything was legal and that there was medical insurance in place to cover medical costs.  The intended parents were then shocked and horrified when they were presented with huge medical bills and discovered these were not covered by health insurance and the illegality of their surrogacy arrangements came to light.

Sharp Healthcare entered into agreements with the majority of the intended parents and accepted more than $235,000 in payments.  However, this left a shortfall of approximately $600,000 which it sought to recover from Theresa Erickson.  Their claims were denied in five of the seven cases by US District Judge Anthony Battaglia. The judge ordered only a few thousand dollars of reimbursement to the remaining two sets of intended parents who had been listed in the government’s criminal case as victims (the other five sets of intended parents had not been listed as victims in the government’s case).

The outcome of this case graphically illustrates once again what can happen when surrogacy arrangements go wrong.  The legal issues surrounding surrogacy are complex and even more so in cases involving international surrogacy arrangements. It is therefore critical that anyone contemplating a surrogacy arrangement fully gets to grips with the legal issues and implications from the outset and ensures they have confidence in the people with whom they work.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or you would like more information about surrogacy law and the specific legal issues associated with international surrogacy please email me louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

The intersection of fertility and family law

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

I was delighted to attend Family Law’s annual drinks party in central London last night following my specialist contribution to The International Family Law Practice Second Edition (March 2012).  The evening was very well attended by judges, barristers, lawyers, specialist experts and members of Jordans Publishing group who came together to celebrate the launch of a number of new publications in the arena of family, children and parenting and fertility law.

For the first time, The International Family Law Practice includes a specialist chapter on surrogacy law which I co-authored with David Hodson, partner at The International Family Law Group and a deputy district judge.  This leading practitioner textbook known as ‘the Grey Book’ in legal circles provides comprehensive coverage of the complex and rapidly developing area of international family law and its intersection with assisted reproduction law in the form of international surrogacy.

If you would like more information about the legal issues associated with surrogacy in the UK or international surrogacy please email me louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Owner of US surrogacy agency prosecuted

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

The owner of a US surrogacy agency in Modesto pleaded not guilty on Monday to criminal charges of fraud and money laundering.  Prosecutors allege she stole more than $2 million from clients who had paid money into trust for surrogacy fees and egg donation.

US authorities allege that the owner of SurroGenesis, Tonya Collins, encouraged clients to invest their money with a personal property escrow company which purported to be independent and that she concealed her ownership of the company and created fictitious staff identities to make it appear independent.  Prosecutors allege that she then transferred client money to personal accounts to pay for a lavish lifestyle including holidays, homes and cars.

Judge Gary Austin is reported to have indicated that if found guilty, Ms Collins could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for mail fraud and wire fraud, up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for bank fraud and 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for money laundering.

There are no centralized laws governing the practice of surrogacy in the US and this case follows on from the recent prosecution of an international baby-selling ring headed by a prominent former US surrogacy attorney. There is also no international harmonization of surrogacy law around the world, with each jurisdiction taking its own approach to surrogacy and this can create a legal quagmire for intended parents. Whilst such cases are unusual, it highlights the risks associated with assisted conception and brings into focus once again the importance for intended parents to vet the professionals they choose to work with and ensure they have a clear understanding of the legal framework and issues relevant to their family building plans.

If you would like to discuss your personal situation in more detail or you would like more information about the legal issues associated with surrogacy please email me louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Surrogacy and the celebrity factor

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Leading fertility magazine Fertility Road (April/May 2012) features an article of mine entitled “Surrogacy and the celebrity factor”.

Celebrity endorsement of surrogacy continues to capture public imagination and celebrity interest in surrogacy shows no sign of abating.  Hollywood movie actress Elizabeth Banks has recently spoken poignantly and compellingly about her reasons for turning to surrogacy and the birth of her son.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or you would like more information about the legalities of surrogacy email me louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Indian surrogate born twins granted French civil status

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Despite a legal ban on surrogacy in France, the Court of Appeal in Rennes has recently upheld a previous ruling to give French civil status to twins born to a French couple following an Indian surrogate arrangement.

This ruling is in stark contrast to a separate case last year where the French Supreme Court denied civil status to twins born following a US surrogacy arrangement. The Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Rennes was made on the basis that although they could not validate the surrogacy agreement, they could grant the twins civil status relying on article 47 of the French civil code (even though similar arguments in the French Supreme Court were unsuccessful last year). This judgment placed the best interests of the twins at the heart of the decision, although it is still unclear if this marks a change in attitudes towards surrogacy law and practice in France as a whole.

International surrogacy arrangements continue to raise complex legal issues that challenge law and policy around the world.  Many countries prohibit surrogacy or legally restrict the practice of surrogacy.  International surrogacy arrangements often create complex international conflicts of law that can leave surrogate born children stateless with no citizenship anywhere in the world. If you would like more information about the legal issues associated with surrogacy contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Surrogacy lawyer sentenced to prison for international baby-selling

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Theresa Erickson, a former prominent Californian surrogacy lawyer, was last Friday sentenced to five months in prison, nine months home confinement, three years of supervised release and a $70,000 dollar fine plus restitution for her role as ring leader of what prosecutors termed an illegal international baby-selling ring. Her sentence follows the prison sentence that was delivered to her co-conspirator and Maryland lawyer, Hilary Neiman, last December. Carla Chambers, the third co-conspirator, also received five months in prison for her role and guilty plea to knowingly receiving money from an illegal enterprise.

The legacy of this case will create longstanding issues for the intended parents, surrogates and children involved.  A point noted by the federal judge who stated that Erickson and her co-conspirators had tainted the birth stories of the children involved.  Erickson acknowledged her wrongdoing in court and said she had lost her way.

The six year scam, which  involved at least 12 fake surrogacy arrangements, stands as a stark reminder of what can happen when surrogacy and assisted reproduction goes wrong.  US prosecutors delivered a statement in court  stating that Erickson had been motivated by greed and that she had preyed upon people’s most basic need to have and raise a child, charging childless couples $100,000 or more to become intended parents and step into falsified ‘surrogacy arrangements’ where surrogates were already pregnant using donor embryo treatment in the Ukraine.

Assisted reproduction and surrogacy can offer hope to many people who are unable to have a child of their own.  Surrogacy can deliver the reality of a much wanted child and family after years of personal heartbreak and upset.  The actions of these individuals have, however, left their mark and raised questions about the control and regulation of assisted reproduction across the world and the role of the professionals involved.   International surrogacy arrangements raise a number of complex legal and practical issues for intended parents and surrogates to get to grips with, in what remains an expanding and fast moving area of law and practice. This case shows that assisted reproduction and surrogacy is not without its risks and that great care is needed at all stages of the process.

If you would like more information about the legal issues associated with surrogacy or you would like to discuss your situation in more detail, please contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

International surrogacy: the baby-selling scandal continues

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Later this week, San Diego surrogacy attorney Theresa Erickson will be sentenced for her part in what US prosecutors have called an international baby-selling ring.  It is likely she will face a prison sentence, following her guilty plea to a wire fraud charge last August.

Ms Erickson was charged along with two others, a Maryland lawyer called Hilary Neiman and Carla Chambers, a nurse from Las Vegas.   Ms Neiman was sentenced last December to one year in prison, being five months in custody and the rest under home confinement, for her part in the scheme.

The women recruited surrogates and sent them to the Ukraine where they conceived and then sourced intended parents for the unborn babies once the pregnancies were well established. Prosecutors alleged that the intended parents were falsely told that a previous surrogacy arrangement had fallen through and that they could step in for an alleged fee of $100,000 or more. It is further alleged that falsified court documents were then filed in the Californian court presenting the case as a surrogacy arrangement to obtain pre-birth orders for the intended parents. It is reported that the scheme involved at least 11 babies.

Ms Erickson was a successful and  high profile US attorney who specialised in surrogacy law and who also owned a surrogacy and egg donation agency to help people become parents through surrogacy.  She was herself an egg donor (resulting in the birth of twins) and a prominent commentator about surrogacy on television and radio.  Her involvement in this scandal has sent shock waves through the assisted reproduction community and caused many to question her motivations and actions.

Under Californian law, intended parents must enter into a surrogacy contract with a surrogate before conception.  The timing is critical.  It is illegal for a woman who is already pregnant to agree to handover a baby to the intended intended parents for a fee and this is regarded as baby-selling.

The San Diego Superior Court has now tightened up its legal process and requirements to try and prevent any further cases of this nature.  Whilst the vast majority of surrogacy arrangements are successful and follow due legal process, this scandal has attracted unwelcome headlines and coverage.  It highlights the problems and pitfalls that can occur in an area of law and practice that lacks widespread unification or regulation. It also brings into focus the importance for intended parents to get a clear grasp of the legal issues from the outset and ensure that they have confidence in their lawyer and the other professionals with whom they work.

For those considering entering into an international surrogacy arrangement, it is important to tackle the legalities in their surrogacy destination country as well as their home country upon their return with their baby.  As there is no international harmonization of surrogacy law, a Californian pre-birth order will not be automatically recognised in the UK and English law expects intended parents to apply to court for a parental order to secure legal parental rights for their child. International surrogacy arrangements raise a number of complex legal issues involving public policy and international legal conflicts of law which make any application for a parental order a significant legal exercise. This process can become even more complicated if any legal discrepencies or problems come to light along the way, such as the those highlighted in the alleged baby-selling ring.

If you would like more information about the legal issues associated with an international surrogacy arrangement or a parental order please email me louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.