A Florida couple considering surrogacy as a means for having children might find Sherri Shepherd’s legal battles to be interesting. In her case, a contract was entered into which provided for a 23-year-old woman to carry a baby conceived with sperm from Shepherd’s husband and a donor egg. Unfortunately, the marriage began to have problems that later resulted in divorce. The pregnancy was in progress, and although Shepherd attempted to void the contract, the baby was born.
A Pennsylvania trial court ruled that Shepherd was the legal mother of the baby boy although she was not the biological mother. Additionally, she was ordered to pay child support to her former husband until the boy reaches age 13. Shepherd’s appeals to two higher courts were unsuccessful, and she now has no other legal remedy for removing her name from the child’s birth certificate. Reports do not note whether she has any plans to develop a relationship with the boy or seek custody.
Florida couples can deal with disagreements over child support and custody matters as they go through a divorce, but it may be more effective to seek alternative resolutions instead of going before a judge. In mediation, for example, the costs can be lower than in dealing with court time. Further, mediation may allow each parent to emphasize aspects of visitation and support terms that are priorities. This give-and-take approach can ensure that neither parent faces terms that are difficult to comply with.
If parents have trouble negotiating terms, the legal issues could still go before a judge. However, alternative dispute resolution is much less formal and can be less stressful as well. It is important that each parent has separate legal representation to ensure that their interests are clearly understood and communicated throughout the process.