Frequently Asked Questions

What are you wondering?

This is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be considered legal advice nor meant to create an attorney-client relationship.  Every situation is unique and laws differ from place to place. Please contact our office to set up a free virtual consultation so we can discuss your specific situation.

What does gestational surrogacy mean?

Gestational surrogacy is a situation wherein a woman agrees to carry a child during a pregnancy for another person or people with the intention of not being the child's parent, and where the conception does not involve the use of her own egg.  This is the only kind of surrogacy legal in New York.

Why enter into a surrogacy agreement?

First, in New York, a surrogacy agreement is required under the law.  But more than that, it's crucial in clearly defining the roles, rights and responsibilities of the surrogate (and spouse, if any) and the intended parent(s) as to one another, throughout the arrangement.  Importantly, it will set forth that the surrogate does not intend to parent any child born, and that the intended parent(s) will assume all responsibility towards the child, so that all parties are clear on the legal purpose and intended outcome of the arrangement.

Should I have a donor agreement for egg or sperm donation?

Generally, a donation agreement is advisable if the donor is known to you, so that everyone is clear as to the roles and intentions of all parties.  Agreements protect against donors unintentionally becoming obligated to a child, protect intended parents from having a donor assert rights in the future that were not expected, and provide guidelines for future contact, if any. 

Does a surrogate need her own attorney?

Yes!  In New York it is required by law, and it's a good idea and best practice even outside of New York.  Both the intended parent(s) and the surrogate (along with her spouse, if any) should be represented throughout the surrogacy arrangement by independent legal counsel to advocate for her and explain the legal process and ramifications.

Is being on the birth certificate enough if I am LGBTQ? 

No!! A birth certificate is merely a piece of paper (useful as it is) issued by an administrative body, but it does NOT confer a legal right of parentage.  Therefore a non-gestating partner should consult an attorney to pursue a court order declaring them as a parent, whether through a Judgment of Parentage (where applicable) or an Order of Adoption.  This is true even if there has been reciprocal IVF.  A parentage order can be pursued before birth or after birth, depending on the meeting of certain requirements.

Will I have to go to Court for this?

In New York there is no court appearance involved when entering into donor agreements, surrogacy agreements or embryo disposition agreements (unless there is some dispute over them in the future).  For parentage proceedings to obtain a Judgment of Parentage, yes there is expected to be one court appearance, which in some places may be held virtually.  For adoptions, you should expect one or two court appearances.

At what stage should I hire a lawyer?

If you are a recipient or donor in a known donor arrangement, a lawyer can be retained from the start to draft an agreement and review agency documents.  If you are engaged in a surrogacy, you can hire an attorney before matching who can guide you through the process and help you select an agency to work with if you aren't doing an indy journey.  Or you can seek out an attorney after a match and medical/psych clearances are completed, and it's time for the legal agreement.  In New York, you won't be able to proceed with medications or embryo transfer until a surrogacy agreement is complete (with both sides represented by an attorney).  For a parentage petition seeking a pre-birth parentage order, generally you want to engage the services of an attorney by the beginning of the second trimester.

What's Reciprocal IVF?

Reciprocal IVF is a practice used often in lesbian relationships where one partner goes through an egg retrieval procedure, her egg is then used to create an embryo through IVF, and the embryo is then transferred to the uterus of the other partner to carry the pregnancy and give birth.  The non-gestating partner (though the egg contributor) will generally not be the legal parent until there is a court order (of parentage or adoption).  Counter-intuitive, yet true!

How much will legal representation cost?

Our office bills a one-time flat rate fee for each of our services, which is inclusive of court filing fees, our travel and time attending a court appearance.  If protracted litigation as to a matter in dispute is required, fees will be charged hourly.  Please contact our office for more information.   

Do I need to travel and meet with my attorney in person?

No! If you choose to hire the Law Office of Jennifer P. Maas, PLLC, even after the Covid pandemic subsides, we are respectful of your time and know (from personal experience) that you have enough appointments to get to and enough demands on your limited time each day.  We take very seriously the representation of our clients and commit to providing personal attention, as we know that the matters we deal with are often very personal and life-changing.  Yet we know that using modern technology such as video-conferencing platforms, secured electronic document management, email and phone systems, we can limit the inconvenience to you, without compromising the level of service required for this important area of the law.

Does it matter if I'm not married?

In addition to being gender neutral, the laws in New York surrounding parentage and surrogacy are marriage neutral as well.  So unmarried people and married people will be treated the same in many respects and will be able to take advantage of the laws in this area in the same way.

How long will things take?

The drafting of a donor agreement or embryo disposition agreement can be accomplished in a short time frame of just a few weeks.  The legal process surrounding the drafting and execution of a surrogacy agreement generally will take about four to seven weeks, depending on the promptness of each side's review and edits needed, as well as the promptness of the parties meeting certain pre-requisites for execution (including the completion of estate documents, securing insurance and the funding of an escrow account.)  The legal and court process for obtaining a parentage order is expected to take under six months, but is highly dependent on the court's own scheduling calendar and backlog.  An adoption will take longer.

Contact our office to schedule a free virtual consultation to discuss your specific case, and answer additional questions that you may have.