Before you attempt fertility treatment, you should always consult with an assisted reproductive technology attorney. An increasing number of people use assisted reproductive technology (ART) to give birth to a child. Their reasons are diverse. Americans are waiting longer to have children, making natural pregnancy more difficult. Health issues can prevent a traditional pregnancy. And, same-sex couples frequently use ART as a means to have children. However, ART carries its own legal challenges. Learn more about how James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates protects their clients who use assisted reproductive technology below.
What Is Assisted Reproductive Technology?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define assisted reproductive technology (ART) as fertility treatments that involve the handling of both sperm and eggs. ART covers a wide variety of methods that help a person have a child, including:
- In vitro fertilization (IVF): Eggs and sperm are both collected. The eggs and sperm are introduced into a culture dish in a laboratory. If fertilization occurs, the embryos are either transferred into a uterus or preserved for later implantation.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection: A single sperm is injected into each egg. If embryos develop, they are either implanted in a uterus or cryogenically frozen.
- Surrogacy: A gestational carrier or surrogate carries a couple’s embryo.
Other fertility technologies involve intrauterine insemination (IUI), the freezing of sperm, eggs, or the use of donor eggs, sperm, or embryos.
Legal Issues Involving Reproductive Technology
Numerous legal issues can develop when you use assisted reproductive technology. They might involve:
- Disputes about who “owns” unused eggs, sperm, or embryos after a relationship ends;
- The parental and custody rights of same-sex or unmarried partners;
- Child custody issues with a surrogate or other donor;
- Contract disputes with a surrogate or gestational carrier concerning unexpected medical bills, birth defects, failure to disclose known health or genetic issues, or other issues;
- Contract disputes or negligence claims against fertility clinics and surrogacy agencies.
Moreover, ART is a rapidly developing field. As technology changes, new legal issues and disputes will inevitably arise.
Maryland Does Not Have Comprehensive Assisted Reproduction Laws
While Baltimore, Annapolis, Bel Air, and the rest of Maryland are popular locations for ART treatments, due to its high concentration of fertility clinics, Maryland law does not have comprehensive assisted reproduction laws. Maryland law does, however, recognize that when a married woman undergoes IVF, her husband is deemed the legal father. Problematically, however, Md. Code, Estates & Trusts §1-206(b) specifically addresses the rights of a married husband, and not those of a same-sex spouse or unmarried, committed partner. In these cases, the couple should discuss their options, such as second-parent adoption or a birth order with a reproductive technology attorney.
Legislators have proposed bills that clarify the state’s stance on surrogacy and other ART processes, but these attempts have been unsuccessful thus far. If you have questions about the current state of Maryland’s assisted reproduction laws, contact James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates for more information.
ART Laws Vary From State to State
Additionally, ART laws vary dramatically from state to state. (Currently, federal law does not address family law issues arising out of reproductive technology.) If you are considering an out-of-state donor, surrogate, or ART procedure, you should proceed with caution. For example, some states forbid surrogacy and will not enforce a surrogacy agreement. An experienced reproductive technology attorney can help you understand the potential legal risks involved with out-of-state procedures, donors, and surrogates.
How Can a Reproductive Technology Attorney Protect Your Rights?
Due to the piecemeal nature of Maryland’s ART laws, you should consult with a reproductive technology attorney before attempting any type of reproductive process. An attorney can help you:
- Negotiate and draft comprehensive surrogacy agreements that protect your rights as an intended parent or surrogate;
- File a petition for a birth order in surrogacy matters (determining the child’s legal parentage and allowing the intended parents’ names to be placed on the child’s birth certificate);
- Create prenuptial or other contracts concerning your rights to frozen embryos, sperm, and eggs;
- Update you on the newest developments in assisted reproductive technology law;
- Provide detailed legal advice and information about ART.
While many prospective parents use clinics and agencies that coordinate and assist with ART, these agencies typically do not provide legal services or advice. In contrast, a reproductive technology attorney is on your side and will review all of the agency’s proposed contracts and agreements to ensure they are in your best interest.
Consult With an Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorney Today
While Maryland’s ART laws do not fully address our modern reality, an assisted reproduction technology attorney can help you address this uncertainty. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we help parents with a wide variety of ART and family law issues. We will help you navigate the exciting (and sometimes stressful) process of assisted reproduction and ensure that you and your child’s rights are fully protected.
The field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) can be legally complicated, especially when a third party is involved for either creating or gestating an embryo (surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation, embryo donation). In many ways, technology is developing quicker than laws can keep up with it. In order to keep up with the evolving technology, and to keep the rights of the patients at the center, some attorneys focus on representing women or men undergoing fertility treatments or pursuing adoption.
The attorneys at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates have represented clients in the state of Maryland since 1993. Mr. Crawford established the firm in the hopes of providing personalized services to clients going through trying family law issues. Since then, he has worked with his personally-trained attorneys at his firm to help hundreds of clients throughout the state to maintain their reputation and protect their assets. Attorneys who specialize in fertility treatment law fall in one of two categories: Family Building Law and Adoption or Reproductive Technology Law. When undergoing fertility treatments with assisted reproductive technology, it is important to retain a lawyer who specializes in this field. He or she can create legal agreements that show clear legal rights, responsibilities, obligations, and protections for those involved.
Sperm and Egg Donation
Women or couples who intend to use sperm or egg donation for family building may find it helpful to utilize the services of an attorney.
For those thinking about egg donation, a lawyer specializing in ART can draw up an egg donor agreement that clarifies each party’s responsibilities. It can also clearly state that the egg donor does not wish to have physical, legal, or parental responsibility for the child.
Adoption lawyers can assist with issues like pursuing claim denials from insurance companies, disposition of embryos, and legal planning pre- and post-conception.
Surrogacy is often considered the most complicated assisted reproductive technology option from a legal standpoint. Because of that, it is very important for those interested in using a surrogate to retain a lawyer who specializes in it.
In Florida, contracts for surrogates are legal, as long as the intending parents of the child are married, and a physician determined that the mother cannot physically carry a pregnancy without causing harm to herself or the fetus.
Surrogacy contracts should clearly state the intentions and responsibilities of each party and should emphasize that the surrogate does not intend to seek custody of the child.
The surrogacy contract should include who will pay the medical expenses, and what role, if any, the surrogate will play in the child’s life. Many surrogacy contracts also state additional fees on top of the base fee, including transfer or insemination fee, invasive procedure fee, maternity clothing allowance, multiple pregnancy fee, or cesarian-section fee.
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If you are considering a divorce, it’s in your best interest to consult with a Maryland divorce lawyer. At James E. Crawford Jr. & Associates, we have guided our clients through divorces and legal separations since 1992. We provide compassionate advice and aggressive legal representation, ensuring that our clients receive their fair share of child custody and marital property. If you are in need of a Maryland Family Law lawyer, contact James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates at 443-709-9999 today.