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Joe Donor and the Consequences of Online Conception

By |2019-02-20T02:39:42+00:00February 19th, 2019|Categories: Blog, donor agreement, egg donation, infertility, ivf, laws, lgbt, sperm donor, victoria, written agreements|

If you watched  60 Minutes recently you’d know all about Joe Donor – the American man who claims to have donated sperm to over 800 women, resulting in over 100 babies born (admittedly, that means his success rate is less than 13%, which is about average and to be frank, there’s nothing super about his sperm). His method – either ‘natural’ or ‘artificial’ insemination – does not involve any formal agreement with the recipients (mostly single women or same-sex female couples), nor does it involve legal advice or medical assistance. It’s not a unique thing to do (although the sheer number of donations is), and many forums and Facebook groups are set up to facilitate a relationship between sperm donors and recipients in Australia. But what are the legalities and consequences of online sperm donation – for the recipients, donors and the donor-conceived people – that result from online conception?

In my experience as an egg donor, we didn’t require any written Agreement or formal document to confirm our arrangement or intentions for our future relationships, or my relationship with any donor-conceived children. The IVF Clinic had a bunch of consent forms that we completed, with my partner and I signing our consent for the recipients to use the embryos as they wished. Under Victorian law, I can withdraw my consent for the use of those embryos at any time up to the point of them being transferred. I have no parental rights or responsibilities for any donor-conceived children. I am not liable for child support. Under the Family Law Act, the woman who births the baby is presumed to be the legal parent, and her partner is also presumed to be the parent, regardless of the genetics of the child.

So how is sperm donation different? Well, there are a few different ways of conceiving via sperm donation, and the method can impact on the consequences. For example, utilising a ‘clinic-recruited’ sperm donor, usually involves the recipient knowing very little, and having no relationship, with the donor. In this case, the birth mother registers the birth, can list her partner as the other parent, and the donor details can be recorded on the Birth Registration. In Victoria, a Central Register exists where donor details are stored, so that the child can apply for information about their donor once they turn 18. The donor does not partake in any parenting role nor are they liable for child support.

A similar arrangement can exist with a known donor (such as a friend, family member or acquaintance), if it is facilitated through a Clinic. Recipients and donors who use a Clinic are put through counselling about the arrangement, and they have discussions about their expectations for future roles and relationships. Generally speaking, a sperm donor in a Clinic is treated the same as an egg donor. When the birth occurs, the birth mother’s partner is listed as the other parent, and the donor’s details are kept in the Birth Registration and the Central Register.

So what of those conceptions with a donor via artificial insemination at home? Well, this is where written agreement can be really useful. Whilst the presumption is that a birth mother and her partner are the legal parents, there can be questions about whether the donor is a donor, or a parent, unless there is a written Agreement confirming the arrangement. Donor Agreements are evidence of the parties’ intentions prior to conception, and can be used to register the birth and to ensure the donor is not liable for child support.  Is the donor only a donor, or will he take on a parenting role? Will he be known as ‘Uncle’ and take on a special role in the child’s life, or stay completely out of it? Will the child visit him on weekends or not see him ever again? The variations on intentions and roles can play a huge part in how a Court may see him and his role in the future. Whilst Donor Agreements are not enforceable, (and I’ve seen many a keyboard expert tell people not to bother with them), they can be crucial in protecting everyone and ensuring the relationships are clear and understood. The fact is, intentions and expectations can change, and relationships and roles can change. Is a donor just a donor, or can he be a parent? The High Court will be determining this exact issue, in the case of Parsons and Anor & Masson.

What about natural insemination? Well, this is a whole other kettle of fish. If the conception was achieved in the traditional way, then the ‘donor’ is, by law, a parent, and he is liable for child support, and needs to be registered on the Birth Certificate.

And what of the children? Donor-conceived children’s interests are often not considered deeply enough by everyone involved. They’re certainly not considered by Joe Donor. Note that the 60 Minutes interview with him focused mainly on the well-being of the women conceiving with Joe’s sperm, and very little consideration was given to the rights or interests of any children conceived from his donations. But, interviews with VARTA counsellor Kate Bourne and Chloe Allworthy (herself a donor-conceived person) pointed out that donor-conceived people want to know their origins, have a right to information about their origins, and should not be treated as secondary to the interests of Joe or the women seeking to conceive with his help. What will these children say of the legacy of their conception when they grow up? How will the children conceived with Joe’s sperm feel about having 100+ donor siblings? Chloe, and many other donor-conceived adults, are speaking up now, and it would be negligent of us not to listen to them.

As an egg donor, I underwent many hours of counselling and considered the ramifications of my donations from many angles. On the face of it, donation can seem like a lovely, altruistic thing to do, and similar to donating blood. Except donated blood doesn’t grow up and become a real-life person with thoughts and feelings of their own. Even with the significant consideration and counselling, I still find that my feelings and thoughts about donor-conception are challenged and changed all the time. I don’t know how I will feel about the people conceived from my eggs in 5, 10 or 25 years. I don’t know how they will feel about me, or what role they will want me to have (or whether I’ll want to have it) when they are teenagers, adults or raising their own children. Donor-conception should not be a quick decision over some Joe Donor you met on the internet; it has life-long ramifications for the children, their families, the donor and their families.

If you are thinking of conceiving with the help of a donor, I urge you to consider your options, and seek legal advice before you attempt to conceive. This applies to potential sperm donors and recipients. Counsellors with experience in donor-conception can also be really helpful to help you decide the best way to move forward. For more information about donor conception, check out the resources at VARTA here in Victoria.

Want to talk about Donor Agreements and options? You can book a consult with me below.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford. I’m a surrogacy, fertility and family lawyer. I’m also an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her Dads in 2018.

I promote positive, empowered altruistic surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

You can get in touch with me through the options below.

Contact Me

PO Box 366, Batman VIC 3058

Phone: 0400481703

Book an initial 30 minute consult

Click here to book!

Why Surrogacy Agreements are not like Contracts, and How to Write Your Own

By |2019-01-15T01:13:42+00:00January 14th, 2019|Categories: altruistic surrogacy, Australia, Blog, surrogacy, surrogacy process, written agreements|

The elements of a basic contract include (1) an offer, (2) acceptance, (3) consideration (usually money) and (4) an intention to create a legal relationship. For example, you offer to buy a car for $10,000. The owner of the car accepts your offer; you provide $10,000 as payment (consideration), in return for the car. Both you and the owner of the car enter into a legal relationship to exchange money for the car.

In altruistic surrogacy arrangements, the surrogate and her partner offer to carry a baby for another person or couple, and the intended parents accept. But there’s no real consideration. The intended parents might get a baby, and the surrogate can expect to have her expenses covered. All going well, the surrogate is rewarded for her good deed with lots of love and fuzzy feelings. And whilst the parties might intend to enter a legal relationship, the fact is that surrogacy agreements in Australia are not enforceable, other than to ensure the surrogate’s expenses are covered.

So if an altruistic surrogacy agreement is not like a contract, why would you write it as if it were a contract? In most States, a written Agreement is required as evidence of the arrangement, and is a prerequisite for a Parentage Order.  There is no requirement for what should be in a Surrogacy Agreement, which means you can include things that are important to you, and leave out things that you do not want.

A good Surrogacy Agreement should be written in good faith to a trusting relationship between the parties. The Agreement might include:

  1. Recitals – these are background details, such as
    1. the names, dates of birth and addresses of all the parties;
    2. details of the reasons why the intended parents need a surrogate;
    3. details of embryos and who provided the gametes to create the embryos (including details of any donors);
    4. details of the Clinic and specialist treating the parties;
    5. that the surrogate and her partner have offered to carry a baby for the intended parents, who have accepted the offer;
    6. that the agreement is altruistic and that the surrogate will not be receiving any payment for carrying baby for the intended parents.
  2. Surrogacy Expenses: That the intended parents agree to cover the expenses of the surrogate as determined by the relevant laws in the intended parents’ State.
  3. Pregnancy and Birth Care: Agreements about pregnancy and birth care, if you have any.
  4. Termination of Pregnancy: if there are agreements about when a pregnancy may or may not be terminated, you can include them in the Agreement. Remember that having it in writing does not make it enforceable. Many surrogacy teams find it difficult to make a decision about termination until they are faced with such a scenario.
  5. Details of the counselling that the parties have completed.
  6. Agreements and understanding that the surrogate has bodily autonomy and can make the final decision about treatment she receives.
  7. Agreements about registering the child’s birth with a name chosen by the intended parents.
  8. Parentage Order – statement that the intended parents intend to apply for a Parentage Order after the baby is born and that the surrogate and her partner intend to consent to the application.
  9. Legal Advice: Statement that each party has obtained independent legal advice.

Some Agreements, particularly ones that look like contracts, are often based on overseas commercial surrogacy arrangements. Remember, this is an altruistic arrangement, and writing an Agreement like a commercial contract will undermine the trust and goodwill between the parties. Things to avoid in a Surrogacy Agreement include:

  1. Elements that are too prescriptive, such as listing the way the surrogate should or should not behave, or what she can and cannot eat. Many surrogates agree not to drink alcohol during pregnancy; having it in writing does not make it more enforceable but it may serve to make her feel like she’s being micro-managed.
  2. A termination clause that allows the parties can terminate the Agreement during a pregnancy. The Agreement is not enforceable; a termination clause is unnecessary. It also suggests that if the surrogate ‘breaks’ an agreement (for example, that she won’t drink alcohol), that the intended parents can terminate the agreement for that reason.
  3. Any clause that provides for the surrogate to reimburse the intended parents if she has a miscarriage due to ‘wanton recklessness’. My clients always find these clauses upsetting and offensive. If you are worried that your surrogate might be reckless or negligent during pregnancy, you should discuss that during counselling and consider not entering the agreement at all. Trust is a crucial element of an altruistic surrogacy arrangement. Even if a surrogate were to miscarry and there was evidence that she was ‘reckless,’ it is unlikely that any Court would order her to reimburse the intended parents for expenses. Remember that the surrogate maintains bodily autonomy and that pregnancy termination is legal in most Australian States.

Surrogacy arrangements are, by their nature, legal arrangements and that’s why lawyers are inevitably involved. But in my experience, lawyers should be a positive influence on the process – helping you understand the consequences of entering into the arrangement, and your rights and responsibilities. The relationships, however, will outlast any legal process. My final piece of advice, therefore, is to focus on the relationship and trust building, and the counselling, to ensure you have a positive experience. Because at the end of the day, it won’t matter what is written in an Agreement; it is the relationships that are important.

Remember, all parties need to obtain independent legal advice, and nothing here should be seen to replace independent legal advice. If you have questions or need assistance, get in touch with me via the links.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford. I’m a surrogacy, fertility and family lawyer. I’m also an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her Dads in 2018.

I promote positive, empowered altruistic surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

You can get in touch with me through the options below.

Contact Me

PO Box 366, Batman VIC 3058

Phone: 0400481703

Applying for a Parentage Order

By |2019-01-09T02:53:23+00:00November 15th, 2018|Categories: altruistic surrogacy, Australia, Blog, interstate surrogacy, laws, parentage order, parenthood, surrogacy, surrogacy process, surrogate, written agreements|

After a baby is born through an Australian surrogacy arrangement, a Parentage Order is required to transfer parentage from the surrogate and her partner to the intended parents.

When the baby is born, the surrogate and her partner register the baby’s birth in the State where the baby is born. They can register the baby with a name chosen by the intended parents.

The surrogate and her partner are listed as the baby’s parents on the birth certificate.

Once the birth certificate is issued, the intended parents must apply for a Parentage Order (also called a Substitute Parentage Order). They apply to a Court in the State where they live. The purpose of a Parentage Order is to transfer parentage from the surrogate and her partner, to the intended parents. This has the effect of providing an Order that recognises the surrogacy arrangement, and who the true parents are. The Order also tells the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages in the surrogate’s State, to re-issue the birth certificate with the parents listed, instead of the surrogate and her partner.

For the Court to grant a Parentage Order, the intended parents will need to provide evidence of the surrogacy arrangement, and that the surrogate and her partner have relinquished care of the baby to the parents. This is usually provided by way of Affidavits from each of the intended parents and the surrogate and her partner.

The Court will need to see evidence that the parties received legal advice and counselling prior to the pregnancy. In some States, post-surrogacy counselling is also a requirement of the Parentage Order.

You should refer to the legislation in the state where the intended parents live to understand the requirements that apply to you.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford. I’m a surrogacy, fertility and family lawyer. I’m also an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her Dads in 2018.

I promote positive, empowered altruistic surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

You can get in touch with me through the options below.

Contact Me

PO Box 366, Batman VIC 3058

Phone: 0400481703

Written Surrogacy Agreements

By |2018-12-29T05:56:00+00:00September 25th, 2018|Categories: altruistic surrogacy, Australia, Blog, laws, surrogacy process, written agreements|

Surrogacy arrangements can be written into formal Agreements between the surrogate and her partner, and the intended parents.

Some states require surrogacy arrangements to have a written agreement, whilst other States do not require it but the parties might be inclined to have one anyway.

A written agreement is not enforceable, other than where a surrogate might need to claim costs and reimbursement for expenses incurred during the surrogacy.

A written agreement can help ensure everyone is on the same page and there is less likely to be conflict or misunderstandings.

Written agreements should cover the requirements of a surrogacy arrangement, such as counselling and legal advice. They can also cover agreements about other matters, such as:

  • Pregnancy and birth care options;
  • What costs the intended parents have committed to cover;
  • How the intended parents will reimburse their surrogate for costs;
  • How the intended parents will support their surrogate and her family in times of need;
  • How the parties will communicate with each other;
  • How the parties might resolve issues and conflict as it arises.

Remember that even if an agreement is in writing, it is generally unenforceable unless it relates to reimbursing the surrogate for prescribed costs.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford. I’m a surrogacy, fertility and family lawyer. I’m also an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her Dads in 2018.

I promote positive, empowered altruistic surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

You can get in touch with me through the options below.

Contact Me

PO Box 366, Batman VIC 3058

Phone: 0400481703

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This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.