Browsing back through my blog, I realized that for the last couple months I've pretty much just been focusing on the pregnancy part of this journey. In surrogacy, there are so many other moving parts in addition to just gestating and having a baby, so I want to try to do my best to explain everything else that has been going on in the meantime.
One of the most important things to both the surrogates and the IPs is how to go about establishing the legal parentage for the babies. Once they come out, we both want to make sure that all rights and responsibilities for the children go to the IPs. This process varies by state. In many states, you can get a Pre Birth Order (PBO) signed by the judge prior to the babies being born. You can then present this order at the hospital to make sure that the IPs are treated as the parents right from the start, and their names go straight onto the birth certificate. Missouri is not one of the states where you get a pre birth order. Instead, you have to do a parentage action, which takes place post birth.
The ease and process of obtaining the proper parentage work varies from county to county and judge to judge in Missouri. Since I will be delivering in a different county from the county I live in, we have a choice between the two of where to file our parentage case. Our attorney decided that since the judge that deals with surrogacy in the county in which I live makes it much easier to get the parentage paperwork done, that is the county we will file in. This particular judge is very surrogacy friendly, but he asks that the paperwork is not signed and filed until after the babies are born (some will take the paperwork before and then revisit it once the babies are born). So basically, there is nothing for us to do until the babies decide to come.
Here is how it will go down, as it has been explained to me. At the hospital once the babies are born, we need to ask for a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form to sign. This will have to be signed by me, my husband, and my IF (the biological father). The form basically states that contrary to what is normally assumed, my legal husband is NOT the bio father of the babies, and my IF is the one who needs to be given parental rights to them in the hospital. That way he and my IM will be able to get the bracelets to access the babies, and the hospital staff will know to go to him rather than my husband with questions for the care of the babies.
As far as filling out the birth certificate info in the hospital, we are to do exactly what the staff tells us to do. So most likely, I will be listed as the mother, and because of the VAP form, my IF should be able to be listed as the father. Then the hospital staff will forward that information to the Department of Vital Records. Usually what happens from there is the info takes several weeks to make it through the system at the Department of Vital Records, and once your baby is a few month old, you finally receive the official original birth certificate. In our case, we will obtain the court order within a few days of the babies being born, and then our attorney will take the order to the Department of Vital records to have the hospital's information thrown out and replaced with the correct information as dictated in the order. That way, by the time the official original birth certificate comes out, my name should not be on it.
The attorney started the process when I was around 23 weeks pregnant. I am now 33 weeks pregnant, and we have not seen a single piece of paper related to this. We have all been told for the last several weeks that it's done and ready to be signed and filed as soon as the babies are born. I pointed out that it might be a good idea to have us all review it, even if we can't sign yet, just to make sure there are no mistakes. Since time will be of the essence once the babies are born to get this doc to Vital Records, it seems like a good idea, no? I have asked the attorney, as have my IPs, as has the rep from our agency. Yet, no one has received a copy to review yet. It really makes me wonder what's going on here. I've never heard of an attorney being so opposed to letting her own clients review a document that they are going to have to sign.
We went with this law firm because the attorney was supposed to be the best of the best when it came to parentage paperwork. Unfortunately, she recently seems to have passed the torch to her daughter, who is not getting such rave reviews. My IPs have said it takes days for her to return phone calls and emails, and even when they are contacted they don't get much info. Basically the only time the lawyer initiates contact is to ask for more money. As someone who works in the legal profession myself, I find this to be totally unacceptable. If my firm did business this way we would be out of jobs in a month. Once the babies are finally born, how long is it going to take her to give us the paperwork? If one of our names is spelled wrong (since it's apparently too much to ask to review it in advance), how long will it take her to fix the mistake? Then, how long is it doing to take her to actually get the document filed with the Court, approved, and then taken to Vital Records?
If I have to adopt out my IPs' own babies to them because this lawyer can't get her act together, I am NOT going to be a happy camper.