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Australian surrogate banned from child's life after bitter legal feud

23 October 2017
Appeared in BioNews 923

A surrogate from Queensland, Australia has had her parental rights removed after a judge decided it was in the baby's best interests.

Relations between the intended parents and the surrogate deteriorated during the pregnancy to such an extent that the surrogate threatened to have a termination. In the Family Court proceedings, it was claimed that the surrogate told her counsellor that she regretted the pregnancy and had thought 'of using a coat hanger to induce abortion'.

The disputes between the parties were mainly financial. The intended parents (who are the child's biological parents) claimed that the surrogate was using the unborn baby to 'extort money' and that she had complained to her counsellor that 'other surrogates are showered with gifts'. The surrogate, who is a relative of one of the couple, claimed that they were late with some agreed payments, and that other payments failed to arrive.

Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Queensland, but intended parents can pay a surrogate's 'reasonable expenses'. Surrogacy agreements are not legally binding: under Queensland law the birth mother is always the legal parent of the child. A Parentage Order needs to be made by a Court to transfer parental rights and responsibilities to the intended parents, and until this is issued either party may back out.

In his judgment, Justice Peter Tree said that the surrogate's erratic behaviour and desire to punish the intended parents led him to conclude that it was in the child's best interest for the intended parents to have shared parental responsibility, with sole responsibility 'for [his] daily care, welfare and development.'

Documents submitted to the court showed that the surrogate had instructed her solicitors to write to the couple two weeks before the birth in a way that 'implicitly threatened on behalf of the surrogate that she would neither hand over the child to the genetic parents after it was born, nor consent to a parenting order being made in their favour'.

The baby was born in April 2016 and taken to live with the intended parents. In August 2016 the surrogate's solicitors sought payment of $21,351.59 from the intended parents in order 'to move the matter to a parentage order.'

A surrogacy report compiled for the court case quoted the surrogate as saying 'even now I want to have [the child] back and put him up for adoption. [The intended parents'] behaviour has been really disgusting.' The surrogate also sent a text message to the report writer stating that she wanted shared custody of her legal son, and that she wanted to put him up for adoption.

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