By Robin von Halle

As many sad stories as happy ones about surrogacy abound on the Web.

One of the more recent heartbreakers told of a U.K. couple whose surrogate decided, halfway through the pregnancy, to keep the baby she was carrying. Then, the woman, an unmarried welfare mother of two, added insult to injury by suing for child support. As the biological mother (this was a traditional surrogacy), she won – taking away not only £4,500 (nearly $7,400) of the promised  £16,000 ($26,300) payment to cover expenses, but another £568 (nearly $900) in monthly child support.

There are many reasons why our agency will not manage traditional surrogacies, and this illustrates some of them. While this case was set in the U.K., there are enough underlying lessons for intended parents to think twice about this path, no matter where they are located.

Traditional surrogacy, of course, is when the carrier’s own eggs are used, making her the biological mother of the child. With gestational surrogacy, either the intended mother’s eggs or those of a donor are used, making the surrogate truly a “carrier.”

Either way, surrogacy can be a complicated business, a tangle of emotional, psychological, and especially financial and legal issues. The latter category is critical to cover from both the surrogate’s and intended parents’ perspective, but is compounded because laws vary so widely across the U.S. regarding the legal parentage of a child born through surrogacy.

(Illinois provides the opportunity for intended parents to be recognized as a child’s legal parents in a gestational surrogacy through an administrative procedure so long as at least one of the parents is the genetic parent of that child.)

It comes down to risk, and traditional surrogacy poses too much of one for us to get involved, or recommend it to our intended parents.

Unfortunately, the financial issues may trump the legal considerations by the time they get to the stage of needing a surrogate. Often having spent upwards of $20,000 on fertility treatments per IVF cycle without donor eggs, intended parents are looking at another $40,000 to $80,000 for a surrogacy birth. Cutting out the costs associated with the egg donor and the IVF process can reduce the total by as much as 80%.

But is the risk worth it? Consider: With a traditional surrogacy, that child is the surrogate’s unless and until she decides to voluntarily relinquish her rights to the child through an adoption. All the legal agreements in the world will not counter the traditional surrogate’s right to retain the legal rights to her child should she choose not to sign over her parental rights.  Intended Parents may eventually get custody of the child, but the surrogate will continue to be the legal mother.

Moreover, the legal fees that can run up if you challenge her decision will easily eat away at the “savings” you gained in going the traditional route. And, oh, yes, then there are 18 years of child support payments. The father in the U.K. case will end up paying close to $200,000 by the time the child reaches its majority.

We strive to help create happy outcomes for those looking to create families. Traditional surrogacy poses too many emotional and financial risks for us to recommend it.

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