On March 1, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allocatur on Shephard’s appeal on the enforceability of her surrogacy agreement, which means, the contract entered into between Shephard, Sally and their gestational carrier, Jessica Bartholomew, would remain valid and enforceable.
While the parties were still an intact couple, Shephard and Lamar contacted Reproductive Possibilities, an agency which assists in the locating of gestational carriers. Reproductive Possibilities matched the couple with Jessica Bartholomew, who entered into a surrogacy contract with them, along with an egg donation agency. According to court records, the couple paid approximately $105,000.00 to cover the surrogacy expenses.
On November 2013, an embryo transfer took place, which resulted in a viable pregnancy. In April 2014, the couples’ attorney prepared the necessary court documents to have the couple designated the parents on the baby’s birth certificate. Unfortunately, at this same time, the couple was experiencing marital difficulties and ultimately separated on April 16, 2014. After the parties’ separation, Shephard refused to sign the documents. When the baby was born in July 2014, instead of naming Shephard as the mother, the gestational surrogate was named as the baby’s mother even though she petitioned the court in advance to have Shephard and Sally designated the baby’s parents.
Shephard answered Bartholomew’s petition, declaring the contract unenforceable, as Pennsylvania law defines parentage through “genetics/biology or adoption.” Her petition stated that by declaring her Lamar Sally, Jr.’s mother, the lower court “usurped the power of the Pennsylvania legislature.” The lower court, and the Pennsylvania Superior Court, disagreed, and not only found the contract to be valid and enforceable, but found Shephard to have breached its conditions, leaving her liable for Bartholomew’s legal expenses.
Sally’s attorney, Tiffany Palmer, was pleased with the ruling, stating “justice was served.” Palmer continued her affirmance by saying “if you set out to conceive a child through assisted reproduction and enter into contracts to do so, you cannot just walk away from your legal parental responsibilities because you changed your mind.”
Shephard is currently required to pay more than $4,000.00 per month to Sally in child support.
Cara A. Boyanowski concentrates her practice in the field of domestic law and wills and estates. As a domestic law practitioner, she represents clients in simple and complex divorce, support, custody, alimony, step-parent adoptions, name change and same-sex divorce and custody matters. She works out of Obermayer’s Harrisburg, PA office and can be reached at 717-234-5315 or at Cara.Boyanowski@obermayer.com.