Changing law and technology and different laws can further complicate child custody matters. A baby born in Dallas earlier this month was the focus of a custody battle between the biological parents, the surrogate who carried the child, Dallas County and the Texas Office of Attorney General.
The surrogate, from Collins County, earlier served successfully twice as a surrogate. She said that she agreed to carry the child for a couple outside of Texas.
However, doctors found that the baby had a heart problem, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, at 16 weeks into the pregnancy. This is a birth defect where the heart’s left side is underdeveloped and unable to effectively pump blood. The parents and the surrogate learned that the child would have to undergo surgery within three to four days after birth.
According to the surrogate, the biological parents told her this summer that they did not want her to carry the baby to term because of the HLHS and that she refused their request to undergo an abortion. The parents allegedly ceased payment of her medical costs.
The child was born through C-section and is reportedly in the custody of the biological parents at Medical City Dallas. Attorneys claim that the parents said that life-saving measures would not be undertaken. The surrogate requested that the biological parents authorize biological care. Her attorney also argued that she had the legal right to seek medical care when she was carrying the child
There are additional legal complications because the biological parents and the surrogacy group that arranged the surrogacy are from separate states. While the Texas Health Code may protect the surrogate’s decision against abortion, other laws from other states may have different requirements.
The Attorney General and the Dallas District Attorney’s Office Juvenile Division ultimately became involved in this case. They sought surgery for the child. Ultimately, the biological parents consented to surgery. It is unclear whether the child will be put up for adoption.
While most child custody disputes are not this complex, different state laws and determining the best interests of the child may be difficult. An attorney can help parents assert their rights and protect the child’s interests.
Source: WFAA, “Surrogate-born baby’s very life at center of legal fight,” By Kevin Reece and Jobin Panicker, Dec. 21, 2017