Surrogacy is the best way for intended parents to make their dreams of having a family a reality. People have various reasons for using surrogacy, and the state of California makes it exceptionally easy to use that process to start a family.
In fact, it’s one of the most surrogacy-friendly states in the country and has been for many years. In this article, we’ll take a look at the overall process, California surrogacy laws, pre-birth orders, contracts, and costs.
What Is The Surrogacy Process In California?
The basic surrogacy process in California breaks down like this:
- Find a surrogacy agency and send your application as a surrogate or intended parent.
- The agency will match you with the right surrogate carrier for your family.
- Surrogates must meet all the physical and psychological requirements.
- Have a surrogacy contract drafted by an attorney who knows California reproductive law.
- Have the surrogate undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF).
- Confirm the pregnancy.
- Obtain parentage order (in California this can be done before the baby is born).
- Give birth and bring the baby home!
As you can see, surrogacy is a journey with plenty of milestones along the way. Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so a surrogacy agency can be a real blessing. They’ll guide you every step of the way and help you navigate the entire process.
Additionally, California is considered to be very friendly to the surrogacy process (also known as assisted reproduction). It also has some of the best fertility clinics in the world, so the process is usually much easier.
Finally, surrogates get paid generally much more in California than in other states. This is because surrogacy is in such high demand here!
What Are The Surrogacy Laws In California?
Here’s the good news: under California family law, gestational surrogacy is 100% legal. It was actually the first state that focused on the intentions of all parties instead of their genetic relationships. In other words, intended parents had the legal right to claim a child as their own.
Time and time again, California has ruled in favor of the intended parents, especially in the landmark case Johnson v. Calvert (1993). Plus, in Buzzanca v. Buzzanca (1998), California courts ruled that egg or sperm donors are not automatically considered to be parents. The state has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to surrogacy and values the intentions of the parties over their genetic relationships.
These two cases form the backbone of California surrogacy laws and give intended parents a great deal of power in creating the family of their dreams. It also means that you don’t necessarily have to be genetically related to the child to have full parental rights within the state legal system. In California, an “intended parent” is defined as anyone who intends to parent the child born from assisted reproduction. Remember, in this state, it’s all about the intent!
Finally, California law requires that both parties (intended parents and surrogate carrier) are represented by separate legal teams. They cannot share the same attorney throughout the entire surrogacy process.
Does California Grant Pre-Birth Parentage Orders?
Before we answer that, let’s first define pre-birth parentage orders (also known as pre-birth orders). A pre-birth order is a legal agreement before the child is born that establishes the intended parents as the legal parents of the child.
In California, once this order is signed, the hospital where the child is born is legally required to put the names of the intended parents on the birth certificate. As you might imagine, this makes pre-birth orders arguably the most important documents in the entire surrogacy process (next to maybe the actual surrogacy contract).
California does grant pre-birth orders. It’s actually one of a few states that currently allow intended parents to establish legal parentage rights before the child is born without having to go through adoption proceedings. In many other states, the intended parents are required to wait until after the baby is born before they can make a rightful custody claim on the child. Some states also force them to go through the adoption process as well.
Additionally, under California pre-birth orders, intended parents can be declared the legal parents even if only one is genetically related to the child. This includes every possible form of gestational surrogacy, including:
- Married couples
- Unmarried couples
- Same-sex couples
- Single parents
- Intended parents using their own sperm and egg
- Intended parents using donors
As you can see, California truly is surrogacy-friendly!
How Does California Grant Pre-Birth Orders?
In California, as in most states, the counties handle birth certificates. For instance, if you needed to get a copy of your birth certificate, you’d go to the county Registrar where you were born and request a copy. The same goes for children born from surrogacy.
Most California counties will have an assisted reproduction birth certificate ready within 1 to 2 weeks (or 5 to 10 business days). Additionally, every county follows the same state laws regarding surrogacy, but there are procedural differences from one to the other. For example, most do not require a hearing to obtain a pre-birth order – the court just grants it. However, there are some counties that do, so it’s always important to consult a reproductive law or family law attorney.
It’s also important to point out that California Vital Records will honor a pre-birth order issued by another state. This means that California is ultra-friendly to surrogacy laws and procedures elsewhere in the country as well.
Finally, according to California family law, a pre-birth order may be filed in the county where:
- The child is expected to be born
- The intended parents live
- The surrogate carrier lives
- The surrogacy contract is executed
- The medical procedures were performed (like IVF or fertility treatments)
Once the baby is born, all records are sealed and become accessible only to the surrogate carrier, intended parents, legal teams, and the Department of Social Services.
What Needs To Be In Your Surrogacy Contract?
The California Family Code governs gestational surrogacy in the state, making the process clear and simple for surrogates and intended parents to follow. This means that there are certain requirements that must be in your surrogacy contract.
First of all, all surrogacy contracts must be notarized otherwise they’re invalid. In California, these contracts must be executed and notarized before any medical procedures take place, including fertility treatments or embryo transfers. This is absolutely critical!
Plus, California law specifies that the surrogacy contract must, at the very least, include the following:
- Date the contract was executed
- Names of anyone giving sperm or eggs (including donors)
- Names of intended parents
- Use of any pre-birth orders
- Risks and responsibilities of all parties
- Compensation for the surrogate (including monthly allowance and lost wages)
- Contingencies for a multi-fetus pregnancy
- Agreement on selective reduction (reducing fetuses in a multi-fetus pregnancy)
- Contact between parties
- Important appointments and birth plan
As you can see, this is a complex document. Stay far away from surrogacy contract templates that you can find everywhere online. They’re just too generic to cover your bases and are not developed to meet California’s surrogacy laws. They also don’t take into account the needs of all parties.
Instead, make sure you always go through a reproductive law attorney. Fore more information, you can check the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA).
How Much Is Surrogacy In California?
This all depends, but the cost of surrogacy for intended parents in California is usually anywhere from $90,000 to $130,000. While this may seem like a lot, let’s take a look at how this figure breaks down.
Individual costs include:
- Surrogate compensation (base pay, monthly allowance, lost wages)
- Agency fees
- Legal costs (drafting contract, attorney fees, pre-birth order)
- Medical procedures (IVF, fertility treatments, C-section)
- OB-GYN checkups
- Screening costs
Ultimately, a big chunk of these costs do go to surrogate compensation. It’s great that California is so surrogacy-friendly, but that also means that the demand is much higher. As a result, surrogate carriers on average get paid more here than in other states.
First-time surrogate carriers can make anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000 in base pay alone. If they’re experienced, they can get paid more as well as if it’s a twin or triplet pregnancy (with no selective reduction).
Finally, by California law, surrogate carriers are not only entitled to base pay, but they can also get a monthly allowance and pay for lost wages. The allowance can cover things like maternity clothes, food, transportation costs, and so on.
Find The Right Surrogacy Agency In California
Surrogacy By Faith is a respected and well-known surrogacy agency based in Irvine, California, although we work with intended parents and surrogates all over the state. We’re guided by our Christian faith and believe in the sanctity of a loving family, but you don’t need to be Christian to work with us!
Scripture says: Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward Psalms 127:3-4. We take that very seriously – we believe each baby is a gift that can make a family whole. As a result, we work hard to match surrogates with intended parents who will cherish each and every child.
If you’re interested in becoming a surrogate, please fill out our Surrogate Initial Inquiry form to start the process. If you’re interested in finding a surrogate to help you start the family, then fill out our Intended Parents form and we can start the process. Don’t wait another day to take part in the miracle of life!