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Are you considering becoming a surrogate in California? Surrogacy allows you to carry a child for an individual or couple who cannot conceive or grow their family themselves. It’s an incredibly generous act but a major decision with many factors to consider. If you’re exploring surrogacy, you likely have numerous questions about the process, requirements, compensation, and what to expect throughout the journey. As a prospective surrogate in California, educating yourself fully before taking this life-changing step is crucial.

In this guide, we’ll discuss what you should know about surrogacy in California, including the legal framework, compensation, surrogacy agency support and more, to help you make an informed decision.

Surrogacy in California

California is known for its progressive surrogacy approach. It has a supportive legal framework designed to safeguard the rights and responsibilities of all involved before any medical steps are taken. The state also facilitates a smoother journey by allowing pre-birth parentage orders, which secure the legal relationship between the intended parents and the child early on. This proactive and compassionate approach underscores California’s commitment to making surrogacy a positive and affirming experience for all parties.

Which Type of Surrogate Will You Be? Traditional vs. Gestational

Traditional Surrogacy

Traditional surrogacy, also known as “genetic surrogacy,” “partial surrogacy,” or “straight surrogacy,” uses artificial insemination with the sperm of a donor or the intended father and the surrogate’s egg to produce the baby. As a traditional surrogate, you would have a genetic link to the child as the child’s biological mother. Therefore, the traditional surrogacy process will involve additional legal procedures where you, as the surrogate mother, renounce your parental rights while the intended parents also file for custody of the child as stepparents.

Gestational Surrogacy

Gestational surrogacy, sometimes called “host surrogacy” or “full surrogacy,” uses in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to create the embryo using the sperm and eggs of the intended parents or donors. As a gestational surrogate, you will not be genetically related to the child. Many families prefer gestational surrogacy because it provides support while maintaining distinct roles.

Why Is Gestational Surrogacy Usually Preferred?

In California, gestational surrogacy is typically preferred because the surrogate is not genetically related to the child, making it less complex biologically, emotionally, and legally than traditional surrogacy.

However, there are rare instances where traditional surrogacy may be an option, such as when the intended parents have a close personal relationship with the surrogate. This form of surrogacy can be chosen by some intended parents for specific reasons, but it is less common and not typically managed by most agencies. At Joy of Life®, we specialize in gestational surrogacy due to its lower complexity and clear legal framework.

Understanding California’s Surrogacy Laws

California is renowned for its progressive and protective surrogacy laws, making it one of the best states for entering into a surrogacy arrangement. Here is what sets it apart:

  • Comprehensive Protection: California’s surrogacy laws are among the most advanced in the U.S., providing protections for all parties involved—intended parents, surrogate mothers, children and egg donors where applicable.
  • Legal Status: Surrogacy is fully legal and regulated in California, unlike some states where it may be restricted or illegal. Examples of restrictions in other states include Louisiana, where surrogacy is limited to heterosexual, married couples.
  • Inclusivity: California laws support surrogacy arrangements for individuals regardless of sexual orientation, marital status or gender. California’s laws also accommodate genetic and non-genetic links between the intended parents and the child, ensuring that anyone can establish legal parentage regardless of their biological connection.
  • Parental Rights: Explicit laws under the Uniform Parentage Act allow people of all orientations to apply for surrogacy arrangements. Intended parents can also obtain a pre-birth order that automatically acknowledges them as the child’s legal parents. These rights are preserved even if the family relocates to another state.

Surrogacy for LGBTQIA+ Couples and Individuals in California

Two individuals walking hand in hand, wearing rainbow-colored bracelets.

California’s inclusive laws ensure that LGBTQIA+ couples and singles have equal access to surrogacy, promoting fairness and non-discrimination throughout the process. Assembly Bill (AB) 2349 protects parents of children conceived via surrogacy in California from having their parental rights violated by other states. California treats everyone the same, so all people, regardless of who they love or how they identify, get equal help under the law when they embark on the journey of surrogacy. The bill also specifies that when intended parents are using donated eggs or sperm, they are not required to identify the donors in the surrogacy agreement.

How to Become a Surrogate in California

If you’re considering surrogacy, you’ve likely weighed the significant commitment it requires against the emotional fulfillment and financial benefits it offers. Next, it’s important to research the surrogacy process in California. Prospective surrogates should educate themselves on the requirements and protections provided under California law, such as the gestational surrogacy statute that safeguards the rights of all parties involved. You should also decide whether you will pursue surrogacy individually or through a reputable agency. While partnering with an agency is not required, it’s highly recommended to navigate the complexities surrounding surrogacy as well as have a community of support and resources on your journey.

How Much Do Surrogates Get Paid in California?

Compensation for surrogates ranges between $45,000 and $65,000, which covers only the base pay. This amount is paid in monthly installments from the signing of the contract to the baby’s delivery. Bonuses and other expenses are additional and can vary based on individual circumstances. Other factors that can impact the cost include:

  • Legal fees
  • Medical costs for the surrogate
  • Monthly allowance for the surrogate
  • Screenings
  • Counseling support
  • Insurance policies
  • Travel arrangements

California Surrogate Compensation

California’s regulatory environment fosters a transparent and competitive compensation landscape for surrogates, attracting experienced individuals from both within the state and across the country. The higher compensation rates in California reflect the deep appreciation for the surrogates’ immense sacrifices and the profound gift they provide to intended parents.

As a global destination, California attracts intended parents worldwide who are seeking outstanding medical services and a supportive surrogacy community. California agencies are committed to honoring these remarkable women with fair reimbursement, which supports a positive and collaborative surrogacy experience focused on the best interests of all involved.

Requirements to Be a Surrogate in California

If you want to become a surrogate, you first need to determine whether you meet the following general criteria:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or a U.S. permanent resident.
  • You must be in good physical and emotional health.
  • Generally, you are between 21 and 38 years old.
  • Psychological testing is mandatory to identify any potential personality disorders or psychological conditions.
  • Ideal BMI should fall within the range of 19 to 33, preferably under 30.
  • You have had at least one biological child of their own.
  • Preferably, candidates have completed their family planning.
  • Must not use drugs
  • Lead a healthy, holistic and stable lifestyle.
  • Provide OB/GYN records for all your previous pregnancies.

As a surrogate applicant, you’ll be screened to ensure you’re healthy enough to undergo this process. This is done to protect you and the future child. Different surrogacy agencies in California may have specific surrogacy requirements, so it is essential to research and pick an agency that is right for you.

Can a Surrogate Change Her Mind and Keep the Baby in California?

There is no denying that delivery and postpartum care are some of the most challenging stages of the surrogacy process. In California, contracts are filed with the state early to clearly establish parentage and manage expectations for both the surrogate and the intended parents when it’s time to bring the baby into the world.

These contracts, reinforced by the landmark 1993 California Supreme Court case Johnson v. Calvert, ensure that the intended parents retain all legal rights to the child once parentage is established. For a surrogate to potentially keep the child, she would need to convince the intended parents to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, which is unlikely if they entered into the surrogacy agreement intentionally. California courts consistently uphold legally enforceable surrogacy contracts that clearly outline the parties’ intentions.

California Surrogacy Agencies

If you’re exploring surrogacy options in California, the choice of agency is a pivotal decision. California is home to a variety of surrogacy agencies, reflecting its forefront position in surrogacy services across the United States. With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to determine which is best for you. Here’s why Joy of Life® stands out for many of our surrogates and intended parents:

  • Established Expertise: Joy of Life® has established itself as a premier surrogacy agency in California with a solid track record of success. Our agency is renowned for its thorough understanding of the surrogacy process, supported by years of dedicated experience in the field.
  • Personalized Support: We believe that every surrogacy journey is unique, which means that the support we provide is always catered to the individual. Our surrogacy agency is rich in community — a place where each surrogate and intended parent is welcomed into a warm, supportive environment. As part of the Joy of Life® family, everyone is always treated with respect, valued and supported.
  • Comprehensive Services: Our in-house team of surrogacy coordinators brings personal experience and professional expertise to the table, consisting of clinical advisors, licensed nutritionists and psychologists. Additionally, we provide access to top-tier medical facilities, legal advisors and support networks.

Do You Need a Surrogacy Agency in California?

Working with a surrogacy agency is not a requirement in California, but it is recommended that surrogates work with a reputable agency because of the complexities surrounding the surrogacy process. A surrogacy agency like Joy of Life® can use their expertise, experience and connections to help you throughout the process. When choosing a California surrogacy agency, look at their track record, success rate, level of involvement and the help they provide to surrogates.

An agency will also guide you through your surrogacy contracts, which are essential because they help protect and clarify what everyone in the surrogacy process is supposed to do. These contracts are carefully made to ensure everyone understands their role, focusing on the legal and emotional safety needed for a smooth surrogacy journey.

If You’re Married, Can You Still Be a Surrogate in California?

Yes, you can, but pursuing surrogacy when married is the type of decision you need to first sit down with your partner and have an honest conversation because surrogacy could alter the dynamics of your home life and your relationship. Surrogacy professionals encourage potential surrogates to embrace the surrogacy journey with their immediate family, as having their support is important for a healthy and successful pregnancy.

One of the biggest obstacles to surrogacy when one is married is a misconception of how the child is conceived. Your partner will be relieved to know that no intimacy is required between the surrogate mother and the sperm donor. As a gestational surrogate the embryo is created in a lab and transferred into the surrogate having no genetic relation to the surrogate.

In addition to the misconceptions, couples will have to discuss the emotional and psychological turmoil that comes with surrogacy. For example, some men struggle with having sexual intercourse knowing their wives are with a child – a child that is not theirs. Surrogacy specialists will not pursue surrogacy if the spouse isn’t on board.

Surrogacy agencies require a potential surrogate mother to have a solid support system, which is often the immediate family. Another reason surrogacy agencies require a willing partner is that the spouse also has to undergo psychological assessment alongside the surrogate, so your spouse’s support is vital.

How does one begin the conversation about surrogacy with their spouse? Before you even broach the topic with them, you must do as much research on the subject matter as possible and find answers to the questions your partner is likely to raise.

A tender moment between a pregnant woman and a young child who is touching her belly.

How to Be a Surrogate When You Already Have Children

If you have children, be as open as you can with them about what you are about to do as a surrogate mother. Depending on their ages, the conversation might be easier or require more preparation. You do not have to go into too much depth with the younger children but emphasize key points such as the importance of this pregnancy for the intended parents so they realize there won’t be a baby coming home when mommy delivers.

Children are naturally curious. Don’t deflect their questions. You can have the conversation about mommy being pregnant at the onset of your medical treatment or when the pregnancy begins to show. For older children, it may even be a good idea to discuss the pregnancy because family dynamics may change. You will need more help around the house, and having the children cooperate and assist with additional chores will benefit you.

Becoming a Surrogate Mother in California With Joy of Life®

At Joy of Life®, we believe that the gift of life brings profound happiness to all involved, not just the intended parents. Our agency is committed to creating a holistic, rewarding experience for our surrogate mothers, and we go beyond offering standard benefits to ensure their well-being. Many of us are former surrogates or intended parents, so we understand what you’re going through, and our community can support you. Here are some benefits that set us apart:

  • Competitive Compensation: We offer one of the most competitive compensation packages in the industry, covering associated costs, travel reimbursements, and bonuses to ensure a sense of security and appreciation.
  • Expert Clinical Advisors: Our team of clinical advisors has extensive experience in the clinical, psychological, and legal aspects of surrogacy, providing professional guidance throughout the process.
  • Dedicated Support Team: Our surrogates receive a dedicated support team, ensuring continuous coverage and a listening ear whenever needed.
  • Choice of Intended Parents: We empower our surrogate mothers to choose their intended parents from our pool of prequalified profiles, fostering personal compatibility and emotional fulfillment.
  • Community-Building Events: We host annual surrogate retreats and other community-building events to foster lasting bonds between surrogates, intended parents, and our team.

Hear From Our Happy Surrogates at Joy of Life®

When it comes to our success as a top-rated surrogacy agency, it all points back to our amazing surrogates. Hear from some of these happy individuals:

“Currently on my second surrogacy and I couldn’t have asked for a better agency with such caring and thoughtful employees! They make you feel cared for throughout their journey every step of the way!” — Joselyn M.

“I have to say I had an amazing journey. Joy of Life®’s team is very supportive and always there to answer any questions. High five to the staff members (business owners, coordinators, managers) at Joy of Life® for being such amazing support always doing their best to attend important appointments with the surrogates. You all do your job well. It was a true blessing being part of the team. Thank you, Joy of Life®!” — Maribel L.

“After deciding I wanted to become a surrogate someday, I researched Joy of Life®… I can confidently say that this is by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. From the beginning of my journey, they have been so thorough. They are always accessible and attentive. I have felt so empowered to push forward and I can’t thank them enough for the many roles they play in helping make families…” — Cristal Y.

A group of four diverse, joyful women with beaming smiles, standing closely and embracing each other.

Ready to Start Your Surrogacy Journey With Us?

Here at Joy of Life®, we walk with you on your surrogacy journey. Our experienced team provides continuous support throughout your surrogacy, from the initial application through pregnancy and post-birth. We ensure your medical, legal and emotional needs are expertly addressed for a seamless and secure experience.

If you’re interested in becoming a surrogate in California, apply to become a surrogate mother today!

Joy Millan

Author Joy Millan

I’m Joy, the founder and CEO of Joy of Life. With a professional background as a fertility clinician, I’ve spent thousands of hours working with surrogates and intended parents alike. As a mother of two, I often wished for more support and a deeper commitment to care for those embarking on non-traditional family-building journeys. This is why I established Joy of Life: to create a more robust, compassionate experience in parenthood for both parties involved with surrogacy. In 2021, I stepped back from daily operations at Joy of Life to fight cancer. Fortunately, the combined 20 years of experience from our incredible team has allowed me to focus on my health & recovery. I continue to provide company guidance and serve as the head liaison for our network of doctors, clinicians and caregivers.

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