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California is widely recognized as a surrogacy-friendly state, offering a supportive legal and social environment for all parties involved in the surrogacy journey. This welcoming stance makes it a preferred location for many looking to pursue surrogacy as a path to parenthood.

At Joy of Life, we’re dedicated to upholding a mission that reflects the supportive nature of California’s surrogacy laws. Our goal is to assist individuals and couples in realizing their dreams of becoming parents through our surrogacy services. That’s why we work to provide each intended parent and surrogate with a smooth and transparent surrogacy process, ensuring all parties feel supported every step of the way.

We’ll explore the different types of surrogacy and the legal nuances that make California an ideal place for a surrogacy journey so you can confidently navigate the process.

Is Surrogacy Legal in California?

In California, both gestational and traditional surrogacy are legally recognized and protected under comprehensive statutes, reflecting the state’s progressive approach to reproductive assistance.

Gestational Surrogacy: In this arrangement, a surrogate carries an embryo created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors. The surrogate has no genetic link to the child. This type of surrogacy is common and widely accepted in California due to its clear separation of parental and gestational roles.

Traditional Surrogacy: Traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate also provides the egg and is therefore genetically related to the child, is also legal in California. However, this type of surrogacy entails more complex legal considerations due to the surrogate’s biological connection to the child.

Legal Framework and Statutes:

  • California Family Code § 7960 establishes the legality and enforceability of surrogacy agreements in California, provided they meet specific standards and formalities.
  • California Family Code § 7962 details the requirements for surrogacy contracts, emphasizing that they must be notarized and signed by all parties to ensure that the agreement is entered into willingly and with full consent.
  • California Family Code § 7613 specifies that the intended parents are the legal parents of the child born via surrogacy, regardless of any genetic link to the surrogate.

These statutes ensure that all surrogacy agreements are handled with a high degree of ethical consideration and legal clarity, safeguarding the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved. This supportive legal environment continues to affirm California’s status as a leading destination for those seeking to grow their families through surrogacy.

Types of Surrogacy Available in California

Pregnant woman in a white top and blue jeans, hands forming a heart shape over her belly, with blurred Christmas lights in the background.

In California, individuals and couples have access to both gestational and traditional surrogacy, but the former is more prevalent due to clearer legal protections and fewer emotional and ethical complexities.

Gestational Surrogacy — More Commonly Chosen:

  • Prevalence: This is the preferred choice in California due to its straightforward legal framework, which clearly separates a surrogate’s role from parental rights, as there is no genetic link between the surrogate and the child.
  • Legal Framework: The agreements are underpinned by California Family Code § 7960, which ensures a clear distinction of rights and responsibilities in facilitating a smooth and secure surrogacy journey.

Traditional Surrogacy — Less Commonly Chosen:

  • Prevalence: Traditional surrogacy is legal but less commonly chosen. It involves a surrogate using her own eggs — meaning she is genetically linked to the child — which can complicate both the emotional and legal aspects of a surrogacy agreement.
  • Legal Considerations: While legally supported, traditional surrogacy requires more meticulous handling to navigate the potential complexities that can arise from the surrogate’s biological connection to the child.

Surrogacy Agreements Explained

Surrogacy agreements are essential legal documents that outline the rights, responsibilities and expectations of all parties involved in a surrogacy arrangement. Here’s what typically needs to be included in a surrogacy agreement and why legal representation is crucial for both parties.

Key Elements of a Surrogacy Agreement:

  • Identity of Parties Involved: Clearly identifies the surrogate and the intended parents, including any donor involvement.
  • Financial Arrangements: Details all financial arrangements, including the surrogate’s compensation, payment schedule, and more.
  • Health and Medical Care: Outlines the surrogate’s medical care, including prenatal care, medical procedures, and the plan for other pregnancy-related expenses.
  • Legal Parentage: States that the intended parents will be the legal parents of the born child, and the surrogate agrees to relinquish any parental rights.
  • Risks and Liabilities: Covers potential risks associated with the pregnancy and outlines arrangements in case of complications or the surrogate’s non-compliance with medical advice.
  • Confidentiality Clauses: Often include terms regarding the privacy and confidentiality of the agreement and personal information.

Importance of Legal Representation:

  • Protection of Rights: Legal representatives ensure that the rights and interests of both the surrogate and the intended parents are protected. They help navigate complex legalities and ensure all statutory requirements are met.
  • Negotiation of Terms: Lawyers play a critical role in negotiating terms that safeguard the surrogate’s health and well-being while protecting the intended parents’ parental rights.
  • Contract Enforceability: A lawyer will ensure that the surrogacy agreement is enforceable under California law, particularly in accordance with California Family Code §§ 7960 and 7962. Legal counsel is essential to address any ambiguities and ensure that the contract meets all legal standards and requirements.
  • Handling Disputes: Should any disputes arise during or after the pregnancy, having legal representation means there is a clear and predefined path for resolution, which can mitigate emotional stress and financial impact on both parties.

Ensuring both parties have independent legal representation helps maintain the integrity of the agreement and reduces the likelihood of legal complications down the line. This is not just a legal formality but a necessity to ensure that the surrogacy journey is smooth and aligned with California’s laws.

Surrogacy Process Overview

Two people lying on a bed, holding up ultrasound images.

The journey to parenthood through surrogacy in California involves a series of well-defined steps, from matching with a surrogate to the birth of the baby. Here’s an overview of the basic steps, along with the essential screenings involved:

  1. Matching with a Surrogate: The process begins with finding a suitable surrogate. This involves working with a surrogacy agency or fertility clinics that facilitate matches based on medical, psychological, and legal criteria to ensure compatibility between the intended parents and the surrogate.
  2. Medical and Psychological Screening: Before a surrogate is approved, she will undergo thorough medical and psychological screenings. The medical screening includes comprehensive physical exams and fertility assessments to ensure she can safely carry a pregnancy to term. Psychological screening is also critical to ensure a surrogate is mentally and emotionally prepared for the journey ahead.
  3. Legal Agreements: Once a match is made and screenings are completed, legal contracts are drafted and reviewed by independent attorneys representing each party. These agreements ensure clarity and protect the rights and responsibilities of all involved.
  4. Fertility Treatments: The surrogate undergoes fertility treatments, typically involving in vitro fertilization (IVF), to facilitate an embryo transfer. This step uses embryos created from the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors.
  5. Pregnancy and Prenatal Care: After a successful embryo transfer, the surrogate begins her pregnancy journey. During this period, she’ll receive ongoing medical care to monitor her health and the baby’s development.
  6. Birth and Legal Parentage: The surrogacy process concludes with the baby’s birth. At this point, the intended parents are typically recognized as the legal parents directly, with no need for an adoption process. This seamless transition is possible due to pre-birth orders, which are arranged through the legal agreements made earlier in the surrogacy process.
  7. Post-Birth Transition: Post-birth, there might be additional steps to solidify the intended parents’ legal parentage and address any medical or psychological support the surrogate may need.

Legal Considerations for Surrogates and Intended Parents

For surrogates and intended parents, understanding the legal framework is essential for a secure and ethical surrogacy process in California. Here’s what needs to be considered for surrogacy:

Parentage Orders:

  • These orders establish the intended parents as the legal parents from the moment of birth, ensuring they appear on the birth certificate and have legal custody immediately.
  • Obtaining these orders before the child’s birth, known as pre-birth orders, is a crucial step that facilitates this legal recognition.

Compensation for Surrogates:

  • Compensation to surrogates is legal and recognized as payment for their time, effort, and associated pregnancy risks, not for the baby itself.
  • It’s crucial that compensation terms are explicitly agreed upon and documented in the surrogacy agreement to maintain transparency and avoid potential disputes.

Surrogacy Agreements:

  • To be legally binding, surrogacy agreements in California must be notarized. This confirms the identity of the signatories and adds a layer of official oversight.
  • Both parties should have independent legal representation to ensure that the terms of the agreement are clearly understood and voluntarily agreed upon. This helps prevent any coercion or misunderstanding regarding the terms.
  • Agreements should thoroughly outline all terms, including responsibilities related to healthcare, compensation, the surrogate’s obligations, and procedures for handling any medical contingencies.

Rights and Responsibilities in Surrogacy

Close-up of a baby's feet wrapped in a soft, light blue blanket.

In California, surrogacy agreements offer robust protections for both surrogates and intended parents, ensuring that all parties’ rights are safeguarded and responsibilities are clearly defined. Here’s an outline of these protections and the enforceability of these contracts:

Protections for Surrogates and Intended Parents

Surrogates: Surrogates are protected under California law to ensure they are fully informed about the surrogacy process and their role in it. Their rights to independent legal counsel, fair compensation, and comprehensive health care before, during, and after pregnancy are explicitly safeguarded. Surrogacy agreements typically cover all medical expenses, including any necessary treatments or interventions related to the pregnancy.

Intended Parents: For intended parents, surrogacy agreements ensure they will be recognized as the legal parents of the child immediately upon birth, without the complexities of adoption procedures. The agreements also protect their rights to make decisions about the pregnancy, such as the course of prenatal care and the handling of any complications that may arise.

Enforceability of Surrogacy Contracts

Surrogacy contracts in California are highly enforceable under the state’s family code, particularly as detailed in sections like California Family Code § 7960. These agreements must be comprehensive and include clauses that outline the procedure for critical situations, such as medical emergencies or breach of contract.

The contracts must be notarized and signed in the presence of independent legal counsel to ensure they are legally binding. This formalizes the agreement and ensures that all parties have been properly advised of their rights and obligations under the contract.

Mandatory Legal and Ethical Standards

California surrogacy law requires that all agreements conform to ethical and legal standards, which include ensuring that the surrogate has made an informed decision to participate without coercion. All parties must also have access to psychological counseling to address any concerns that may arise during the process.

The state also mandates specific provisions to protect the well-being of the surrogate, including insurance coverage and the right to make healthcare decisions related to their body and the pregnancy.

Why Choose California for Surrogacy?

A woman lying on a bed with her head near a pregnant woman's belly, smiling and touching the belly.

California stands out as a leading destination for surrogacy, providing a combination of legal assurance, extensive support services, and access to advanced reproductive technologies.

  • Robust Legal Protections: California offers some of the most progressive and surrogate-friendly laws in the U.S., ensuring that all agreements are clear and legally binding, with established rights and protections for both surrogates and intended parents.
  • Experienced Agencies: California has a wealth of experienced surrogacy agencies that provide expert guidance through every step of the process. These agencies facilitate a smooth experience by managing critical aspects such as the matching process, medical coordination, and psychological support.
  • Supportive Community: Surrogates and intended parents benefit from a nurturing community that offers emotional and practical support. This network includes not only peers who share their experiences but also professionals dedicated to surrogacy journeys.
  • Access to Leading Medical Facilities: California is home to advanced medical facilities and fertility specialists, ensuring a high standard of care and treatment options for surrogates and intended parents alike.

Apply To Become a Joy of Life Surrogate Today

Considering becoming a surrogate? At Joy of Life, we offer a premier opportunity for you to make a meaningful impact while being fully supported every step of the way. With us, you’ll experience top-tier medical care, generous compensation, and a comprehensive suite of benefits — all within a framework that rigorously protects your rights and complies with all legal standards. Take the first step by applying to become a Joy of Life surrogate 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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