Celebrity news enthusiasts in California may be aware of former "The View" co-host Sherri Shepherd's custody troubles stemming from a surrogate pregnancy arranged with her ex-husband, Lamar Sally, before their divorce. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court's decision requiring her to make monthly $4,100 child support payments regarding her non-biological son.
While the couple were still together, they agreed to have a child with none of Shepherd's DNA through a 23-year-old surrogate mother, and Shepherd agreed contractually to be included as the legal mother of the boy on the birth certificate. By the time the child was born, however, Shepherd and Sally had separated, and Shepherd attempted to avoid the parental responsibilities to which she had agreed originally.
Shepherd lost a hearing in a Pennsylvania court in April 2015 determining her to be the legal mother, followed by the loss of a first appeal in November 2015. As the ruling in this case establishes, resolving questions of parenthood in surrogacy might raise difficult questions of both family and contractual law. In some cases, a spouse who is undergoing a divorce as a surrogate child is born may feel as though he or she wants to escape a potentially difficult situation.
The precedent that the Shepherd case establishes is that a contractual agreement could supersede a divorcing spouse's wishes. However, a non-custodial parent who is having unexpected financial difficulties such as a job loss or a medical emergency may want to have the assistance of an experienced family law attorney in petitioning the court for a child support order modification.
Source: Philly.com, "Sherri Shepherd's latest appeal of motherhood denied in Pa.", Howard Gensler, March 1, 2016