How does surrogacy work in South Carolina?
No two surrogacies are exactly the same, but when you work with the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson, you will usually go through the same general surrogacy process. We’ve worked with many intended parents who want to know how to have a baby through surrogacy and, therefore, we’ve developed a process that can apply to most surrogacy situations that we complete.
Below, you can find a description of our surrogacy process, step-by-step, but we encourage you to call our offices at 864-573-5533 to learn more details about how gestational surrogacy works in South Carolina with our law firm.
How Do I Get Started?
If you’re an intended parent wondering how to have a baby through surrogacy, you’ve come to the right place. Our experience in the surrogacy process will ensure that your surrogacy journey is completed as smoothly and effectively as possible.
Please contact our office today and we will forward you our Gestational Carrier Program informational packet. This packet includes our representation agreement, which provides more details regarding the surrogacy services that we provide our clients.
After you review our informational packet, if you are ready to take the next step and begin the surrogacy process, we invite you to schedule the initial consultation with attorney Jim Thompson and our Gestational Carrier Program director, Shannon Matteson.
There is a fee of $350 for the consultation, which will be applied to your Gestational Carrier Program fee, if you hire our firm. During this consultation, we’ll discuss your goals and expectations for your surrogacy, as well as further explain the process of surrogacy in South Carolina, how much it will cost you and any other information you’d like to know.
After Hiring the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson
Prior to us presenting you with any prospective gestational surrogate, all clients must complete our authorization for the criminal background check, as well as provide an initial letter and photos for the profile letter. Our program director will assist with creating the profile letter (which will be instrumental in the surrogate matching process), as well as discuss with you your preferences for a gestational surrogate. Once this is done, you are ready for the matching process of surrogacy!
Matching With a Prospective Surrogate
Unlike other surrogacy professionals who assign a surrogate to intended parents, the matching process at our law firm is a mutual decision that you’ll be involved in every step of the way. We know how important the perfect surrogate is in your gestational surrogacy process, so we want to make sure that you and any surrogate you match with are comfortable with each other before moving forward.
Before we even begin the matching process, we’ll discuss what your preferences are for a prospective surrogate. This can include attributes like how old she is, where she lives, how many children she has had and more. We also let prospective surrogates determine their preferences for intended parents they want to work with.
If we determine that you and a prospective surrogate might be a good match for your upcoming surrogacy process, we’ll present her profile to you. This profile will include all the information you need to know about her health history, compensation requirements, motivation for surrogacy and more. If you decide you like her, we’ll show your profile to her in return. If she also expresses interest in this match, we’ll set up a match meeting between you at our offices.
This meeting is a great chance to confirm your interest in each other and make sure you are a perfect match. You can use this opportunity to ask her any questions you have, and she’ll likely do the same for you. After the meeting, if you both are in agreement for your match, we’ll move forward with the medical screening and legal process of confirming your partnership.
We know how important this decision is, so you are under no obligation to choose a prospective surrogate until you’re absolutely sure she’s the right one. If the match meeting doesn’t confirm these thoughts, we’ll go back to the beginning of the matching part of the surrogacy process and start again.
Once you are matched, we will send a copy of the gestational surrogate’s medical records to your reproductive endocrinologist and assist with scheduling the medical screening. While you may have to undergo additional screening to make sure you are healthy enough for the IVF process, the majority of the medical screening will be focused on the surrogate, including:
- A review of her and her partner’s sexual and medical history
- Blood and urine lab testing
- A physical exam, including a saline infusion sonohysterography, which will perform an ultrasound on her uterus
Additionally, you and the gestational surrogate (including her spouse, if married) will undergo the psychological clearance process. This is a three-step process. You will meet with the licensed mental health professional (MHP) on your own for a counseling session. Your surrogate will also meet with the MHP for an evaluation and counseling session. Afterwards, there will be a group meeting between you, the gestational surrogate (and spouse) and your MHP. During this meeting, you will discuss your expectations regarding the surrogacy arrangements, your views regarding difficult medical decisions, the anticipated contact between the parties, and many other topics, in the hopes of ensuring that everyone’s expectations regarding the surrogacy arrangement are realistic and shared by all involved.
After your reproductive endocrinologist confirms that the surrogate is ready for the surrogacy process, and everyone has completed the psychological screening process, we’ll solidify the match with a legal contract, known as the surrogacy contract.
Once the gestational surrogate has completed the medical and psychological screening, if she is medically and psychologically approved to proceed, then we will prepare the initial draft of the Gestational Carrier Contract on your behalf. We will send this to you for your review and then schedule a consultation with attorney Jim Thompson (either in the office or via phone) to go over the contract. This contract will cover issues like surrogate compensation, the risks and liabilities associated with a surrogate pregnancy, as well as sensitive topics like selective reduction and termination and more.
When you have approved the contract, we will forward it to the gestational surrogate’s separate attorney for their separate consultation. If any changes are requested, we will discuss these with you and negotiate the terms of the contract with the gestational surrogate’s legal counsel. Once the terms are agreed upon, we will prepare the final contract for signing. At this time, you will fund the trust account to cover the gestational surrogate’s anticipated fees and expenses.
Embryo Transfer and Pregnancy
Once the Gestational Carrier Contract is in place and you have funded the trust account, your reproductive endocrinologist will schedule the first embryo transfer cycle for you and your gestational surrogate. Depending on the needs of your specific reproductive endocrinologist, we will assist with the scheduling of the cycle and any necessary travel arrangements. We will also manage the trust account, which is held by an independent third party escrow company, through the embryo transfer process, as well as the resulting pregnancy.
This stage of the gestational surrogacy process is very exciting, but you may not have a successful embryo transfer on your first attempt. If you don’t already have embryos ready for the medical surrogacy process, the intended mother (or egg donor) and the surrogate will take fertility medications to sync their cycles. The eggs will then be harvested, fertilized in a lab and transferred to the surrogate’s uterus. After the transfer, your doctor will test for pregnancy and a healthy heartbeat. Once a pregnancy is confirmed, your surrogate’s pregnancy will progress as normal. You will likely have the chance to be present at future doctor’s visits and offer support to the surrogate throughout her pregnancy.
If your surrogacy requires an egg, sperm or embryo donation, we can help by completing any donor agreements and taking the necessary legal steps to protect your parental rights to your unborn child. Depending on your particular situation, this may take place before the gamete donation or after the surrogate becomes pregnant.
After the gestational surrogate completes her first trimester of pregnancy and prior to the 20th week of pregnancy, we will prepare the legal pleadings necessary to petition the court for a legal determination of parentage. We will discuss this further during the initial legal consultation.
Your case manager will contact your selected hospital in advance of the delivery so as to determine if they have any special requests or requirements regarding gestational surrogate births. She will also provide the hospital with a copy of your birth plan.
In many cases, intended parents and surrogates are in close contact about the hospital stay and what it will look like. It is a good idea to be open and honest with your surrogate about your hopes for this step of the surrogacy process, as she’ll likely be more than happy to agree to your wishes, if possible. In most cases, intended parents are present for the birth of their child and share in the delivery process with the surrogate.
Once the baby is born, your case manager will come to the hospital in order to ensure that everything goes smoothly with the birth certificate and discharge process. She will also work with you to make sure that your parental rights are protected throughout this process.
As you can see, the surrogacy process in South Carolina can be lengthy — but will be well worth it in the end when you are finally holding your new baby. The Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson are here to help you get started and assist you every step of the way in this journey to becoming parents. To learn more about what your gestational surrogacy process may look like when you work with us, please call us today at 864-573-5533 or contact us online.