Filed Date: April 15, 2008
Closed Date: 2011
Clearinghouse coding complete
On April 15, 2008, two men, one the biological parent and one non-biological parent of children carried by a surrogate mother who had entered a gestational agreement with that surrogate mother, filed this lawsuit in a Superior Court of Connecticut under state law. The defendants were the surrogate mother, the hospital, and Connecticut Department of Health. The surrogate mother had no biological relationship with the children. Prior to the birth of the children, the plaintiffs sought declaratory judgment that the gestational agreement was valid, that the surrogate mother had no parental rights to the children, that the plaintiffs were the legal parents of the children. They sought for the Court to order the Department of Health (DPH) to issue a replacement birth certificate identifying the intended parents as the legal parents. The gestational agreement included the surrogate carrier’s agreement to terminate her parental rights, consent to adoption, and comply in the process of naming the plaintiffs the legal parents.
On July 24, 2008, the Superior Court (Judge James Kenefick) found for the plaintiffs on all issues and ordered DPH to issue a replacement birth certificate. 2008 WL 8238572. DPH appealed this decision on August 11, 2008. DPH argued that the trial court lacked the subject matter jurisdiction to terminate the parental rights of a gestational carrier and declare new legal parents. DPH also argued that that Connecticut law did not permit a biological or adoptive parent to become a legal parent through a gestational agreement. The appellate court transferred the case to the Supreme Court of Connecticut on November 6, 2009.
On January 5, 2011, the Court – in an opinion authored by Justice McLachlan and joined by Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, Justice Flemming L. Norcott Jr., Justice Joette Katz, and Justice Richard N. Palmer – found that the Superior Court had subject matter jurisdiction to rule on the case and found that Connecticut law did permit a biological or adoptive parent to become a legal parent through a valid gestational agreement. 12 A.3d 783.
First, DPH argued that the Superior Court had no subject matter jurisdiction to terminate parental rights, as this jurisdiction was vested with the Probate Courts, and because the termination of parental rights was a necessary prerequisite for the plaintiffs to acquire parental rights, the Superior Court was unable to grant these parental rights. The Court stated that the law established that a gestational carrier who bears no biological relationship to the child does not have parental rights with respect to that child (The three means for the person to become a parent were conception, adoption, or artificial insemination where the individuals were biological or adoptive parents). Since the surrogate did not fall into these categories, there were no parental rights to terminate, and the trial court had jurisdiction.
DPH also argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant the non-biological intended parent declaratory judgment because the trial court lacked jurisdiction over adoption proceedings, as this jurisdiction was vested with the probate court. The Court acknowledged that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over adoption proceedings, but found that the case at issue was not an adoption proceeding, as the plaintiff sought declaratory judgment based on the gestational agreement despite not adopting the children. Because a gestational agreement was a unique means of acquiring parental rights beyond the three means, it was a question of statutory interpretation for whether a gestational agreement could be a fourth means of gaining parental rights, and that question of statutory interpretation fell within the jurisdiction of the trial court.
The Court then ruled on whether state law permitted a biological or adoptive parent to become a legal parent through a gestational agreement. The Court found that the law did permit a biological or adoptive parent to become a legal parent through a gestational agreement if that gestational agreement was valid. 12 A.3d 783.
The Court engaged in statutory interpretation to determine whether CT Gen Stat §7-48a allowed for the granting of parental rights to a non-biological intended parent via a valid gestational agreement without adopting the child. The statute, at the time of the case, read:
“On and after January 1, 2002, each birth certificate shall be filed with the name of the birth mother recorded. If the birth is subject to a gestational agreement, the Department of Public Health shall create a replacement certificate in accordance with an order from a court of competent jurisdiction….” (Emphasis added.) C.G.S §7-48a (2008).
The Court found ambiguities in the text regarding what types of agreements are included in the term “gestational agreement”, whether the Court can grant parental rights to an intended parent when they are not the parent by conception or adoption, and whether a gestational agreement was a new means by which one could become a legal parent. The Court found that the legislature was the best body to clarify these ambiguities, and determined it would answer only whether: “Upon a court order pursuant to § 7-48a, intended parents who are parties to a valid gestational agreement acquire parental status and are entitled to be named as parents on the replacement birth certificate, without respect to their biological relationship to the children.” 12 A.3d 783.
DPH argued that only biological intended parents could gain parental status through a valid gestational agreement and thus a gestational agreement was not a new means to grant parental rights. The Court found this interpretation illogical, as the donor of sperm or eggs in artificial insemination had no parental rights to the child, this reading could lead to a parentless child. This result, paired with legislative history behind the statute, led the Court to conclude that a gestational agreement indeed was meant to be a new means to grant parental rights, and affirmed the ruling of the trial court. Id.
Justice Peter T. Zarella, joined by Justice Christine S. Vertefeuille, concurred with the majority’s conclusion, but found that there was no ambiguity in §7-48a and did not find the majority’s review of legislative history necessary or proper.
The case is now closed.
Cade Boland (1/19/2018)
McLachlan, Mary C. (Washington)
McLachlan, Mary C. (Washington)
Last updated July 26, 2022, 3:02 a.m.Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.
State / Territory: Connecticut
Filing Date: April 15, 2008
Closing Date: 2011
Case Ongoing: No
Plaintiffs are two men who seek to be named the legal parents of a child born through the help of a surrogate.
Public Interest Lawyer: No
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: No
Class Action Outcome: Not sought
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief: