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Paternity, child custody in question after surrogate birth

In vitro fertilization can be a blessing for couples who are unable to conceive on their own. The opportunity for gay couples to raise a child who shares one spouse's genes or straight couples who may be infertile to become pregnant is a marvel of modern science.

In some cases a surrogate mother is also relied upon in order to carry the child through pregnancy to birth. In these situations, a high degree of trust and clear legal custody agreements are crucial, in order to guarantee newborn children are raised by the proper and intended parents.

One Texas child custody battle is currently unfolding in the wake of deception, misplaced trust, and uncertainty over surrogate paternity rights. This July twins were born to a mother in Houston. Almost immediately following their birth, the 48-year-old woman was visited by a social working and told, to her surprise, she was in a position of surrogacy.

Two Houston gay men are laying claim to the legal custody rights of the newborns, which were fertilized using one of the men's sperm and a donor egg. The surrogate mother, who is not genetically related to the twins claims to being mislead by the biological father, having been told that the two would raise the expected children together.

The woman claims she and the man had a non-legal agreement based on trust to share custody of the children at the time of the in vitro procedure. The two were not romantically involved, nor was she aware that the man was gay.

Currently the woman is allowed visitation rights totaling 12 hours per week with the infant twins while court custody hearings proceed toward a verdict. If the couple's case prevails, serious questioning of rightful maternity and parents' rights under surrogacy could shape future cases all across Texas.

While not all child custody and visitation cases are as complicated as the one currently playing out in Houston, the potential for unexpected circumstances in combination with the incredibly high stakes involved makes an experienced family law attorney absolutely essential. Through mediation, negotiation, or courtroom litigation, a strong legal advocate can make all the difference in ensuring parents in every situations retain their right to a role in raising their children.

Source: KHOU, "Judge to decide custody rights for surrogate twins," Nov. 5, 2012

•Our firm can help navigate even the most complicated of custody cases. For more information, contact our Dallas child custody law page.

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Bruce Turner

In addition to his law degree, Bruce Turner has a master's degree in tax law and is Board Certified in Commercial Real Estate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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Bruce Turner with Bennett, Weston LaJone & Turner, P.C.

Attorney Bruce Turner is located in Dallas and represents people and businesses throughout DFW and the Metroplex, including Denton, Carrollton, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Farmers Branch, Irving, Las Colinas, Corinth, Highland Village, The Colony, Plano, Frisco, Allen, McKinney, Mesquite, Grand Prairie, Garland and Grapevine as well as Collin County, Denton County and Dallas County in Texas.

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