Mother Forces 14-year-old Adopted Daughter to Become Surrogate

Barrister

“Wicked” is how a judge described an American woman living in Britain, who enlisted her 14-year-old adopted daughter as her surrogate, so she could have a fourth child.

The unnamed woman and her husband adopted two children from overseas and later after the coupled divorced, she adopted a third child.

She then wished to adopt a fourth child, but her application to an international adoption agency was rejected leading her to initiate Plan B, which was a scheme to impregnate her 14-year-old adopted daughter in order that she might have the fourth child she longed for.

The young girl was surprised at the mother’s request but was grateful that she had been adopted and believed that her mother would “love her more” if she acceded to her request.

With sperm purchased by her mother from Cryos international in Denmark, the 14-year-old began injecting herself, with no immediate success and one miscarriage. Finally, at the age of 17 the young girl became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy at a local hospital.

It was there that midwives noticed that the new mother’s mother was unusually rude and demanding  with her daughter, at one point telling her that she could not breastfeed the child as she did not want any “bonding” to occur.

Overhearing this statement, the hospital contacted child protection authorities who interviewed the new mom and removed her, her baby and her siblings from her mother’s home.

The investigation also revealed that the British woman had administered douches containing vinegar and either lemon or lime juice to her daughter, because she believed this would ensure that the new baby was a girl.

The woman had isolated the children, home-schooling them and disallowing her former husband from having contact with them. Apparently, the authorities had been alerted to the unusual circumstances, but on four separate occasions determined there were no child protection issues.

In his judgment, Judge Peter Jackson described the mother as having “an exceptionally forceful personality,” and expressed “an abiding sense of disbelief that a parent could behave in such a wicked and selfish way towards a vulnerable child.”

The woman was sentenced to a five-year prison term.

After the case became public, questions were raised about the ease in which the woman was able to purchase sperm, a matter that was also noted by the judge who said, “there [are] no effective checks on a person’s ability to obtain sperm from Cryos.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Another Nigerian Scam: Fake Fertility Clinic

BarristerA married couple from the United Kingdom tried for eight years to have a baby with no luck at all. After years of disappointment the couple were referred by family members to the Miracle of God Fertility Clinic in Port Harcourt Nigeria. They travelled there, and after paying $20,000, she underwent a fertilization procedure and became pregnant, according to Dr. Chinyere at the Clinic.

With much joy the couple returned to their home in England to await the birth of their child. Their first stop was a visit to their family doctor who informed his patient that she was not actually pregnant.

However, she was undeterred, relying on the Clinic’s advice that due to the nature of the procedure, her pregnancy would be more difficult to detect. As expected, she began to gain weight as well.

Nine months passed and the couple returned to Nigeria for the birth of their baby. After a painful birthing process under heavy sedation, the couple were presented with their baby, complete with its umbilical cord.

Arriving in England, they took their baby to its first medical check-up. Their doctor was stunned to see the child and contacted the police and social services who took their baby into custody after the doctor advised them that his patient had never been pregnant. DNA testing confirmed that the child was not biologically connected to the couple.

Court proceedings ensued where the couple sought the return of their child. The Crown, however, alleged that the parents of Baby D were fully aware of the child’s true circumstances and had knowingly participated in a fraud.

In a hearing before Mr. Justice Coleridge the couple were found to be innocent victims of a fertility scam. The Judge said:

“Gullible they may well have been, dishonest they most certainly were not. They had no inkling of the scam in which they were involved and the light only dawned after the production of the DNA tests. That is the conclusion to which the police and the Local Authority each independently have come and I think they are right.”

In a further court appearance the couple succeeded in obtaining custody of Baby D. A representative of “Children and Families Across Borders” expressed concern about the decision and its potential impact on trafficking in babies:

“Behind every one of these children lies an actual birth mother. She has been coerced, she may have been kidnapped or raped. These children are not given up willingly”.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

BarristerSo, you’re just a regular guy doing your thing and you happen to come across a Craigslist ad where a lesbian couple want to have a baby and need a sperm donor. Because you’re such a good guy, you figure, what the heck, why not help them out?

They offer to pay you $50.00 but you say “hey, I’m not doing this for the money, keep your $50.00″. Of course, you sign an agreement waiving all your paternal rights so you can’t be on the hook down the road. Your good deed results in a bouncing baby girl.

Fast forward to today, the little girl is three-years old, and the couple have split up. An application is made for health insurance for the child and the Kansas Department for Child and Families won’t approve the application until the name of the sperm donor is provided.

Now our good guy is faced with a lawsuit brought by the government agency for child support of $6000.00 to cover past payments and a claim for ongoing support.

How can that be, you say? Doesn’t the agreement he signed protect him? Not according to the Kansas authorities. Kansas does not recognize same-sex couples as parents unless conception is through a licensed physician or clinic. They say they are obliged by the law to pursue the father for support payments.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Making Babies Is a Tricky Business

DSC01152_2 (2)_2With the extraordinary science that benefits childless couples and the growing popularity of reproductive technologies, the prediction from early naysayers that baby-making would create criminal, social and ethical problems can no longer be ignored.

Public awareness of the foibles of procedures such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and anonymous sperm donation began with the news that a California woman, Nadya Suleman, gave birth to eight children via in vitro fertilization in 2009. Twelve embryos had been implanted, apparently at her request.

Ms. Suleman’s octuplets joined her already large family of six children, also born through in vitro fertilization. That she was a single mother with limited financial resources and was eventually compelled to work as a stripper and a nude model further rankled critics who denounced her physician, Dr. Michael Kamrava, who later lost his medical license.

The latest scandal in the baby-making industry involves a home-grown business called Canadian Fertility Consultants, with offices in British Columbia and Ontario, whose CEO, Leia Picard, has been charged with 27 criminal offences including purchasing sperm and egg from a donor and paying a surrogate to carry a baby for a client.

Under Canadian law it is illegal to pay sperm or egg donors and surrogates are only allowed to be paid for their reasonable expenses. While limited information has been released by the RCMP, it has been reported that two women who donated eggs were paid $5000.00 each.

Ms. Picard has also been charged with four counts of forgery in relation to allegations that her clients received false profiles of two of her sperm donors and two potential surrogate mothers.

Canada’s legislation has been in force for almost nine years, but this appears to be the first time that charges have resulted from a breach of the law, with related criminal charges.

There is speculation that Ms. Picard’s present legal problems arise from her purely innocent interaction with Maryland lawyer Hilary Nieman, who ran a surrogacy business with California lawyer, Theresa Erickson, that later proved to be anything but altruistic.

Under a unique California law, a woman can enter into a surrogacy agreement with prospective parents, but the agreement must be signed and finalized prior to the fertilization of the surrogate. Where there is a surrogacy agreement, the prospective parents do not need to go through an adoption to become the child’s legal parents as the child’s birth certificate will record the names of the prospective parents, not the surrogate’s name.

Lawyers Nieman and Erickson both specialized in reproductive technology law. Working together, they paid American women an average of $40,000 to travel to the Ukraine to be implanted with embryos. This was necessary because no doctor in California would do the in vitro procedure under the circumstances presented by the surrogates.

The lawyers got around the requirement for an executed agreement prior to fertilization by submitting forged documents to the Court which attested to the agreement being signed as required by the law.

Ms. Erickson with Hilary Nieman’s help, accumulated a stable of new-born babies ready to be sold to unsuspecting couples for $100,000 to $150,000 each.

In the twelfth week of their pregnancy the women, referred to as “gestational carriers”, flew back to the United States where the lawyers would find a couple who were told that a surrogacy agreement with another couple had fallen through after the couple backed out.

For couples who had tried numerous procedures over many years without the blessing of a child, the prospects of a new-born baby was like winning the lottery.

Erickson and Nieman, both plead guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy, involving the sale of twelve babies. Although lawyers for the State and Ms. Nieman agreed to a plea bargain of nine months of home confinement, the Court would have no part of that and sentenced Nieman to five months in federal prison and seven months of home confinement. She was also order to pay back profits of $133,000 and was later disbarred.

We now await full particulars of the charges against Ms. Picard, but payments of several thousand dollars to egg donors hardly seems worth the cost of the RCMP’s year-long investigation. Allegations of forgery, however, puts an entirely different spin on the agency’s practices.

Ms. Picard says she will vigourously defend against the charges and is inviting donations to her legal fund.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Order of Canada Gynecologist Makes Multiple Insemination Blunders

BarristerWhile advances in reproductive technology have assisted thousands of child-barren couples to start their own families, it was predictable that along with the joys of parenthood would come the frailties inherent in the emergence of surrogacy, anonymous sperm donation, in vitro fertilization, and artificial insemination.

Our courts have already grappled with the issue of children who are psychologically scarred because their biological fathers are anonymous sperm donors, a circumstance that prevents them from knowing their complete genetic and medical history, leading to a lack of personal identity and a profound sense of loss.

A British Columbia Supreme Court decision in 2011 (Pratten v. British Columbia 2011 BCSC 656) which relied on the Canadian Charter of Rights, intended to put an end to the practice of anonymous sperm donation, however, it was overturned by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in 2012, (2012 BCCA 480) who ruled that the Charter did not give a person a constitutional right to “know one’s past”.

The implantation of multiple embryos has also raised significant ethical issues as illustrated by the furor fueled by California’s Octomom, Nadya Suleman, who gave birth to healthy octuplets through in vitro fertilization, siblings to her already large family of six children.

The practice of surrogacy has also left a trail of heartbreak, whether it be parents who have been duped by surrogates, or women exploited for their ability to carry a child to term.

The most recent scandal in the baby-making business is Order of Canada recipient Dr. Bernard Norman Barwin of Ottawa, who continued to sloppily inject his patients with the wrong sperm, despite being admonished by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1995 when he failed to use his patient’s husband’s sperm to impregnate her, a fact revealed through DNA testing.

Regrettably, his promises to take steps to ensure no future errors did not protect further victims. In 2010 he was sued by Trudy Moore and Matthew Guest, when they learned their surrogate, Ms. Moore’s sister, did not receive Mr. Guest’s sperm in the 2007 insemination. As well, Jacqueline Slinn learned that her child’s father was not the sperm donor she had selected.

In both actions the plaintiffs sought orders that Dr. Barwin submit to a blood test to determine if he was the father of the children. These cases were settled out of court with the standard confidentiality provisions included.

Last week a disciplinary panel accepted Dr. Barwin’s admission that he committed the errors alleged in cases that involved five women. Dr. William King, chair of the panel, remarked:
“It is hard to imagine a more fundamental error…than failure to impregnate the right woman with the right sperm.”

Despite the seriousness of Dr. Barwin’s blunders his punishment was far from severe: a two-month suspension from the practice of medicine and costs of $3,600.00. Perhaps his remorse and explanation of the errors justified the outcome? Hardly. He could not (or would not?) explain how the mistakes were made and his so-called “apology” was far from convincing. He said “I regret I’ve caused my patients any difficulty.”

The question is: how many more of Dr. Barwin’s patients wrongly presume they know who the father of their child is?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Family Law in Canada? It Depends Where You Live

BarristerToday’s decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in A. v. B. has closed the door for common law spouses in Quebec to receive spousal support upon the demise of their conjugal relationships, a ruling that signaled the conclusion of a long-running legal saga launched by the former common law spouse of a Canadian billionaire.

While married spouses and those in civil unions are entitled to apply for support, “de facto” spouses, the term used for common law spouses in Quebec, may not, unless they have entered into a cohabitation agreement with their partner which provides for support upon the breakdown of their relationship.

Quebec’s distinctive language and culture is also accompanied by a Napoleonic legal system which is not shared by other provinces in Canada. Our highest Court examined the spousal support provisions of the Quebec Civil Code and determined that freedom of choice and personal autonomy trumps a family law regime that imposes obligations on spouses who do not expressly consent.

The upshot? If you want spousal support in Quebec you need to be married, in a civil union, or have a cohabitation agreement which covers support if the relationship fails.

Ironically, while the absence of support for common law spouses in Quebec has now been confirmed as constitutional, the British Columbia legislature is mere weeks away from ushering in new law that will see common law spouses, including same-sex partners, enjoy the same benefits as married couples in regards to the division of property.

All Canadian provinces, with the exception of Quebec, provide for spousal support for common law spouses, but British Columbia’s new law is cutting-edge, albeit B.C. is not the first province in Canada to afford property rights to common law spouses. Those honours belongs to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunwick. However, it is a radical departure from the law as we know it today.

Presently, British Columbia couples are obliged to share all of their property, even if the property is brought into the marriage by one of the spouses. Our new law will ensure that if a spouse brings property into a marriage or common law relationship, that property will belong solely to the spouse who owns the property. However, if the property increases in value during the marriage or common law relationship, the increase in value may be shared by the parties.

As well, certain property will be exempt from sharing, including inheritances, which in our current law has been the source of bitter disputes, particularly when a large inheritance has been received by one spouse in the waning years of a marriage.

Another feature of B.C.’s new law will be the introduction of family law arbitration, a dispute resolution mechanism which is “old hat” in Ontario. In fact, Ontario lawyers have advanced to “med-arb”, a process where a senior lawyer or retired judge first tries to mediate a dispute and if that is unsuccessful, assumes the role of arbitrator and makes a final decision for the parties.

While Canada’s federal Divorce Act remains unchanged, with the exception that same-sex couples may now divorce, family law is rapidly evolving throughout Canada, depending upon where you live, and will likely not slow down anytime soon.

How could it be otherwise? Lawmakers across Canada need to figure how to approach sperm and gamete donation, donor parents, surrogacy contracts, and other intricacies of the new technology, together with the ramifications of same-sex marriage and divorce: all of which is changing what families look like in Canada today.

Judge Orders Deadbeat Dad of Nine Children to Stop Procreating

DSC00507 (2)Corey Curtis, age 44, of Racine, Wisconsin appeared before County Court Judge Tim Boyle to face allegations that he owed $50,000 in arrears of child support and $40,000 in interest to the six mothers of his nine children.

While pronouncing a sentence of three years probation on him for failure to pay child support, Judge Boyle mused about how he wished he had the authority to order sterilization of Mr. Curtis, because he couldn’t afford to pay for the nine children he had already sired.

The alert prosecutor then advised the Judge that there was precedent in Wisconsin to make such an order, referring to a 2001 case where a payor father was ordered not to father any further children until he had paid the arrears of child support he already owed.

This precedent setting case, State v. Oakley was upheld by Wisconsin’s highest court and later appealed to the United States Supreme Court, who declined to hear the case, thus implicitly recognizing the legitimacy of the trial court order. The Justices of the Wisconsin Court held that the “no-procreation” condition of probation was constitutional. It was also preferable to the eight-year prison sentence that otherwise would have been ordered.

One Judge dissented on the basis that a person should have as many children as he or she wants, even if they cannot afford them:

“by allowing the right to procreate to be subjected to financial qualifications, the majority imbues a fundamental liberty interest with a sliding scale of wealth. Men and women in America are free to have children, as many as they desire. They may do so without the means to support the children and may later suffer legal consequences as a result of the inability to provide support. However, the right to have a child has never been rationed on the basis of wealth.”

In a similar scenario in Texas, Felicia Salazar, age 20, was sentenced to ten years probation for failing to prevent her 19-month old daughter from being abused by her partner. She was also ordered not to have any more children until her probation was completed.

These orders may be harsh but if the “best interests of the children” are paramount, they may occasionally be necessary.