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Celebrity loses appeal, must pay child support as legal parent

In a case that may be the first of its kind in the nation, a celebrity is fighting to have herself removed as the legal parent of a child carried by a surrogate and born after she and the father separated. Sherri Shepherd, former co-host of The View, has lost the most recent round of appeals in the unusual case. She must continue to pay substantial child support for the 1-year-old boy, according to the decision of a three-judge state court panel. The final outcome may have some influential effect on how such a case would be ruled upon in Oregon.

The decision binds Shepherd to living up to papers she signed when she and her former husband, Lamar Sally, decided to go ahead with a surrogacy procedure. They contracted to use an outside donor egg and a surrogate carrier to deliver the baby. After several months of the pregnancy, the two separated and Shepherd renounced her interest in having the baby born as her own.

Sally, however, protested to the courts that he wanted the baby to be born. Sally was the sperm donor and natural father of the baby. The ruling was welcomed by surrogacy centers and reproductive birthing services. The owner of one agency pointed out that it was critical for "gestational carriers" to know that they would not be legally drawn into such a dispute and tagged as the natural mother with support obligations to a baby that she never intended to parent.

It is difficult to say how this child support and contractual dispute would be decided in Oregon, but presumably, the courts would find it important to honor the sanctity of the contract in these matters. The public policy rationale of providing  protection to reproductive agencies and gestational carriers from those who contract with them may be at the crux of the court's reasoning. Generally, it may be argued that this is a matter of contract, wherein the "legal parents" must accept the responsibility for the birth procedure that they contractually procured. Shepherd has a final chance to appeal the decision to the state's highest appellate court.

Source: People, "Sherri Shepherd Must Remain on Birth Certificate of Son Born Via Surrogate, Pay Child Support", Diane Herbst, Nov. 24, 2015

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