Surrogacy is now legal in New York

Meet the Child – Parent Security Act

Did you know that surrogacy is now legal in New York?  This is great news because it means that there are even more avenues for New Yorkers to build families with the help of some new legislation. We’d like to take a moment to introduce you to the Child – Parent Security Act. Implemented in February 2021, the Child – Parent Security Act allows compensated gestational surrogacy and repealed the state’s previous statute which declared compensated surrogacy contracts unenforceable. Governor Cuomo commented on the legislation saying, “For far too long, LGBTQ+ New Yorkers and New Yorkers struggling with fertility were denied the opportunity to start a family because of arbitrary and archaic laws and I couldn’t be prouder of the way New York came together to say we won’t stand for this any longer, New York is a loving state and we’re proud to lead the charge for fairness and equality last year. With this law now in effect, no longer will anyone will be blocked from the joys of starting a family and raising children simply because of who they are.

What does this really mean for families in New York? That families unable to conceive biologically will be able to hire a surrogate to give birth to their child. There are no restrictions on marital status in regard to who may employ a surrogate, thus giving access to families of all shapes and sizes.

How does the law do this? The new legislation establishes legal criteria for surrogacy agreements to help provide the strong protections for both parents and surrogates and ensuring that there is informed consent at each step. The law creates a Surrogates’ Bill of Rights, to uphold the right of surrogates to make their own healthcare decisions, including whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy. These rights also mandate that surrogates have access to comprehensive health insurance and independent legal counsel of their choosing, all paid for by the intended parents. The Child – Parent Security Act creates a streamlined process for establishing parenthood when one of the individuals is a non-biological parent, through a process known as “second parent adoption.”

How does it work? The family wanting to have a child, a.k.a. the intended parents or “IPs”, do some research to find the surrogate that’s right for their needs. Typically, the IPs will connect with a surrogacy agency that they feel comfortable with. The family may choose to use any combination of egg/sperm whether belonging to the intended parents or a third-party donor, not the surrogate. From there, with the help of an attorney, the intended parents will draft a gestational carrier agreement and negotiate it with the surrogate and her attorney. This agreement will contain very detailed information about the terms of the surrogacy relationship, expectations from all parties involved, insurance, fees, costs, monetary stuff, etc. The IPs can also Petition the Court for a Pre-Birth Order (“PBO”).  Essentially a Pre- Birth Order is used to establish the legal parentage of a child born via surrogacy and is preferred by many intended parents. The Process typically begins at week 14 of the pregnancy and if the Order is granted it becomes effective at the moment of birth. A hearing will then be scheduled that the parties will attend with their attorneys. If the court finds that the gestational carrier agreement and PBO meet the specifications of New York law, the court will issue a judgment of parentage declaring that the intended parents are the legal parents of the child at the time of birth. The Court will also affirm that the surrogate and any donors are not the child’s legal parents.

Are there any restrictions? Yes, there are a few to be aware of:

  • The new law does not apply to a surrogate who uses her own egg to conceive. This is also know as “genetic surrogacy” or “traditional surrogacy.” Traditional surrogacy is still banned in the state of New York but parties may establish parentage through adoption
  • At least one of the intended parents must be a US citizen or permanent resident and a resident of New York for at least 6 months prior to the execution of the surrogacy contract. If only one intended parent has lived in New York for 6 months, the surrogate (who also must be a US citizen or permanent resident) must have been a resident of New York for at least 6 months.
  • Prior to conception, all donors must agree with the intended parent that the donor has no parental or proprietary interest in the gametes or embryos.  If the donation was initially made anonymously to a cryobank or similar facility under a doctor’s supervision, a letter from the doctor or facility explaining that the donation is anonymous will be accepted as consent.
  • IP’s must pay a gestational carrier at a “reasonable rate” for up to 8-weeks after the baby is born. Ideally, attorneys for both the IP’s and surrogate will layout the details of compensation and timelines at the beginning of the relationship. Be aware that IP’s must also pay for their surrogate’s legal fees, health, and life insurance during the pregnancy and for 1 year after birth.

Have more questions about surrogacy in New York? Give our office a call! We would be honored to help you as you plan your family.

Are You Ready to Send Your Kids Back to School In-Person?

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. How do we get back to “normal”? Do we dive in? Is it too soon? What once might have been a simple answer has now become a debate of principle and safety.

So, how do you go about navigating the argument of whether or not to allow your child to go back to in- person learning?

Start by recognizing that both yourself and your child’s other parent have valid concerns and considerations.  Come to the discussion ready to truly “hear” each other’s views and then try to understand why they feel the way they do.  

 Here are a few points of discussion to get you started.

Potential Reasons to Return to In-Person LearningPotential Reasons to Continue Virtual – Learning
The structure of the live classroom can lead to increased focus because there are fewer distractions.

It’s easier for students to get their teacher’s immediate attention.

Socialization. Kids need to be around other kids- period.

Studying in-person reduces eye-strain caused by staring at the computer screen all day.

In-person classes help reduce the need for childcare while parents are at work.

Returning to school increases access to free meals, internet, and other resources for low-income students.

Teachers don’t have to waste learning time on troubleshooting technical issues and making sure everyone is able to “log in.”

Studies have shown that the students who are in the physical classroom get more attention by default.

The privacy of the classroom allows for debate and student discussion with less potential for being recorded or overheard. This promotes a safe space for the exploration of ideas.
Parents can mitigate the risk of germ-spread and the threat of COVID-19 within their household.

There is no commute to and from school, (think- no more carpools or bus rides!)

Students don’t have to wear a mask or worry about social distancing rules amongst their immediate family.

Flexibility to study in any convenient location with an internet connection. As a result, there are more opportunities for the non-custodial parent to have increased visitation with the children.

Remote learning enables parents to be more involved with their child’s learning.

Some students learn better in a solo environment.

More time for family bonding.

More time for increased creativity and expression.







After you’ve shared your thoughts with your co-parent, consider doing the following:

  1. Ask your child how they feel about continuing remote learning or going back to school.  What do they think are the PROS or CONS of returning to in–person school?
  2. Consider your child’s feelings and determine whether going back to school in-person will help or hinder them emotionally.
  3. Is there something that you would need to change in order to feel more comfortable with one of the above PROS or CONS?

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer.  Being an effective co-parent means keeping the best interests of your child first while working together. It’s up to you both to decide what the best decision for your family really is.  Each family is unique, and it is okay if what works for your family isn’t what works for the family next door. As with any challenge in your co-parenting journey, what matters most is that the children are okay.  

Want to chat more about co-parenting during the Covid-19 pandemic?  Give us a call.

How Couples Survive Infidelity

February 19, 2020

While infidelity seems like it should be a relationship ender, I have seen countless people not only stay with their partner after being cheated on but manage to rebuild a stronger, more open, and more trusting relationship. This is not guaranteed to happen, of course, and every situation is different, but these are some things to keep in mind if you are interested in helping your relationship survive infidelity.

Express Empathy

Whether you cheated on your partner or they cheated on you, you should both work very hard to understand how the other feels. If you cheated, you need to be willing to listen to your partner’s anger, to accept how much you’ve hurt them, and to do what it takes to change your behavior. 

At the same time, the person whose partner cheated should try to understand why their partner did what they did. These things rarely happen in a vacuum—the relationship was probably unhappy even before the infidelity. So you need to work to understand how the relationship deteriorated, and how it can be restored. And, no, this does not excuse infidelity, but it is critical that you understand it.

Communicate Well, and Often

Infidelity often sends couples to counseling, which ends up being the best thing that ever happened to them. A relationship is a long-term project. And as with anything that requires a lot of work, it means you’ll need help. A professional who can help you and your partner better understand each other and give the two of you a safe venue to communicate with each other.

The infidelity was a betrayal, and that is difficult to get over. Openness helps with the healing, so open communication—aided by a therapist—will help both of you heal and treat each other with more empathy, acceptance, and respect.

Understand That It Takes Time

Finally, there may come a time in your relationship after infidelity when it is clear the relationship will survive, but the resentment lingers. That is perfectly normal, but it’s important that you and your partner acknowledge and talk about it.

The person who committed the infidelity may feel like they’ve paid the price, “done their time,” and are tired of being blamed for it, especially if it happened years earlier. The problem is, healing takes a long time, and doesn’t go in a straight line. Accept that the two of you will have to deal with the infidelity for a long time, but know that it can make you stronger if you know how to handle it in a healthy and loving way.

Have a question about this or any other Family Law matter? Give us a call at 914.615.9058.


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Why individual therapy is so important if you’re going through a divorce

Why individual therapy is so important if you’re going through a divorce

February 24, 2020

Divorces are emotionally raw times, opening wounds for people that they often didn’t know were there. And once the initial shock wears off, there is just so much more to process—how to rebuild your self-confidence, learn to trust others, and deal with the depression that comes from loneliness, betrayal, financial hardship, and change. These things are true both parties to a divorce, both the person ending the marriage and their partner.

 

For all these reasons and more, it is so important to seek help from a qualified therapist during and after the divorce. If you have never tried therapy, or are skeptical of it, I ask  you to keep these three things in mind about getting a divorce, and then reevaluate whether you think therapy is a worthy pursuit.

You deserve to be happy

The end of your marriage does not mean the end of your life. You have entire chapters of your life waiting to be written, and you deserve to be happy during them.

Therapy will help you cope with the anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, and fear that comes from a dramatic change like a divorce. It will also help you identify things you may have done wrong during your relationship so that you can avoid doing them in the future. And it can help you find forgiveness, both for your ex and for yourself.

You have people relying on you

You can only take care of the people you love—your children, your family members, your friends, your co-workers—if you are taking great care of yourself. Therapy will help you learn to take care of yourself by dealing healthily with negative feelings and by building self esteem.

The world will move on, with or without you

There will be a time after your divorce where your friends, family, and co-workers will understand if you are depressed, forgetful, and unpleasant to be around. But eventually, they will expect you to be “back to normal”… and most likely much before you are ready. 

This is not to say that you should fake feeling good for other people’s sake. But it is to say that if your work suffers because you are depressed, or if you never have fun with your friends anymore, then your depression will only become worse. The best way to prevent this from happening is to deal with the negative feelings associated with your divorce productively, with a qualified therapist. 

It won’t be easy, or quick, but the journey will be worth it in the end, and you will undoubtedly credit therapy with helping you see your divorce as a learning experience and a chance for personal growth.

Have a question about this or any other Family Law matter? Give us a call at 914.615.9058.

Why It’s So Important To Take Notes During a Custody Case

Why It’s So Important To Take Notes During a Custody Case

One of the most important things to make a practice of doing when going through a divorce or a custody battle is to take good notes and keep good records. This means keeping receipts, bank and credit card statements, and text messages. It also means taking note of every interaction you have with your ex, whether in person or on the phone.

Tech Can Help

Technology is on your side when it comes to taking notes and keeping records. If you prefer to take notes by hand, you can use your phone to take a picture of the notes and then save them to your computer or to the cloud. There are apps such as Evernote that will automatically digitize your handwriting so that it becomes searchable, and you can then organize your notes by topic, date, and location. The most important thing is that you keep clear and organized records.  Be sure to document the phone calls and in-person meetings after they happened—including the exact date and time -when and where they happened, and what was said.

It’s also important to save the text messages and emails you exchange with your ex. While your phone and email client likely do this automatically, you should take care to make a backup yourself. Export every email to a PDF (make sure that it captures the time stamp), and save the PDF to a local hard drive and to the cloud. Take screenshots of every text message and again save them to your hard drive and to the cloud. You can even create a special email address for just this purpose and then forward the text messages to yourself at that email.  So, if for any reason your cellphone “disappears” or dies, you’re covered. 

BONUS TIP: If you’re saving a text message from your ex, you can delete your ex’s contact information from your phone so that your screenshot shows your ex’s phone number rather than their name, proving that the text is from who you say it’s from.

Good Notes Are More Powerful Than He-Said-She-Said

It is important to always remain calm and respectful when dealing with your ex, even if they’re not offering you the same in return. Take note of any bad behavior on their part, and if you have to alert a judge or hearing officer about it, you’ll have the notes to back it up. Don’t let it become a game of he-said-she-said—implement the practices described here and have the documentation to support your claims.

Have a question about this or any other Family Law matter? Give us a call at 914.615.9058.

Litigation vs. Mediation in Divorce

Litigation vs. Mediation in Divorce

Litigation vs. Mediation in Divorce

A nearly universal assumption in our society is that when a couple divorces, they are required to go to court. After all, this has traditionally been the case. Now couples who are contemplating divorce have different options about how to proceed. One of the most popular—and effective—is mediation.

Which one a couple should pursue depends on a number of circumstances that include the reasons for the separation, the willingness of each partner to work with the other to reach an agreement, and whether or not the divorce itself is unilateral. Just as no two marriages are alike, divorces have their own individual complexities and nuances.

Litigation: When Is It Recommended?

Although there are several different alternatives like mediation and collaborative divorce, litigation remains the most common divorce method. It is important to remember that going the litigation route does not automatically mean a courtroom battle between you and your spouse. The reality is that the majority of all divorce cases reach a settlement agreement out of court.

Litigation may be the better option for your divorce action if:

  • One party does not want the divorce: This situation is adversarial by its very nature. The cooperation and voluntary disclosure of all financial information required for mediation to work is not likely to be forthcoming.
  • You and your spouse cannot agree on key issues: Child custody and support, alimony, and division of assets and debts are central parts of any divorce action. If you are unable to reach a settlement on one or all of them, litigation will be necessary.

Mediation: When Is It Recommended?

In mediation, a neutral third party known as a mediator helps a divorcing couple come to an agreement on every aspect of their divorce. This option is growing in popularity, and studies suggest that couples are more likely to comply with the terms of their divorce settlement if they have helped to create it, which mediation enables.

Mediation is a preferred option for your divorce action if:

  • Both parties are amicable and willing to compromise:You may not agree on absolutely everything, but a positive attitude and skilled mediator will help you and your spouse compromise on issues you may still disagree about.
  • Children are involved: Mediation makes the divorce process less stressful for children because there will be minimal anger and hostility involved. The presence of children make it necessary for parents to maintain a relationship after the divorce is finalized, so mediation should be pursued if at all possible.

The benefits of mediation include a better relationship with your ex-spouse afterwards, a less expensive and more efficient divorce process, and the ability to control your own divorce because you are making the decisions—not a judge.

If you are planning to divorce and wondering whether litigation or mediation is more appropriate for your circumstances, contact the Law Offices of Elizabeth A. Douglas today. We will provide you with legal advice, answer your questions and help you review your options when it comes to the best way of concluding your marriage.