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COA: Surrogate can not petition to disestablish maternity

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A married woman who acted as a surrogate for another couple cannot petition to disestablish her maternity because it would cause the child to be “declared a child without a mother,” the Indiana Court of Appeals determined on interlocutory appeal.

The issue arose in In the Matter of the Paternity and Maternity of Infant T., 67A05-1301-JP-36, in which S.T. acted as a surrogate for M.F. She was implanted with an embryo fertilized by M.F.’s sperm and an unknown donor’s eggs and became pregnant. M.F.’s wife planned on adopting the child once it was born. M.F., S.T. and S.T.’s husband C.T. jointly filed an agreed petition with the Putman Circuit Court to establish M.F.’s paternity and disestablish S.T.’s maternity.

The trial court denied the petition and certified it for interlocutory appeal.

“We hold that S.T.’s petition to disestablish maternity is not cognizable. It would not be in the best interests of the child, and would be contrary to public policy, to allow the birth mother to have the child declared a child without a mother. And it would be inconsistent to allow for petitions to disestablish maternity when petitions to disestablish paternity are forbidden,” Judge Edward Najam wrote.

“However, our holding does not exclude the indirect disestablishment of maternity, such as in (In re Paternity & Maternity of Infant R., 922 N.E.2d 59, 60 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010)). The indirect disestablishment of maternity requires a putative mother to petition the court for the establishment of maternity and to prove her maternity by clear and convincing evidence, not simply by affidavit or stipulation. If the putative mother satisfies her burden of proof, the establishment of maternity in her would indirectly disestablish maternity in the birth mother. But we are not presented with facts demonstrating maternity in any woman other than S.T. Indiana law presumes the birth mother of a child is the child’s biological mother.”

The COA reversed the trial court’s denial of the petition regarding M.F., however. The Indiana Supreme Court has made clear that a joint stipulation between the birth mother and the putative father constitutes sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption that the woman’s husband is the father. Here, all the parties stipulated that M.F. is the biological father of the infant born in February 2013.

The appeals court remanded for the trial court to enter an order establishing M.F.’s paternity.

 

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