Following a lengthy legal battle, a Pennsylvania judge delivered his ruling for Sherri Shepherd and Lamar Sally. Shepherd is now the legal mother of her 8-month old baby which was carried via surrogate.
Shepherd was not present at the hearing, but we all know that this was not the news she wanted to hear.
During their surrogate’s pregnancy, Shepherd separated from and divorced her husband, Sally. At that time, she walked away from the surrogate, the baby, and Sally claiming that the third-party reproduction arrangement was nothing more than a ruse from Sally for child support.
It was quite a statement, but it didn’t hold up in court. Shepherd was a part of this surrogacy process from the very beginning, and it wasn’t until after the embryo transfer and the progression of the resulting pregnancy that she had a change of heart.
Shepherd and Sally were married for a total of three years.
For the surrogacy, Sally’s sperm and an egg donor were used. The surrogate, Jessica Bartholomew, came out publicly following the birth. She was also named on the baby’s birth certificate as the mother, something no surrogate should have to ever bear.
According to Kirthana Ramisetti of the New York Daily News, “Yet despite not having a biological connection to the child, it seems that Shepherd’s excitement about his impending arrival is what helped convince the judge to name her as co-parent.”
Craig Bluestein, the child’s legal representative told reporters, “There was some additional evidence put on the record involving some video clips involving Ms. Shepherd.”
The clips, it appears, conveyed her joy and excitement regarding how she and her former husband would be having a baby with the help of a surrogate.
Bluestein told People Magazine reporters Emily Strohm and Diane Herbst that he thought this was the first national case in where an intended parent wanted to “opt out of the contract” during the pregnancy.
He went on to say, “This is very important because gestational carriers need to know that, if they are intending other people to be parents, that the carrier’s name won’t be on the birth certificate as mother and carry with it all the responsibilities of being a mother, including child support for a child you never intended to parent.”
Now, what does this ruling mean for Shepherd and what can she expect to face?
For starters, she will be legally obligated to pay alimony and child support.
Tiffany Palmer, Sally’s attorney, told People Magazine, “Now that Sherri’s name is on the birth certificate, it is possible she may have to reimburse the state of California for the health insurance and WIC benefits, to cover the cost of formula.” She continued, “The ultimate outcome is that this baby has two legal parents, and the parents are Lamar Sally and Sherri Shepherd. She has to be responsible for this child that she conceived and created.”
Palmer also confirmed that her law firm will be seeking the reimbursement of legal fees. No exact price tag was given but it’s estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
When this case started, I had a legal suspicion the judge would rule in the favor of Sally and the baby. It would be very difficult to prove that Shepherd was coerced into signing the third-party reproduction legal contract.
What also needs to be pointed out is the distress that Bartholomew endured. Not only was she named on the birth certificate, but the State of California state issued a child support action.
Some legal analysts are predicting a possible lawsuit between Bartholomew and Shepherd.
Thankfully, the judge’s ruling ensures the financial stability of this child and the surrogate finally removed from the birth certificate as the child’s mother.