Former The View host, Sherri Shepherd may no longer appear on the talk show, yet she remains in the public eye due to her recent appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Ms. Shepherd’s case concerns a baby born to Ms. Shepherd and her former husband via surrogacy.
In 2011, Sherri Shepherd married Lamar Sally, and shortly thereafter the two contacted Reproductive Possibilities to assist them in arranging a contract with a surrogate mother. In the contract that Ms. Shepherd and Mr. Sally signed with Reproductive Possibilities, the prospective parents stated their desire to have a child via a surrogate, as all client’s of the company do. The agreement provided that Ms. Shepherd and Mr. Sally could terminate the arrangement at any time prior to the time that the gestational carrier becomes pregnant. The surrogate that was matched with Shepherd and Sally resided in Pennsylvania. Shepherd and Sally additionally entered into an agreement with Tiny Treasures who provided the egg donation. in the contact with this company, the prospective parents gain reiterated their desire to have a child via a surrogacy arrangement. This recitation of Shepherd and Sally’s consent indemnified the egg donor from any legal responsibility.
Several months later, once the surrogate mother was pregnant, Shepherd refused to sign documents that were required to allow her name to be on the child’s birth certificate. Shepherd’s refusal was due to the dissolution of her marriage with Sally. Due to the failure to file the necessary documents with the court, neither Sally or Shepherd’s name were on the child’s birth certificate when the child was born.
Upon trial, the court found that the surrogacy agreement was a valid and enforceable contact, and the Shepherd had breached it. She was found to not only have financial obligations to care for the child, but she also was responsible for the birth mother’s legal fees. Shepherd appealed and argued that the agreement was unenforceable under Pennsylvania law. Shepherd argued that the agreement was “an unlawful means of circumventing the statutory adoption procedure.” The appellate court disagreed. The court held that only “in the clearest of cases may a court declare a contract void as against public policy” The baby would not have been born but for Sally and Shepherd’s agreement, and their clearly stated intention to become parents binds them both to the contract they entered into.
As Shepherd does not have a relationship with the now year-old child, this case is primarily about the child support she now owes to Sally, who is parenting the child on his own. As in any case, the amount of child support owed by the non-custodial parent may be properly determined by a court.
As the Court noted in this case, there is a growing acceptance of alternative reproductive arrangements” in Pennsylvania and in the United States. This Decision certainly sets precedent that the Court intends to support and uphold the various paths to parenthood.