While it’s normal for many couples to decide that a new life together also means starting a new family, the path forward isn’t always so simple. Some couples have severe barriers that make traditional, natural childbirth medically hazardous or impossible. For example, a woman with a heart condition puts both herself and the growing baby at risk with a pregnancy that demands too much from her body. On the other end, a woman had her life saved from uterine cancer with a hysterectomy that removed her uterus, and she could no longer bear children.
Surrogacy can help in these circumstances. It’s where another woman medically evaluated as suitable agrees to become pregnant on behalf of a hopeful couple. When the baby is delivered, the newborn is then united with the intended parents, and life as a family can finally begin.
However, many people worldwide are choosing to have surrogacy take place in a country other than the one of their residence. Georgia, a country in Eastern Europe, is an increasingly popular destination for couples to go for surrogacy. Part of this has to do with the legal system there, but why?
The Law Makes Or Breaks Families
Over the decades, many couples have had successful surrogacy experiences without incident, but there is occasionally a complication where an existing legal precedent—or, more often, a lack thereof—can place a couple’s hopes of a successful surrogacy in jeopardy. The most famous early example of this was in the United States in 1985, known as the “Baby M” case. At that time, surrogacy was still relatively new, and no laws were in place regarding the custody of babies born to surrogate mothers.
In New York state, a woman who agreed to become a surrogate mother for a couple changed her mind after the baby was born and decided she wanted to be the mother. After kidnapping the baby, the courts fell back on the biological mother precedent and awarded custody of the baby to the surrogate mother, even though she’d previously agreed to be a surrogate for a hopeful couple.
Since then, some states in the USA have codified specific laws for surrogate baby custody, while others have not. This means there is much variance and even uncertainty in even the United States about what can happen with surrogate baby custody should there be a dispute.
The Georgia Difference
Georgia has modernized its constitution to keep relevant with the concerns of the 21st century. One example is the changes to the constitution that lay out the rights of hopeful couples looking to have a child via surrogacy. Provided all Georgian laws are observed and proper documentation has been filled and archived, the hopeful parents are always legally designated as having custody of the baby. This is a federal law in Georgia and provides maximum legal protection.
Fortunately, this law applies not just to citizens but to any couple that comes to Georgia and has a baby through surrogacy. As a result, Georgia has one of the most comprehensive surrogacy programs for foreign couples in place. The combination of currency differences with other countries and experience in dealing with foreign couples has meant the country is an efficient and cost-effective destination for couples that want to protect their legal rights:
What The Law Covers & Doesn’t
For couples thinking of making Georgia their destination, there are some things to keep in mind. Unfortunately, while Georgia provides legal protections and assigns custody of a newborn to the hopeful couple, that couple must be a traditional man-and-woman union. Same-sex couples will not have their requests considered in Georgia because the Georgian constitution does not formally recognize them as legal unions, so they must look to other countries.
Another important aspect to consider is the unique legal status of surrogate babies born in Georgia. Unlike some countries, such as the United States and Canada, which have a legal precedent known as citizenship by birthright, Georgia does not automatically grant citizenship to children born in the country if the parents with legal custody are not citizens themselves. This means that newborns united with their new parents are essentially “stateless” since they were not born in the country of intended residence and therefore have no citizenship there either.
It becomes crucial on the part of new parents to take legal precautions. Different countries will have their own requirements for how returning babies may be granted citizenship. Parents must either familiarize themselves with these laws or work with agencies experienced in international law and citizenship matters. This ensures that the right preparations are made to allow a newborn to be granted citizenship status and safely return to the country of residence. If these legal requirements are not met, a child may not be allowed to enter the country, leaving parents with the difficult option of remaining outside their country with the child until the issue is resolved.