As intended parents in the beginning stages of the surrogacy process, one of the first steps you will likely take is deciding which surrogacy professional you want to work with. The professional you choose will be your partner throughout the process, and it is important to choose one that can meet your needs.
The type of surrogacy professional you choose will depend largely on the type of surrogacy you are pursuing. Generally, there are two main categories of surrogacy professionals: surrogacy agencies and surrogacy attorneys. Both professionals have different strengths, and each offers different services.
Here, learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of surrogacy agencies vs. attorneys as you decide which professional will work best for you.
Full-service surrogacy agencies are experienced in providing most or all of the services and support necessary throughout the surrogacy process. These professionals often work with gestational surrogates across the country and intended parents from around the world.
Surrogacy agencies are the most popular choice of professional for intended parents, largely because of the wide variety of services they offer. Many agencies are “one-stop shops” for intended parents, offering services such as:
- Advertising for prospective surrogates
- Screening and matching services
- Counseling, education and support
- Surrogacy plan development and overall case management
- Coordination of legal services with a surrogacy attorney
- Coordination of medical services with a fertility clinic
- Contact mediation
- And more
Why work with a surrogacy agency?
Because the surrogacy process can be somewhat overwhelming, it can be advantageous to work with one professional from start to finish. There are many additional reasons to consider working with a surrogacy agency, as well as some disadvantages to take into account. Here are some of the top surrogacy agency pros and cons to consider:
- Agencies are the best source for advertising, screening and matching services. Most agencies spend a considerable amount of time and money on advertising to prospective clients and work with a large number of surrogates from across the country. This increases intended parents’ chances of finding a perfect match within a limited wait time. Agencies often maintain advanced databases that can help match intended parents with surrogacy opportunities that fit with their plans and goals. They also extensively screen surrogates to protect everyone throughout the surrogacy process.
- They offer most or all necessary surrogacy services, from surrogacy planning to legal services and more. Large surrogacy agencies can complete the surrogacy process from start to finish. These professionals employ knowledgeable and qualified staff members who can offer support and guidance every step of the way, coordinating the entire process and working with large networks of legal and medical professionals to safely complete the necessary legal and medical procedures.
- Agencies are the only surrogacy professionals that provide counseling and support services. Many intended parents and prospective surrogates overlook the importance of emotional support throughout the surrogacy process. Even if intended parents choose to work with a family friend as a surrogate, she may have difficult feelings during her pregnancy that she is not comfortable discussing with the intended parents. The counseling and contact mediation services offered by surrogacy agencies can help the prospective parents and carrier through any difficulties they may face and ensure they maintain a positive relationship.
- Agencies may have higher fees than surrogacy attorneys. Surrogacy agencies often provide all services necessary throughout the surrogacy process from start to finish, which may result in higher overall surrogacy costs.
- They may require more of intended parents. Surrogacy agencies may require intended parents to meet certain requirements. These requirements vary from agency to agency, so be sure to find one that is appropriate for your circumstances.
Finding a Surrogacy Agency
Every surrogacy agency is different in the programs it offers, the costs of its services, its requirements for intended parents and more. There are many factors to consider when choosing the agency that is right for you, and it is important to do your research and choose an agency that fits your particular needs.
If you have decided that working with a surrogacy agency is the best choice for your family, there are several questions you may want to ask prospective surrogacy professionals before making your final decision:
- How is your organization licensed and regulated?
- We live in (state). Can your agency still work with us?
- What surrogacy programs do you offer? What services are included with these programs?
- On average, how much can we expect to spend with your agency? What services are included in that amount? Are there any hidden fees or additional expenses we should be aware of when budgeting?
- How long can we expect to wait to be matched with a prospective surrogate?
- What factors could increase or decrease costs and wait times?
- Are you a full-service agency? What surrogacy services are performed by your agency, and what services are outsourced?
- Will we need to communicate directly with our own attorney or fertility specialist, or will you coordinate those services for us?
- How much involvement and control will we have as intended parents in this process?
- How do you advertise for prospective surrogates? How many surrogates are you working with currently?
- What counseling, support and education services do you offer? When will we have access to our surrogacy specialist?
- What requirements must intended parents meet to join your agency?
Surrogacy attorneys are necessary in every surrogacy arrangement to draft legal contracts and ensure all laws are followed throughout the surrogacy process. These services will be coordinated for you if you choose to work with an agency, and you will not need to consult with an attorney separately.
However, for intended parents pursuing independent surrogacy, an attorney may be the only professional (aside from a fertility clinic) necessary in the surrogacy process. While attorneys generally do not provide as many surrogacy services, some may provide additional services for intended parents, or they may refer the intended parents to other professionals who can provide necessary services at an additional cost.
Why work with a surrogacy attorney?
While there are some challenges to independent surrogacy and working with an attorney, there are also some benefits that can make it an appealing option for some families. Here are some of the most common advantages and disadvantages of working with a surrogacy attorney:
- Attorneys are required in every surrogacy process. At some point in the surrogacy process, every intended parent will need to work with an attorney to draft legal contracts and provide other necessary legal services. Attorneys who specialize in reproductive law are experts in completing these important steps, and you can be assured that the surrogacy is legally sound.
- Aside from medical professionals, they may be the only professional you need. If you have already identified a surrogate and do not need matching services, you may be able to complete the surrogacy process using only your attorney and a medical professional. If you do need additional support or services, your attorney may be able to partner with a surrogacy agency or other professional to provide these services.
- They may not provide all the services you need. Your attorney will not be able to help you find a match with a prospective surrogate. If you do not already know a surrogate you’d like to work with, you will either need to advertise on your own or work with another professional, such as an agency, to find the right match. If you choose to advertise for a prospective surrogate individually, you will likely spend more money for less effective advertising than is available to agencies. Other services, such as counseling and support, will have to be outsourced to a qualified professional at the intended parents’ expense.
- Attorneys likely will not coordinate the necessary events of the surrogacy process. Attorneys are rarely able to provide case management and oversight services, and it will generally be up to the intended parents to coordinate all steps of the surrogacy process — finding donors if necessary, locating a trusted fertility clinic and more.
- Their fees may vary based on the amount of time it takes to complete the surrogacy. Attorneys generally do not charge a flat program fee for their surrogacy services and instead charge an hourly rate. The longer it takes to negotiate the surrogacy agreement, the more work is required of the attorney, increasing the overall cost of your surrogacy. It may be difficult to get an accurate cost estimate from your attorney at the beginning of the surrogacy process.
- Attorneys are unlikely to provide screening and contact mediation services. Because attorneys do not provide matching or screening services, intended parents will need to be willing to answer responses to any ads they place and screen prospective surrogates on their own. Intended parents will either need to pay for background checks and medical screening for every prospective surrogate who expresses interest in working with them, or leave themselves more open to incompatible matches and, in rare cases, fraud.
- They are often busy with other cases and may not be as readily available to you. Attorneys rarely focus entirely on surrogacy; many firms must balance your case with several other open cases, possibly from different areas of law. It may be difficult to receive one-on-one support and assistance, especially on short notice.
Finding an Attorney
If you decide to work directly with a lawyer to complete an independent surrogacy, you will want to choose an attorney you can trust to help you through every step of the process. There are many factors to consider as you weigh your options, and it is important to compare many attorneys before deciding which one is right for you. The American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA) is a wonderful resource to help intended parents find local attorneys with a focus on surrogacy and other assisted reproductive technologies.
Here are some questions you may want to ask the law firms you are considering before committing to a surrogacy attorney:
- Does your firm specialize in surrogacy and assisted reproduction?
- How many families have you successfully assisted in the surrogacy process? How many surrogacy cases did you handle last year?
- We live in (state). Can your firm still work with us?
- In time-sensitive situations, how will you handle my case among your other pending cases?
- Do you work only with intended parents who have already found a match with a surrogate? If I need help finding a prospective surrogate, can you refer me to a professional that provides matching services?
- On average, how much does surrogacy cost with you? What services are included in that amount?
- How much do you charge per hour? What happens if the surrogacy process takes longer than anticipated?
- What factors could increase or decrease the cost of the surrogacy?
- What surrogacy services are performed by your law firm? Which services are outsourced?
Choosing a Surrogacy Professional
Whether you have decided on the type of surrogacy professional you’d like to work with or are still struggling to choose, here are some tips to keep in mind when weighing your options:
- Prioritize your needs. If screening services are most important to you, seek an agency that sets high standards and thorough screening processes. If you are more concerned with counseling and support, choose an agency that includes these services in its fees. Make a list of the top qualities you are looking for in a surrogacy professional, and look for agencies or attorneys that possess those qualities.
- Consider experience and check credentials. Choose a professional with a proven track record. Ask how long they’ve been in business and how many successful surrogacies they’ve coordinated, and find out how their organization is licensed and regulated.
- Make a list of services. For every surrogacy professional you speak with, make a list of all of the services they offer. Include information about any services that may need to be performed by an outside professional, such as the embryo transfer and drafting of legal contracts.
- Compare processes. Ask the professionals you are considering to walk you through the surrogacy process from start to finish. How long does the entire process usually take? How much control or involvement can you have?
- Request surrogate information. Ask prospective surrogacy professionals to describe the typical surrogates they work with. Consider their screening processes and qualifications, and see if you can view sample surrogate profiles. Also ask about their matching process — how are matches made? How many surrogates is the professional currently working with? What is the typical wait time for intended parents?
- Get a cost estimate. Ask for a total cost estimate, as well as quotes for the various individual services required throughout the surrogacy process. Compare the services that are included in each professional’s agency fees and be aware of any hidden costs or additional expenses. Compare prices as well as the quality of service you will receive with each professional. Be sure to calculate additional expenses for any services that may need to be “outsourced” to another professional.
- Ask for references. Ask to speak with current or past clients to learn more about others’ experiences.
Surrogacy agencies and attorneys each provide valuable services to intended parents. Which you choose will depend largely on your individual needs and circumstances. If you are seeking an independent surrogacy arrangement, an attorney may be the only professional you need. However, for many other families who require additional education, matching, screening and other surrogacy services, an agency may be a more logical choice.
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