In 2015, a couple invited a relative over for dinner which ultimately led to all three parties signing a surrogacy contract.
As News.com.au reports, the couple shared with the relative from Queensland, Australia, that they were unable to conceive. The 44-year-old woman’s breast cancer diagnosis had left her unable to carry a child. The couple asked the relative if she would consider becoming a surrogate. The relative agreed.
It was decided in a contract that the biological parents would pay the relative’s expenses and she would be able to carry out her pregnancy and labor as she sees fit.
Additionally, it was determined that:
The birth mother intends to carry the embryo to term and following the birth of the child to hand the child to the intended parents so that they may bring up the child as their own child.
The intended parents intend, following the birth of the child, to make an application for a Parentage Order as provided by the Surrogacy Act 2010.
On August 3, 2015, the relative was successfully implanted with an embryo.
According to News.com.au, shortly thereafter the biological parents and the birth mother began arguing about financial terms of the contract. The birth mother alleged the couple was either late with their payments or failed to pay at all. The birth mother contended the couple wasn’t interested in her and accused them of “disengaging.” By February 2016, the birth mother cut off communication with them.
In April 2016, two weeks before the child’s expected due date, the birth mother reportedly instructed an attorney to write to the couple, demanding that they make payments on time and speak “kindly” to her “the sooner the better,” News.com.au reported.
The letter reportedly threatened that the birth mother would not give the child over after its birth and stated she would refuse to consent to any parenting order made in the couple’s favor. The birth mother claimed the biological parents also owed her $20,000, although her lawyer advised a sum closer to $60,000.
News.com.au reports that one day before the baby’s due date, the birth mother gave a media interview and accused the couple of blackmail and “holding me to ransom.” The birth mother declared she would not give the baby to the couple unless they paid her. When pressed if she were the one holding the parents to ransom, the birth mother reportedly replied:
“I have every right. It’s a business deal, isn’t it? It’s not a friendship.”
The baby was born in April 2016 and has remained in the biological parents’ care ever since; however, custody of the child had to be decided in Family Court. Under Australia’s Family Law Act, the birth mother had shared custody of the child along with the child’s biological father.
When Justice Peter Tree heard the allegations against the birth mother in February 2017, including her alleged behavior during and after her pregnancy, the birth mother was ultimately banned from having a relationship with the child, according to the Sun.
As News.com.au reports, the court heard that by the last month of the pregnancy, a surrogacy guidance report had documented the extent of the damaged relationship between the birth mother and the couple. The birth mother reportedly told the writer of the report that she was contemplating adoption for the baby. Moreover, the court heard that toward the end of the pregnancy the birth mother was in advanced negotiations with an adoption agency. Justice Tree called the birth mother’s adoption threats “far from idle.”
Additionally, it was heard that just one week after becoming pregnant, the birth mother complained to her psychologist that the biological parents were not treating her well. The birth mother was reportedly dissatisfied that she had not been “showered” with presents. According to News.com.au, Justice Tree wrote in his judgment that the birth mother told the psychologist the couple was:
“not treating her like other intended parents. Other surrogates are showered with gifts.”
According to News.com.au, the birth mother admitted that she regretted the pregnancy and thought about inducing abortion with a coat hanger and that if the biological couple didn’t treat her better they were in for a “shock.”
As the Sun reports, during court proceedings Justice Tree cited the “intractable hostility between the genetic parents and the birth mother” that appeared to be “insoluble and most likely permanent” in his decision to prohibit the birth mother from having a relationship with the baby.
Justice Tree claimed he agreed with psychologist’s assertions that the birth mother was using the baby to punish the biological parents, stating the birth mother was “locked on a revenge path.” In his decision, Justice Tree asserted that any resulting conflict resulting from the baby having a relationship with its birth mother would be “vastly outweigh” the benefits.
The justice cited “divergent expectations” between the birth mother and biological mother regarding the financial requirements of the contract and stated that their personalities were not compatible.