“Man Bites Dog” Surrogacy Case
July 25, 2016
Today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel includes a feature story regarding a surrogacy case from Dane County. This is a case with which I have passing familiarity as I track family law cases on appeal.
There are several lessons in this story: First, while judges are human, they should not let their personal biases overrule the law (interesting how a very conservative judge should violate that precept). Wisconsin law, as stated in the article, clearly allows surrogacy agreements which are enforced unless contrary to the best interests of the child.
Second, GALs are charged with advocating for the best interests of the child. It is outrageous for a GAL to allow his or her personal biases to interfere with this role.
Third, while GALs deserve to get paid, their fee usually comes from the parents, which means it is money which could otherwise be used for the benefit of their wards. Therefore, GALs need to keep their fees down, while still performing their roles. Not to exaggerate too much, I’ve been GAL in probably 50 to 75 cases (rough estimate) over the years. I’m guessing that my total fees from all of those cases would not be much more than the GAL charged in this one case, despite the law being perfectly clear.
Finally, as happens most of the time in our legal system, eventually the right result was reached. Unfortunately it could have been reached in a lot less time, with a lot less emotional and financial cost.
Of course, the reason the story is on the front page of the paper is that it is a “man bites dog” story. This type of proceeding is not common. Fortunately, most judges and most GALs work very hard to protect children, including minimizing the costs necessary to do so.
Still “man bites dog” does make for interesting reading.