Anthony M. Brown Featured on the Podcast, The Mentor Esq.

The Mentor Esq., a new legal podcast, recently featured Anthony M. Brown, founder of Time For Families Law, PLLC.

The Mentor EsqThe Mentor Esq. was founded by Andrew J. Smiley, the famed personal injury attorney in New York City, to help younger attorneys, and seasoned attorneys, to learn more about specific areas of the law and about the profession of law itself.  Episodes of The Mentor Esq. cover such topics as civil rights work to women in the law, as well as the ABCs of trial work, from opening statements to cross examination.

This is the first season of The Mentor Esq. and Andrew is currently planning for season 2.  While there are numerous areas of the law, and attorneys, that he could focus on, I am grateful that Andrew allowed me to tell my story and share my concerns for the future of LGBTQ law in New York, as well as in the Country.

Anthony’s Start in The Law

Andrew reached out to Anthony to join The Mentor, Esq. podcast to discuss two separate issues.  On episode four of the podcast, Anthony discusses how he came to the law after a career as an actor and a medical massage therapist.  Andrew asked Anthony about how he started his practice and who guided him along the way.  Click here to listen to Anthony talking about his pathway to the law.   Younger attorneys will find this episode particularly interesting because Anthony discusses new ways to look at your career, especially at its inception, by thinking outside of the box and planning ahead for what you want your legal practice to focus on and how it intersects with your personal life.

LGBTQ Family Law

Andrew asked Anthony back to the podcast to discuss more specific topics such as LGBTQ family formation and the current state of surrogacy in New York.  With current legislation in New York up for a vote very soon, Anthony discusses the specifics off The Child Parent Security Act – the pending law which would legalize compensated surrogacy and provide for parentage orders, which would allow for lesbian couples with known sperm donors to avoid the second parent adoption process altogether.  The Child Parent Security Act would bring New York’s family law into the 21st century.

If these issues mean something to you, it is definitely worth your time to check out The Mentor Esq.  A full episode list can be found here.

Anthony M. Brown, November 26, 2019

 

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Fertility Benefits – A look at the most generous employee benefits out there today

Fertility Benefits – These companies are adapting to workers’ needs, from shipping breast milk home to paying for gender transition.

Jackie Geilfuss recently submitted an unusual expense report to her employer: $6,285 for the purchase of sperm.  Some employers are covering fertility benefits.artificial insemination

Geilfuss and her wife are planning to have a baby. As a same-sex couple, they face thousands of dollars in costs to conceive a child, including the expense of donor sperm. Struggling with the financial burden, they turned to friends and family for help. Then, a few months ago, Geilfuss’ employer announced it would start reimbursing employees up to $20,000 for nonmedical costs to have children.

“This benefit is life-changing for us,” says Geilfuss, who helps employees manage the implementation of new systems at Akamai Technologies, an Internet services and technology company in Cambridge. “We were ready to be parents a long time ago, but it wasn’t something we felt was feasible. We weren’t in a financial position to do that.” Geilfuss and her wife, Jessica, began fertility treatments this month.

Akamai is among a growing number of local companies that have expanded their employee benefits beyond standard medical coverage, often looking at options to add through the lens of diversity and inclusion. Several large employers now offer new fertility benefits to help single people and same-sex couples start families. Some are adding supports for new mothers, or broadening coverage for people transitioning from one gender to another.

“It’s a really hot topic,” says Liz Spath, a Boston-based benefits consultant at the consulting firm Mercer. “They’re looking to programs like this that really drive culture. Anything that’s family-friendly and lets people bring their full selves to work is top of mind.”

Expanding benefits can be expensive, but there are many potential advantages for employers that do, including recruiting and retaining talented workers, fostering a corporate culture that appeals to clients, and improving their rankings on job sites.

“It does play a role in helping candidates understand what we’re all about and where we place value,” says Sarah Sardella, senior director of global benefits at Akamai, which now reimburses employees for costs of surrogacy, donor sperm, and donor eggs.

BostonGlobe.com, November 14, 2019 by  Priyanka Dayal McCluskey

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Is It Selfish for a Gay Couple to Have Kids via Surrogacy?

My husband and I are gay and are exploring the possibility of having children using an egg donor and a surrogate mother.

Sometimes when we mention this in conversation, people ask us, in a chiding tone, Why don’t you adopt? They often then argue that with so many children in need of good homes, it would be ethically superior for us to adopt, instead of spending a small fortune so we can have children to whom we are genetically tied. In addition, there are ethical issues related to paying women for their eggs or paying women to carry our children as surrogates. Are we acting unethically — or at the least selfishly or self-indulgently — in pursuing biological children instead of adopting orphans who could benefit from what (we like to think) would be a good home? David Lat, New Yorkethical surrogacy

Anybody who is contemplating having a baby, by whatever means, could be adopting a child instead. If those who chide you include people who have biological children themselves, you might want to point this out. Come to think of it, your friends who don’t have children are also free, if they meet the legal requirements, to adopt.

Every child awaiting adoption is someone who could benefit from parental volunteers. There is no good reason to pick on you.

The path you have chosen, it’s true, mixes commerce and reproduction through egg donation and surrogacy. But while acquiring an egg and then working with a surrogate mother are transactions with ethical risks, they can each be conducted in morally permissible ways. The main concerns I would have are avoiding exploitation — so you need to make sure that the donor and the surrogate are acting freely and are fairly compensated — and taking care that your understanding with the surrogate mother is clearly laid out in advance. But any responsible agency that assists you in this should cover these bases.

Wanting a biological connection with your child is pretty normal: We evolved to pass on our genes, after all, even if we’re free to give Mother Nature the side-eye. There are also things you can more likely do for children to whom you’re biologically related — notably, on the organ-donor front. So while it would be terrific if you adopted, it’s no more incumbent on you than it is on any other potential parents.

I’ve worked as an educator and administrator in public schools for over a decade. During this time, I have served as a character witness and written letters on behalf of students who have been arrested. In certain cases, these students have been charged with violent offenses. I often found myself in heated arguments with a loved one over these acts of advocacy, specifically because court proceedings typically take place during the day, which requires me to have someone cover my duties at school. I feel that this advocacy is justified because I am an adult who has invested deeply in the development of the children and knows who they are outside of their offenses. Is it ethical for school staff members to offer their time and efforts to support students charged with violent crimes? Name Withheld

You’re presumably talking about helping the courts to understand the social and educational contexts of students accused of crimes. You’re permitted to testify when the courts find this information relevant in deciding what to do with young offenders. In doing so, you’re helping the courts make what are often very difficult decisions. As long as your advocacy is truthful, it can be a valuable contribution. Asking colleagues to cover for you when you’re doing a public service would seem entirely acceptable; they have good reason to support what you’re doing — and because of that, you should be willing to cover for others when they do the same.

Let me address an issue you haven’t raised: The fact that a student on whose behalf you speak could receive a lighter sentence may upset his or her victims or their families. If the court is doing its job properly, however, the sentence is lighter only because its decision would have otherwise been based on a less complete picture. There is, of course, a question of fairness here, because many young offenders don’t have the advantage of a teacher willing to speak up for them. But you wouldn’t contribute to the overall justice of the situation by denying helpful information in one case on the grounds that it’s unavailable in many others. If you want to help with that problem, you might try to persuade your union to develop ethical guidelines for conducting this form of advocacy.

NYTimes.com, By

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‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

‘This baby was meant to be ours’: A gay couple’s journey to become parents

When Kraig Wiedenfeld and Bill Johnson decided they were ready to start a family and wanted a baby biologically related to one of them, they did what a small but growing number of gay couples with their desire do: They found a surrogate to help them.step parent adoption

As chronicled in The Washington Post last year, the two men, then married for four years, embarked on a journey both complicated and expensive that required: sperm from Weidenfeld, an anonymous egg donor and a young woman to carry the baby.

Christina Fenn had already carried three babies — including a set of twins — for two other same-sex couples, when a surrogacy agency matched her to Wiedenfeld and Johnson.

Before becoming a surrogate, Fenn and her husband, Brian, had two sons of their own. She loved being pregnant and longed to help those who couldn’t conceive children.

Assisted reproduction and surrogacy have been around for years, but these days gay men who can afford the cost are choosing this route to parenthood, experts say.

Sometimes, however, desire and hope — and in Wiedenfeld and Johnson’s case, advanced reproductive science — are not enough to guarantee a baby. A first effort resulted in a miscarriage just a month after the embryo transfer. The second effort had the same outcome, and an even heavier emotional toll for all involved.

But the two men and Fenn had contractually agreed on three embryo transfers, leaving them one final chance. On a crisp day last spring, nearly nine months later, that chance came due.

“Are you ready to be a dad?” Fenn’s eager voice said at the other end of the line.

Weidenfeld and Johnson raced from New York City to the hospital in Connecticut just in time for the birth of a seven-pound, 19.5-inch boy, soon to be known as Teddy.

“It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” Johnson said.

After passing the baby around among Fenn, her husband and the two new dads, Weidenfeld turned to Fenn and said, “Look what you’ve done for us. This is not the end of our story together. This is just the beginning.”

“I will be there for every birthday party and special occasion,” Fenn vowed, smiling. “I hope to always be in their lives,” she said of the family.

The number of children born through surrogacy is unknown, but surrogacy agencies say the demand for surrogates has noticeably risen in recent years. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 738 babies were born via surrogacy in 2004; in 2014, that the number was 2,807.

Victoria Ferrara, founder and legal director at Worldwide Surrogacy, says about 50 percent of the 80 to 100 surrogacy arrangements her organization facilitates involve gay parents. She estimates the number of babies born through surrogacy every year ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 worldwide.

Washingtonpost.com, by Sydney Page, October 26, 2019

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The French Court of Final Appeal recognises parents of surrogate twins after 19 years

The French Court of Final Appeal has officially acknowledged the sole parenthood of a couple who raised twins borne by a surrogate mother in the United States, ending 19 years of judicial battles for Dominique and Sylvie Mennesson.

The French Court fo Final Appeal decision came after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, and a day after French MPs vote to recognise filiation for surrogacy children born abroad and a day after French MPs voted to recognise parenthood of children born through surrogacy abroad.French court of final appeal

“Victory and relief…our children are no longer ghosts,” said Dominque Mennesson, father of the twins in a reaction to the verdict. “They are now our children legally.”

In 2000, Mennesson and his wife Sylvie, who is infertile, had a successful surrogacy (GPA, or “gestation pour autrui” in French) treatment in the United States. Mennesson’s sperm was implanted in the uterus of an anonymous woman, who bore twins, named Valentina and Fiorella by their parents. 

At the time, judges in California, where the procedure took place, ruled that Dominique Mennesson was the “genetic father” and his wife the “legal mother,” and issued birth certificates and US passports.

 

Punishable

But in France, recourse to surrogacy is illegal to prevent the human body from becoming a “commercial instrument”, with the risk that the child may become an object of a contract.

French law stipulates that surrogacy is punishable by one year prison and a 15,000-euro fine. The French Consulate in Los Angeles, suspecting surrogacy arrangements, therefore refused to enter the certificates of the Mennessons in the French civil register.

By RFI, October 4, 2019

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Gay married couple sues after daughter denied U.S. citizenship

The Maryland couple’s infant daughter was born in Canada to a surrogate mother earlier this year.

A gay married couple in Maryland is suing to challenge the State Department’s refusal to recognize the U.S. citizenship of their infant daughter, who was born in Canada to a surrogate mother this year.

gay married couple

Photo Courtesy of Immigration Equality.

The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday, says a State Department policy unlawfully treats the children of married same-sex couples as if they were born out of wedlock.

The plaintiffs, Roee and Adiel Kiviti, had their first child, Lev, in 2016; he was born in Canada via surrogacy and has had U.S. citizenship since birth. However, their second child, Kessem, was born in 2019, after the Trump administration began enforcing the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provision that children born “out of wedlock” do not automatically obtain U.S. citizenship.

 

The State Department’s application team has in several cases categorized the children of same-sex couples that use fertility services, like sperm donors and surrogacy, as born “out of wedlock.” An attorney for the Kiviti family says their suit is at least the fourth such case to challenge the policy.

Immigration Equality, an LGBTQ immigration advocacy group, is leading the court effort to gain birthright citizenship for these children. The organization is working with the Kivitis and the other three known families suing the State Department for the same reason: Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks; Allison Blixt and Stefania Zaccari; and Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg.

NBCNews.com by The Associated Press and Tim Fitzsimmons, Septemeber 12, 2019

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Gay fathers study shows they receive less parental leave than other couples

Gay fathers study shows they received the same number of weeks off as different-sex couples in just 12% of 33 countries studied

Gay fathers study shows that around the world they receive less paid parental leave than lesbian or heterosexual couples, researchers said on Thursday, with many left struggling to pay household bills if they opt to spend more time at home with their children.gay fathers

The study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) examined paternity laws in 33 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that offer paid leave to new parents.

First published in the Journal of Social Policy, the research found that gay male couples received the same number of weeks off as different-sex couples in just 12% of those nations.

Lesbian couples received equitable time off in just under 60% of the countries studied, researchers found after examining legislation gathered by the International Labour Organization in 2016. Some countries have since updated their leave policies.

“A lot of the differences in leave stem from gender stereotypes where women are the primary caregivers,” Elizabeth Wong, the lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“That not only affects heterosexual couples, it greatly disadvantages same-sex male couples.”

Laws in most countries did not prohibit same-sex couples from paid leave, but policies only referenced the needs of heterosexual couples and did not acknowledge same-sex couples.

As of 2019, same-sex marriage was legal in less than 30 countries, and gay sex remains illegal in about 70 countries.

The rise of far-right political parties around the world has raised concern around LGBT+ rights, and the fight for parenthood or adoption rights is a legislative battle even in countries like Germany.

On average, same-sex male couples had five fewer months of paid leave than different-sex couples, while same-sex females received three fewer months than heterosexual couples, researchers said.

The study did not address transgender or non-binary couples.

Australia, New Zealand, Iceland and Sweden were the only countries to offer the same paid leave to all couples, including gay men, ranging from 18 to 70 weeks.

While companies in Switzerland often offer parental leave to men, only a minority of people benefited, said Jody Heymann, a director at WORLD Policy Analysis Center.

“There’s little doubt that if you want to avoid discrimination, it’s far better for paid leave to be done through social insurance,” said Heymann of government funded public health programs.

A 2018 report from the WORLD Policy Analysis Center found that OECD countries that offered six months paid parental leave saw increased numbers of workers and no change to unemployment or economic growth.

Thomson Reuters Foundation by Kate Ryan, September 5, 2019

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The unintended consequences of Canada surrogacy law changes (Opinion)

There are unintended consequences to Proposed Canada surrogacy law changes.

Canada is considered an international surrogacy destination, with progressive laws that have attracted couples internationally. But, in just over nine months, a new Canadian fertility landscape will be born, bringing new regulations for reimbursing surrogates and donors. In fertility circles – both in Canada and beyond – there is fear that these new regulations by law will discourage people from becoming surrogates and donors.Canada surrogacy law

The new regulations from Health Canada, which come into effect June 9, 2020, set out exhaustive categories of reimbursable expenses – a big change from the current system, which does not specify what can be reimbursed and allows for wide interpretation of what constitutes a “reasonable expense.” That wide interpretation has allowed for flexibility in customizing fertility arrangements but may have a huge effect on Canada surrogacy law.

When the new rules take effect, eligible expenses will, for instance, include travel, insurance and legal fees, as well as counselling services and care for dependents and pets. The idea is to offer more certainty about which reimbursements are legitimate – and to allay any fears about being subjected to criminal sanctions.

Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor has said that the regulations would provide couples struggling with infertility, single individuals, same-sex couples and others in the LGBTQ2 community more flexibility in building families. Couples will have the option to offer surrogates reimbursements for certain products and services beyond the actual pregnancy and into the postpartum period, which was not previously the case. This might make it easier for couples to obtain a surrogate, as they can provide reassurance that expenses related to potential health complications arising after the delivery will be reimbursed. But at the same time, the new regulations introduce more onerous requirements for reimbursement by requiring surrogates and donors to complete signed declarations in addition to providing receipts (surrogates are exempted from providing receipts under certain circumstances).

The biggest concern is that the regulations will likely make it even more difficult to access assisted reproduction, including medical procedures such as in-vitro fertilization, to conceive a child with the help of a surrogate and/or donor. The fear is that the new regulations will further discourage individuals from becoming surrogates and donors. Currently, surrogates and donors in Canada are driven by altruistic motivations, since it remains illegal to pay a surrogate for her services or pay for ova or sperm from a donor. However, if potential surrogates and donors risk not being reimbursed for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses, they may be dissuaded from helping others build families.

Alarmingly, the draft guidance document interpreting the regulations released by Health Canada states that “[t]here is no obligation to reimburse, meaning that only persons who wish to reimburse eligible expenditures will do so.” This could lead to exploitation of donors and surrogates. (The guidance document has not yet been finalized; consultation on it closed on July 26.)

www.theglobeandmail.com by Melissa Salfi, September 6, 2019

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Babies and broken hearts: Ukraine’s commercial surrogacy industry leaves a trail of disasters

This is the moment. I arrive at the Sonechko Children’s Home, a collection of rundown double-story brick buildings in a city south east of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

I’m here to meet a little girl I’ve been searching for over the past six months.

She’s been abandoned by the very people who paid for her to be born — her American parents.Australia surrogacy

Now she’s an orphan and has disabilities which require medical attention.

Marina Boyko, the flame-haired nurse who’s cared for the little girl since she was a baby, is taking us to meet her.

The door to the child’s room opens and the emotion hits hard.

My investigation began last year.

“Have any foreigners left a baby behind?” I asked.

It was a simple question and an obvious one.

“An American couple left one last year,” came the answer.

I hung up the phone to my source in Kiev and so began months of work to find a baby born via a surrogate in Ukraine and then abandoned by the American parents.

Sadly, I was familiar with this kind of story.

Back in 2014, I found Gammy, a baby boy whose birth was “commissioned” by an Australian couple.

They left him behind in Thailand to be cared for by his surrogate mother.

The couple only wanted to bring Gammy’s twin sister home.

Again, the child was left behind by his Australian parents after they decided they’d only take his twin sister home. I never found him.

These were just some of the horror stories which prompted Thailand and India to ban commercial surrogacy for foreigners.

As a result, Ukraine is quickly becoming the “hot” new surrogacy destination.

But while the country has changed, the story remains the same.

I’m now hearing there’s a child who’s been abandoned in Ukraine. I know that finding her won’t be easy.

Then I searched for a baby boy in India on assignment for Foreign Correspondent in 2015.

After countless phone calls, finally there’s a breakthrough.

With the help of local Ukrainian journalists, we find out the child we’re looking for is alive and being cared for in a town called Zaporizhzhya — a large industrial centre south-east of the capital, Kiev.

It’s a leap of faith, but we book flights from London and make the journey.

We don’t know what we’ll see or what we’ll be able to film, but sometimes being on the ground is the only way.

We’re directed to the Sonechko Children’s Home on the edge of the city, where some 200 children live.

When we arrive, it’s eerily quiet. There’s no children’s chatter or laughter, not a cry, not a squeal. It’s like they’ve been silenced for our benefit.

The staff know we are coming but they are wary. We know this first visit will be about building trust.

They invite us in and we interview them about a child they speak of with deep and genuine affection, but we are told we cannot see her as she is sick and quarantined in a nearby hospital.

August 19, 2019, by abc.net.au, Samantha Hawley

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The Anonymous Donor Myth

The anonymous donor myth was, only a few years ago, not a concern to the many anonymous sperm and egg donors who have helped countless families around the world.

The anonymous donor myth has only in the recent past become an issue that anyone considering becoming an anonymous donor, or anyone considering using an anonymous donor, must confront and plan for.  ART (assisted reproductive technology) lawyers must also factor into their counsel with all parties to an ART agreement the reality that there simply may be no such thing as anonymous donation anymore.  This counsel must address not only gamete (sperm and egg) donation, but also embryo donation and adoption.anonymous donation myth 2

If you think about it, there really is no such thing as anonymity any more.  This year, Facebook has over 2.3 billion monthly active users.  YouTube has 1.8 monthly active users.  Twitter has 320 million monthly active users.  With other social platforms such as Instagram, WeChat and Snapchat providing information on its users to anyone who has not perfected the art of keeping an account private, there are literally millions of ways to locate and identify a person with just a small amount of information.

I was recently in Seattle for the annual conference of The Academy of Adoption and Assisted reproduction Attorneys (AAAA) where a fascinating presentation was given on just this subject.  One speaker demonstrated how, with the scant information she had provided when she was an anonymous egg donor, how it took her less than 5 minutes to find herself on social media.  She essentially did a facial recognition search which yielded a direct hit result.  And this was just possible from the picture she used in her egg donor profile.  That picture, coupled with her educational background, made a google search of her provide instant confirmation of identity.

The anonymous donor myth becomes even more implausible when you consider the influx in popularity of commercial DNA testing kits such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com.  And the implications for anonymous donors go way beyond gamete donation, but adoption as well.

The reality of the anonymous donor myth hit me hard, and in a completely unexpected way.   I was at work one afternoon when the phone rang.  It was a former client of mine with whom I had done estate and probate work.  Her voice was shaking when she called and I could tell that something was very wrong.  She told me that a relative of hers was contacted by a woman who explained that she was adopted at birth and that she had done an ancestry.com DNA test.  The test revealed that her birth mother was related to the relative of my former client.  She then related to me the story of how when she was younger she had been molested, and that molestation resulted in a pregnancy.  She gave the child up for adoption and had told no one in her family about it.  She was reliving that trauma knowing that her secret would most likely be revealed due to an inadvertent action by a relative of hers who had also had the DNA test performed and who had consented to its results being added to a national database.

anonymous donor myth 1One of the most sacred areas of law for expectant mothers who, for many important reasons, cannot keep their children is called “infant safe haven” law.  This type of law decriminalizes the abandonment of unharmed infants in specified locations, such as hospitals, police stations or fire houses.  Mothers need to know that if their personal circumstance requires them to seek the protection of an infant safe haven law; they must be able to rely on the confidentiality that these laws were designed to provide them.  If mothers fear that their identity will be revealed through DNA or Facebook searches, they are less likely to place the child in a safe space.

The reality is that a medical professional or facility can do their best to shield the identity of a donor, but they have no control over the actions of others down the road, like the donor herself, the intended parents or even the child who is the result of ART.  One positive reaction I see in the ART community is the encouragement, with thorough explanation, of known gamete donation.  Known gamete donation can be helpful in many ways.  If a child has a medical issue that may be genetic, with a known donor, parents may access that information more easily.  Studies have also shown that the earlier a child is told about his or her origin story, the better adapted they are.  Having a known gamete donor may make the difference to a child questioning their genetic heritage. 

The anonymous donor myth does not have to be a devastating blow to a family.  With proper professional, both legal and psychological, intended parents considering gamete donation will be able to make informed and beneficial decisions.  These decisions will have long lasting effects on the mental and physical well-being of their children.  As professionals, it is our duty to explore all possibilities with our clients and to ensure that they understand the implications of the anonymous donation myth.

By Anthony M. Brown, Esq. – August 6, 2019

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