A Pennsylvania court of appeals has ruled to uphold Sherri Shepherd’s child support ruling. The television personality and actress will be legally responsible for the son born to a surrogate that her and her ex-husband hired.
Sherri Shepherd’s Child Support Ruling
Last week a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled to uphold the surrogacy contract that Sherri Shepherd signed in 2014. Shepherd had made a motion to have the contract voided as well as have her name removed from the child’s birth certificate. But since a judge upheld the initial ruling, Shepherd will continue to pay $4,100 a month in child support to ex-husband Lamar Sally. Sally is a writer and substitute teacher who is raising the couple’s 1-year-old son in Los Angeles. The boy was born in August 2014.
“She doesn’t want to be part of his life. It’s all good,” said Sally following the ruling. “I’m going to be parent enough for the both of us.”
Shepherd and Sally Divorce
The couple’s divorce became especially contentious when Shepherd challenged the surrogacy contract partway through the pregnancy after deciding to split from her husband. Sally then publicly accused the comedienne of refusing to have anything to do with the baby.
“I don’t understand why Sherri can say I duped her into this or that she is not responsible for this child,” said Sally in an interview with The Daily Mail. “It’s mind-boggling to me.”
The couple had paid over $105,000 for a suburban Philadelphia surrogate to carry the child. The child was conceived through a procedure that combined Sally’s sperm and a donor egg. Both Sally and Shepherd attended the surrogate’s medical appointments until the couple decided to end their marriage during the second trimester.
Shepherd alleged that Sally defrauded her when they were in the process of entering the surrogate agreement. Reportedly, Sally was already planning to file for divorce, but he wanted her to commit to paying child support prior to filing. Even more complicated is the fact that the two filed for divorce in two separate states: he in California, and her in New Jersey – a state that doesn’t typically recognize surrogacy agreements.
It was thought that if Shepherd was able to corroborate the claims of fraud that she would be able to prove she had been duped into signing the surrogate contract. This latest ruling proves that was not possible.
The original birth certificate listed the surrogate as the mother, instead of Shepherd. When Sally settled in California with the child, California authorities were prompted to seek child support from the surrogate, according to Sally’s lawyer, Tiffany Palmer.
Shepherd will now be listed as the legal mother on the birth certificate, a decision that the surrogacy agency has praised.
“Surrogates don’t want to feel that someone could want a baby and then just back out. The surrogate is not the mother,” said Melissa B. Brisman, who owns Reproductive Possibilities in Montvale, N.J.
Palmer went on to say that Pennsylvania courts had never ruled on the validity of surrogacy contracts. And some states have refused to uphold surrogacy contacts in the past.
“It’s a tremendous relief to many people,” said Palmer.
“(Shepherd) does not dispute that she freely entered into the gestational carrier contract,” the Superior Court ruling said. “Baby S. would not have been born but for (her) actions and express agreement to be the child’s legal mother.”
Many divorcing couples will need to decide on child support. Child support is an amount of money that a court requires a parent, or both parents, to pay each month in order to support a child’s, or children’s living expenses. While you are free to determine child support on your own, many couple’s find this a difficult decision to make, and often one that they cannot see eye to eye on. Often times this leads to a trial, during which a judge will determine a child support court order. This is often part of the child custody case. While you might not want to enter into a child custody case, it’s important to remember that if you do, the court can provide you with certain legal rights that will legally ensure your time with your children.
A Note About Child Custody
Getting a child custody order can legally give you the right to make decisions regarding your child, as well as allow you the legal right to have your child live with you. Without a child custody order, you might not legally have the ability to do these things, even if you are the parent that takes care of the child on a daily basis. Filing for child custody is not without risks though. If you decide to file, there’s a chance the other parent will request these rights. At that point it will be up to the judge to decide.
When a judge decides, he or she typically rules in favor of what’s in the best interest of the child. Many decisions go into the awarding of child custody. And a court will sit down and evaluate the case objectively, with a focus on the facts that are presenting. These facts include: the history of each parent’s relationship with the child, any evidence of abuse or neglect, a detailed understanding of the child’s health, safety, education, and general welfare. A court will also take a look at the current status quo arrangement. From this outsiders perspective, a judge will be able to rule based on the child’s best interest.
Once custody is awarded, it is often then decided who and how much a parent will pay for child support.
Child Support Payments
After you have received a child support court order, the other parent is legally required to start making child support payments to you. The court order you receive will include the start date for the child support payments. The payments will be paid monthly, and will be taken out of the other parent’s paycheck.
Wage Assignment and Garnishment
Every child support case where child support is awarded, the court will order a wage assignment or wage garnishment be issued and served. This wage assignment requires that the other parent’s employer takes the support payments out of the other parent’s wage.
Local Child Support Agencies
If the local child support agency (LCSA) is not involved in the child support case, both parents are allowed to agree that the child support payments be made in other ways, rather than a wage assignment. This means the wage assignment is “stayed,” or put on hold. Parents are then responsible for working out how the child support payments will be made. But if a LCSA is involved, the LCSA must agree to having the wage assignment “stayed.” Typically, if a LCSA is involved, the agency will keep the wage assignment in place.
If you are not able to make your child support payments and you fall behind, you are required to pay interest on the balance due in addition to the amount you owe. A judge is not able to remove this charge, as interest charges are added per the law. Interest charges are added by law, and the judge cannot stop them. Interest rates are as follows: 10 percent per year for child support due on or after January 1, 1983; or 7 percent per year for child support due before January 1, 1983.
Past-Due Child Support
If you owe past-due child support/arrears, your court order/wage assignment/garnishment, will include the full amount of owed monthly child support. This amount over your monthly child support is called a “liquidation amount. It goes to paying off the past-due amount/arrears. This amount goes to paying off your arrears. Even if you are paying this off in installments, interest will still be added to your balance.
Not paying child support means serious consequences. You can be found to be “in contempt of court” if it is discovered you have the means to pay and are not. This can result in jail time.
Ending Child Support
Typically, court-ordered child support will end when a child turns 18 years old, or if he or she graduates from high school. If an 18-year-old child still lives with parents and is a full-time high school student the support will end when he or she turns 19 or graduates – whichever comes first. Child support also terminates once a child: Marries or registers a domestic partnership, joins the military, is emancipated, or passes away. If both parents agree, they can decide to no longer support a child.
Working with a Family Law Lawyer
Working with a child custody lawyer might be in your best interest if you decide to pursue a child custody case or child support case. A lawyer will be able to help you decide your best course of action based on your situation. Additionally, it’s important to remember that filing for child custody does not necessarily mean you get child support. But a child custody order does not automatically give you child support.
For advice on child custody or child support, you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.
33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202
Pasadena, Ca. 91106