State-by-State Surrogacy Laws: Surrogacy in California
Because it is considered among the top surrogacy-friendly states, California is a very popular choice for surrogates and Intended Parents. All parties are well-protected thanks to a framework of laws designed to regulate commercial surrogate in the state ethically and responsibly. This is no small part to the legal precedent set by Johnson v. Calvert in 1993 which ruled that the genetic (intended) parents and not the surrogate were the natural parents of the child born via a surrogacy arrangement. This landmark case also held that surrogacy is a legal and ethical practice.
Additionally, most recently, Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1 in late 2022 to amend the State Constitution to protect reproductive rights and abortion access. Because reproductive freedom and access is guaranteed in the state, along with very high-quality health care including some of the top-rated IVF clinics in the country, California is one of the best places to begin a surrogacy journey. As surrogates in California are in high demand, many receive more compensation vs. surrogates in other states, including first-time surrogates. This is also why many in California pursue Independent Journeys as added agency fees on top of higher compensations are often not in the budget for many Intended Parent(s).
California law mandates that both traditional and gestational surrogacy arrangements be conducted with the help of a licensed attorney. This is done to safeguard the rights of all parties involved and to ensure compliance with state law. Such contracts expressly codify the rights and obligations of each party and any financial compensation due to the surrogate. Legal contracts between surrogates and intended parents are crucial to ensure that both parties are on the same page regarding compensation, responsibilities, risks, and expectations. You will need to have one in place before embryo transfer to avoid potential misunderstandings down the road.
Both gestational and traditional surrogacy are permitted in California. Traditional surrogacy is permitted in California because there is no statute which prohibits it. Do note though that in California and elsewhere traditional surrogacy carries added risks because of the genetic relationship between the traditional surrogate and the child(ren). While it’s generally discouraged, it may be the best option depending on your unique situation. The overwhelming majority of commercial surrogacy arrangements in California are done for gestational surrogacy.
Surrogacy agreements usually take into account the legal framework of the surrogate’s home state. In some cases, contracts may also be drafted with the intended parents’ home state and its laws in mind. In California, courts can decide California jurisdiction based on the surrogate or Intended Parent(s)’s California residence, or even the location of embryo transfer. It’s always recommended that you consult a qualified attorney to discuss your legal rights in California however and how to proceed with a surrogacy arrangement in the state. Please visit our surrogacy attorney directory for a list of qualified attorneys.
Can compensated and altruistic surrogacy be legally performed in California?
In California, there are no specific regulations prohibiting commercial, altruistic, traditional, or gestational surrogacy arrangements. All are legal.
It is possible to undertake an independent surrogacy journey in California and find a surrogate without the assistance of an agency?
Definitely. There are various reasons why you might choose to bypass an agency and handle all the coordination and management of your surrogacy journey independently including for financial reasons and for more direct vetting, a wider pool of potential candidates, and a closer relationship between Intended Parent(s) and surrogate.
In California, all types of families have equal protection under the law when it comes to surrogacy, this includes unmarried couples, married couples, and LGBTQ+ couples. Pre and Post birth orders are permitted and most have an easy time obtaining them as in-person hearings are not required regardless of sexual orientation or if single/not married.
To become a surrogate in California, you should meet certain basic requirements:
- Generally between 21-44 in age with the final determination done by the evaluating Reproductive Endocrinologist.
- Good overall health including a healthy weight/BMI and are drug-free, non-smoking.
- Prior pregnancies with minimal or no significant complications (e.g. multiple miscarriages, premature labor, gestational diabetes).
- Have at least one biological child you have raised or are currently raising in your household.
- Willingness to take prescription and OTC medication as prescribed by your doctor while also avoiding substances not recommended or prohibited.
- Have permanent and stable housing that is free of hazardous conditions, violence, and second-hand smoke.
- Not be on any form of government assistance with stable finances either through direct employment or through partner/spousal income.
Surrogacy Place has created this short quiz to help potential surrogates determine if you meet some of the basic requirements.
If you meet the requirements, you can start the process of matching with intended parents through independent matching platforms like Surrogacy Place. After matching, you will go through the medical and contractual phases, and if everything goes well, you will undergo embryo transfer and begin your surrogacy journey.
Once a match has been made, you’ll proceed to the medical and contractual phases, with the hope that an embryo transfer will be successful and lead to a healthy pregnancy. Refer to our detailed step-by-step guide.
If you’re interested in becoming a surrogate in California and want more information, check out our comprehensive overview.
Finding a Surrogate Match in California
Surrogacy Place is a secure platform that connects surrogates and Intended Parents based on unique preferences and specific requirements. If you’re looking for gestational or traditional carriers or Intended Parents located in California, you can use our tools to search by location. Our service is free for surrogates, while Intended Parents pay a small access fee. To create an account, start here.
Want to start an independent surrogacy journey in California?
Many people choose to embark on an independent surrogacy journey in California for a wide variety of reasons, including to save on agency matching fees and to provide surrogates with higher compensation from their available budget. Going independent also allows both parties to match on their own terms without being tied to exclusivity contracts or excessive fees. Despite what agencies may say, most tasks such as travel arrangements and appointment scheduling can be easily done by anyone with basic internet access. Your attorney can guide you every step of the way and most are happy to handhold during the process.
Agencies don’t usually reveal how many people are signed up for their agency. This can mean long wait times for Intended Parent(s) with surrogates encouraged to match with whomever has been waiting the longest. This is why many surrogates in California strongly prefer independent surrogacy.
How much can I expect to pay for surrogacy in California?
To learn more about the different costs that Intended Parents can expect to encounter, you can refer to our comprehensive guide on the surrogacy budget process.
Looking for surrogacy information for another state? Explore our surrogacy by state directory.