This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. To learn more, visit njsba.com.

New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act Becomes Law

Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation last week that would authorize gestational carrier agreements in New Jersey. The New Jersey State Bar Association supported the efforts of sponsors Senator Joseph Vitale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, who saw their bill twice vetoed by Governor Chris Christie in past sessions. The bill becomes effective immediately, permitting contracts that allow a woman to agree to carry and give birth to a child with whom she has no genetic relationship and who is created using assisted reproduction on behalf of an intended parent.

“Gestational carrier agreements are imperative to protect the interests of all parties involved, including the carrier, the intended parents, and the child,” said Vitale. “This bill will provide the legal framework for the agreements.”

The new law utilizes best practices for attorneys and licensed professionals in creating gestational carrier agreements. Surrogacy exists in New Jersey, but prior to the enactment of this law, New Jersey did not recognize these agreements and, therefore, left ambiguous the rights of the intended parents, the gestational carrier, and the child. Under the new law, anyone intending to enter into an agreement must be represented by counsel, undergo psychological testing, and be fully informed of their obligations.

“Ignoring the legal issues that accompany the technological advancements does not remove the challenges, it merely adds an additional burden on loving couples or individuals who are already struggling to have a child,” said Vainieri Huttle. “With this law, intended parents and gestational surrogates will have the legal protections that were denied to them before.”

The NJSBA’s Deb Guston, former chair of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Rights Section, testified several times in support of the bill. A fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys, Guston outlined the framework for the intent of the bill—to establish best practices and address gaps in current practice under the New Jersey Court Rules regarding parentage.

Marriage Ban Bill Suddenly Pulled From Assembly Vote

At the behest of Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin pulled S-427 (Pou)/A-865 (Munoz) from the voting agenda, citing concerns from the Orthodox Jewish community regarding a complete ban on marriage under age 18.

The NJSBA had cited similar concerns in a statement circulated to the Assembly last week, noting that the bill does not allow for judicial discretion in narrow circumstances such as military marriages, and urging an amendment to lower the ban to age 16 and allow for judicial discretion with a rebuttable presumption that it is against the best interest for a child between 16 and 18 to marry.

The NJSBA continues to monitor the legislation.