Family Formation Case Studies

The following cases are based on real scenarios we have encountered in our practice. We have changed the names and some details to protect confidentiality.

Marko and Marcella

Marcella and Marko had been living together for eight years and got married four years into their relationship. Marcella had a 12-year-old son, Jamie, from a previous relationship. She was his primary parent and Jamie has not had a relationship with his father since he was about age two. Marcella had no information about Jamie’s father and had not had contact with him since they separated. Marko had taken on a parenting role since he and Marcella started living together. Marko wanted to adopt Jamie and Marcella and Jamie wanted this as well. 

After meeting with their lawyer, Marcella and Marko decided to pursue a step-parent adoption. They worked with their lawyer to complete the application and background check paperwork. After reviewing the application, a judge granted the adoption.


Susan had been caring for her two-year-old granddaughter Suzy for the past six months after Suzy’s parents died in a car accident. Susan was able and willing to continue to care for Suzy and wanted to make sure she was legally recognized as her guardian.

Susan met with a lawyer to discuss how she could become Suzy’s legal guardian. With their help, Susan applied for guardianship of Suzy, completing the necessary paperwork and background checks. Susan was granted guardianship of her granddaughter.

David, Derek, and Donna

David and Derek were eager to start a family, knowing they had wanted to be parents since the start of their relationship. Because they required the assistance of third parties to have a child, they approached David’s sister, Donna, who agreed to act as a surrogate (gestational carrier) for them. Derek and David worked with a fertility clinic to have embryos created using Derek’s sperm and the eggs of a third-party egg donor. The plan was to transfer the embryo to Donna’s uterus, and she would carry and give birth to David and Derek’s child.

Before proceeding, the fertility clinic required that David and Derek enter into a formal legal agreement with Donna.

Derek and David hired a lawyer as did Donna. The independent lawyers provided Derek, David, and Donna with information about the laws and regulations about surrogacy and how the law determines parentage. With the assistance of the lawyers and working collaboratively, Derek, David, and Donna reached an agreement regarding the surrogacy. The lawyers then helped the trio prepare a surrogacy agreement to ensure that David and Derek would be legally recognized as the child’s parents after birth, rather than Donna. Once all three parties signed the agreement, the clinic was able to proceed.

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