Associated Press, Lexington Herald-Leader, KY, December 16, 2005

Massachusetts court acts in surrogate mother case

DANVILLE – A court in Massachusetts ruled that a best-selling author and her husband are the legal parents of a child carried to term by a surrogate mother embroiled in separate custody case involving her own biological children.

Author Jacquelyn Mitchard and her husband Christopher Brent sought the ruling after the husband of surrogate mother Arletta Bendschneider refused to sign documents stating that he was not the baby’s biological father.

Neither of the Bendschneiders are biologically related to the baby. However, since Jack and Arletta Bendschneider were married when she became pregnant, Kentucky law presumes that he is the child’s legal father. He has filed for divorce, and has said the surrogacy arrangement was the reason.

Jack Bendschneider has said he was not trying to interfere with custody of the Massachusetts couple’s child. He said he did not want anything more to do with his wife or the arrangement and did not think it was necessary for him to sign the document.

The ruling on the baby’s custody came Monday in Massachusetts’ Barnstable County Probate and Family Court.

Earlier this year, Jack Bendschneider won temporary custody of his and Arletta Bendschneider’s two children. Casey Circuit Judge James Weddle in October awarded the temporary custody to their father, and said he would wait until Arletta Bendschneider had delivered the baby to rule on permanent custody of the Bendschneiders’ children.

“This lady has chosen to carry a baby for other folks,” Weddle said at the time. “Some people might say this wouldn’t be in the best interest of (her own) children.”

Mitchard’s book The Deep End of the Ocean was chosen as one of Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club features, and it was also the basis of a 1999 film.