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Unborn child faces uncertain fate in Sherri Shepherd’s divorce war
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By Andrea Peyser
July 14, 2014

Unborn child faces uncertain fate in Sherri Shepherd’s divorce war

This is the story of a modern American marriage — featuring a brutal divorce battle between a moneyed wife and her poorer spouse, combined with a scary squabble over the custody of a child who has yet to be born.

But in a sad twist, the would-be mother of this nascent baby reportedly wants nothing to do with the kid!

When the dust settles, a judge will chose the party who will raise and pay for the care and feeding of a little one conceived through the latest fad in reproductive technology. This is the case of Sherri Shepherd.

Shepherd is in the midst of a divorce war with her estranged TV-writer husband, Lamar Sally, whom she married in Chicago nearly three years ago. The former comedienne was recently ousted as a hostess of TV’s chick chat show “The View.” (She told viewers last week that it was her idea to leave after seven years.)

Shepherd, 47, who already lives with a 9-year-old son from a previous marriage with whose father she’s fighting a legal battle for custody, saw her childbearing years screech to a halt. So she and Sally took an extreme measure. They enlisted a surrogate to get impregnated through in-vitro fertilization, then carry the resulting spawn in her womb until birth.

Big mistake.

In a story reported by TMZ.com that’s sending tremors throughout the child-making industry, Shepherd, whose personal fortune is pegged at $10 million by the website Celebrity Net Worth, does not intend to raise or pay for the expenses of a child she commissioned but is not biologically related to. She wants no parental rights. No responsibilities.

The baby, who’s set to be born later this month, was created through the union of a donated egg and Sally’s sperm. But Shepherd, TMZ reported, alleged that Sally decided to divorce her before the infant was created in order to wrest hefty child-support payments from her.

Shepherd’s reps did not return my calls seeking comment. Sally could not be reached.

“She might be able to absolve herself of legal responsibility,” said Sanford Benardo, a lawyer who specializes in hooking up surrogates and egg donors with prospective parents through the Northeast Assisted Fertility Group, of which he’s founder and president. He plays no role in the Shepherd/Sally case.

“What may happen is social services may get involved,” he told me. Yes, the child could wind up in foster care.

“Why spend $150,000 to create a baby who would otherwise never have been born, then mess it up like this?” asked Benardo. “It’s disaster.”

He said a surrogate typically gets paid up to $40,000 for carrying a baby, and a lawyer’s fees add up to $10,000 to the tab. Plus, an in-vitro clinic gets up to $40,000, an egg donor is paid about $10,000. There are costs for a surrogate’s travel, medical care, assorted living expenses and catastrophic health insurance. Babies don’t come cheap.

This tragic case demonstrates how child-making methods have greatly extended the years women can procure children. But at what cost to a baby who never asked to be born? And then, there’s the underclass of rent-a-wombs — women who make their livings bearing children for the rich.

Benardo appeared in a 2011 episode of “The View” in which Shepherd talked about her wish to bring a child into the world with the help of a surrogate. Guests on the show included the daughter of domestic dominatrix Martha Stewart, Alexis. In 2011 at age 45, Alexis Stewart, a radio and TV personality, produced a daughter carried by a surrogate from Pennsylvania, and a son by the same method the following year. (Surrogacy is illegal in New York state.) The children were made with the sperm of an anonymous donor. But Alexis Stewart did not say if she used another woman’s egg.

“Sex and the City” actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her thespian hubby, Matthew Broderick, who already had a son, used an Ohio surrogate to carry their twin girls born in 2009, when Parker was 44 and Broderick 47. It was widely reported that the twins were conceived from previously frozen embryos made from Parker’s eggs and Broderick’s sperm, so there’s no question of parentage.

Sally, according to TMZ, earned just $30,000 in 2010, $9,000 of it from unemployment benefits, while Shepherd raked in $1 million that year. He filed a marital separation petition citing “irreconcilable differences” with Shepherd in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 2. California is a state in which agreements for surrogate births are recognized as valid.

In court papers, Sally gave his unborn child’s name as Lamar Sally Jr. and his due date as July 28. He requested full physical and legal custody of the kid, but wants Shepherd to have “reasonable” visitation rights. He also asked that a prenuptial agreement signed by the couple be declared invalid due to “fraud.” If a judge rules in Sally’s favor, he could get spousal support (formerly known as alimony) from Shepherd.

Shepherd fired back, filing divorce papers May 6 in New Jersey, where she and Sally had lived together, also citing “irreconcilable differences.” But she sought divorce in a state in which the legal system, Benardo said, generally does not recognize the validity of surrogate-birth agreements.

Shepherd’s papers contained a copy of a prenuptial agreement that she and Sally signed before they wed in 2011, entitling him only to a lump-sum payment of $60,000 of her money if they split before five years of marriage. They did.

Her papers don’t mention the growing baby, which seemed to indicate that she doesn’t want the child. But the prenup — the one Sally wants thrown out — does say that Shepherd would get full custody of a kid, according to TMZ. Does she want him?

He has yet to cry. And already, I fear for this little one.

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