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Pair Drop Surrogate Pact Claim in Battle for Baby

February 21, 1987|BARRY M. HORSTMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A Chula Vista couple who arranged for their Mexican cousin to be a surrogate mother for their child abandoned their court battle Friday to prove that they had a legal contract, setting the stage for arguments over custody of the baby girl.

In a surprise move that wrapped up the first week of the civil trial to decide the fate of 8-month-old Lydia Michelle Haro, the attorney for Mario and Natty Haro dropped his effort to show that his clients had a binding handwritten contract with Alejandra Munoz giving them custody in return for a cash payment.

Explaining the concession, Merle Schneidewind, the couple's lawyer, told Superior Court Judge William Pate that the Haros decided to drop the issue of whether the contract was legal because they did not want family members to have to testify for or against them in an attempt to settle the question. Earlier this week, Munoz and the Haros gave conflicting testimony about the contract and other details of the surrogate-mother arrangement.

'Handwriting on the Wall'

However, Munoz's attorney, Harvey Berman, said after Friday's hearing that he believes that Schneidewind "saw the handwriting on the wall" and decided to drop the contract issue rather than risk seriously undermining the Haros' credibility before the custody phase of the trial began.

With the elimination of the contractual issue, arguments over custody of the child are scheduled to begin Monday. The custody portion of the case is expected to last about one week.

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