SANTA ANA — A now-divorced couple who had hired a surrogate mother to bear them a baby--using anonymous donations of egg and sperm--continued their legal battle over child support Monday.
In court papers, attorneys for the woman, Luanne Buzzanca of Santa Ana, told a panel of appellate judges that if they failed to find that she was the legal mother of the child--a finding that a lower court judge with jurisdiction over the case has been reluctant to make--the result would be "utter chaos."
In a separate brief, attorneys for her former husband, John A. Buzzanca, who has been fighting to avoid paying his former wife child support, insisted that the surrogate is the child's legal mother and questioned whether his former wife is a "fit" adoptive parent.
The arguments are contained in briefs filed with the 4th District Court of Appeal, which has called the tangled parentage of 2 1/2-year-old Jaycee Louise Buzzanca the "most extraordinary" surrogacy case yet.
The Buzzancas hired a surrogate mother, Pamela Snell, in 1994 to carry an egg and sperm and bear the girl. Under a contract, Snell and her husband agreed to turn over the baby to the Buzzancas.
But one month before her birth in March 1995, John Buzzanca filed for divorce and sought to relieve himself of any parental responsibility.
Appellate court justices had ordered John Buzzanca to pay $386 in child support to his former wife, who had custody of the child, until a lower court judge could rule on his contention that he never legally had become the father.
In a ruling made public earlier this month, Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert D. Monarch said John Buzzanca was no longer liable for child support. The judge also held that Luanne Buzzanca was not entitled to be declared the girl's legal mother "at this time," indicating that she should perhaps adopt the child.
The child's attorney, Jeffrey W. Doeringer of Costa Mesa, has appealed Monarch's decision, saying it left the little girl legally without parents.
On Monday, Robert R. Walmsley, an attorney for Luanne Buzzanca, joined in the appeal and warned against prolonging the uncertainty over Jaycee's parentage. In case of a medical emergency, Walmsley said, "no one person can be identified as a parent responsible for [her] care, custody and support."
Walmsley argued that John Buzzanca didn't want his former wife to be named the legal mother because he would be held liable for child support.
"Unfortunately, Mr. Buzzanca's actions are without any regard to the interest of the child, [who was] brought about directly through his actions," Walmsley said.
But Thomas P. Stabile, an attorney for John Buzzanca, contended that the surrogate mom, "the person who actually gives birth to a child, should ultimately be held responsible for bringing the child into this world."
State law governing adoptions would be defeated if Luanne Buzzanca were declared to be Jaycee's mother by virtue of a surrogacy contract, Stabile said.
If this was allowed, "crack addicts, who cannot have children of their own and are turned down for an adoption based upon their habits, can simply enter" into a similar six-parent surrogacy agreement, Stabile said.
"There has never been a showing that Luanne is a fit adoptive mother," Stabile said. "John would ask the court to consider the possibility that she may have been turned down for an adoption previously, as an unfit adoptive parent." Luanne Buzzanca has cared for Jaycee since her birth.
Responding to the arguments Monday, Doeringer said he didn't believe Jaycee's adoption by Luanne Buzzanca was necessary.
"A contract has been performed, and Luanne is the intended mother with no anticipation of an adoption by anybody," Doeringer said.