AKRON, Ohio - A surrogate mother awarded custody of the triplets she delivered must repay the biological father her $20,000 surrogate's fee and child support the man was required to pay for the three boys, an appeals court ruled.
In a unanimous ruling Wednesday, the 9th Ohio District Court of Appeals said Danielle Bimber, 31, violated her surrogate's agreement when she claimed the triplets as her own after their birth and took them home to Corry, Pa.
The contract said Bimber and her husband, Douglas, would surrender any custody rights after the birth. If the Bimbers breached the agreement, they were required to reimburse father James Flynn, 64, a professor at Cleveland State University.
"The Bimbers broke these promises," the judges wrote.
Presiding Judge Lynn C. Slaby wrote that legislators need to update Ohio law to address surrogacy. "Unless the state legislators begin to address the multiple issues involved, it will be the children that will be caught in a continual tug of war," Slaby wrote.
The ruling, which reversed an earlier decision in Summit County Common Pleas Court, will be appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, Bimber's attorney said.
"It's just money," Bimber said. "I've got the boys. That's all that matters."
Bimber took the children home from an Erie, Pa., hospital against Flynn's wishes eight days after they were born Nov. 19, 2003. Bimber has said in court records that she did that because Flynn and his fiancee didn't name the children or visit them for six days after seeing them when they were born.
A Pennsylvania court awarded primary custody of the children to Bimber last year even though she has no genetic connection to the boys, a rarity in surrogate custody cases. Flynn was granted visitation. The decision has been appealed.
Flynn's attorney, Richard Dobbins, said the ruling was a small component of his client's ongoing fight to gain full custody of the triplets: Matthew, Mark and Micah.
Bimber agreed to become a surrogate mother with the Indiana-based agency Surrogate Mothers Inc. in 2001. The agency matched Bimber with Flynn.