In Portland, two wealthy people are battling over something exceedingly strange—the right of a mother to be listed as a genetic parent to an infant son they created through IVF and welcomed through a surrogate.
In a lengthy piece for Willamette Week, reporter Nigel Jaquiss digs into what happened between former couple Jordan Schnitzer and Cory Sause, who thought they had everything figured out.
Both come from prominent families in the region. Schnitzer inherited lucrative steel and real estate businesses, and Sause’s family owns the Sause Bros tugboat and barge company. Both have money to burn and well-paid lawyers at the ready, which is what they each produced after their child was born in December 2015 and their relationship soured. Cory Sause says Jordan Schnitzer wanted her to move in and marry him so they could raise their boy together—but she didn’t want to “share her life with him.”
Before this baby, Schnitzer, who is divorced, had two daughters already. But he desperately wanted a son to carry on his family businesses, and Sause was open to having children of her own. According to Jaquiss, Sause felt it would make up for the life she took while driving drunk in 2004; she collided with two men, killing one and seriously injuring the other, and was sentenced to 40 months behind bars for her crime.
“Cory said, over and over, ‘I took a life and I want to help create a life,’” Schnitzer recalls.
The pair drew up the legal paperwork, specifying that Sause would keep any female embryos that manifested from their pairing; Schnitzer, in turn, would do whatever he could to produce a boy.
“[Schnitzer] told me that he only wanted a male heir and wanted to attempt pregnancies with as many male embryos as possible,” Sause wrote. “I agreed that [he] could take possession of the male embryos and implant as many as he wanted in the surrogates of his choosing.
“I did not want the female embryos to be destroyed,” she wrote, “so I agreed to take possession of the female embryos and [Schnitzer] would relinquish all rights to any female offspring produced from those embryos since he did not want any more female children.”
Willamette Week points to the crucial complication:
Sause renounced rights to any male embryo but not any male offspring in that contract. That meant, her attorneys now claim, she was acknowledging Schnitzer would have custody of their son but she could still be the boy’s genetic mother and enjoy visitation rights.
And there’s the rub.
Though the pair shared text updates during the surrogate pregnancy hosted by a couple in Springfield, Oregon and she saw their son when he was born on December 22, Schnitzer quickly filed for sole parental rights, omitting Sause’s name from their son’s birth certificate. Sause was shocked that she wasn’t listed as the boy’s genetic mother, she says. She wasn’t allowed visitation, either. So she filed to challenge Schnitzer’s sole genetic parentage.
Now, she hopes to force her ex-boyfriend to appear in court on April 4 and establish her right to visitation as well as her place as his genetic mother. For Schnitzer’s side, his attorneys argue that she gave up her parental rights in the couple’s legal agreement.
It’s a mess. That poor, poor kid.
Image via Shutterstock.