Sayler v. Yan Sun


09/20/2023 DA 22-0133 Case Number: DA 22-0133 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA 2023 MT 175 MEGAN SAYLER, Petitioner and Appellee, v. YAN SUN, Respondent and Appellant. APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DR-20-949 Honorable Donald L. Harris, Presiding Judge COUNSEL OF RECORD: For Appellant: Melinda A, Driscoll, Fred Law Firm, PLLC, Billings, Montana Morgan E. Dake, Crowley Fleck, PLLP, Billings, Montana For Appellee: Penelope S. Strong, Attorney at Law, Billings, Montana Submitted on Briefs: November 2, 2022 Decided: September 20, 2023 Filed: if-6tA.-if __________________________________________ Clerk Justice Dirk Sandefur delivered the Opinion of the Court. ¶1 Yan Sun (Father) appeals from the August 2021 and February 2022 judgments of the Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, adjudicating a parental interest and accompanying parenting plan regarding his minor child (T.S.J.) in favor of his nonparent ex-wife Megan Sayler (Surrogate). We address the following restated issues: 1. Whether the District Court erroneously concluded that the parties’ California Gestational Carrier Agreement (GCA) did not preclude Surrogate from later establishing a parental interest in the subject child under Montana law? 2. Whether the District Court erroneously failed to conclude that the parent-child relationship provision of the parties’ subsequent Montana premarital agreement was unenforceable due to lack of voluntary consent of Father? 3. Whether the District Court erroneously failed to conclude that the parent-child relationship provision of the parties’ Montana premarital agreement was equitably unconscionable? 4. Whether the District Court erroneously concluded that the parties’ post-surrogacy premarital agreement and Surrogate’s ensuing relationship with the child were sufficient to create a third-party parental right regarding the child? We affirm in part and reverse in part. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND ¶2 Father is a Chinese national who entered the United States in May 2017 at age 20 under a student visa to study at Alabama’s Auburn University in an English-speaking business program catered to international students.1 With the financial support and 1 He further asserts that he also left China to avoid government persecution after Chinese police killed his father. 2 assistance of his mother and remaining family in China, Father later decided to have a child in the United States through a private California surrogacy company specializing in surrogate child births in accordance with California Family Code §§ 7960 through 7962 (authorizing and providing for assisted reproduction agreements for gestational carriers and uncontested judicial confirmation of sole parentage in client parent). He reasoned that surrogacy was his best opportunity to father a child because he is a homosexual male and surrogacy is illegal in China. ¶3 After engaging the California surrogacy company, Father selected a company-associated surrogate candidate (Surrogate) who was an unacquainted 32-year- old single mother of two children (ages 8 and 4) residing and regularly employed in Billings, Montana.2 After the company conducted a lengthy and comprehensive suitability evaluation of Father and Surrogate through various associated surrogacy professionals (inter alia including a company-provided Chinese-speaking social worker), Father and …

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