CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A first-of-its-kind case is being appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court following a surrogate pregnancy during which the relationship between the surrogate and Paul and Chantele Montover completely broke down.
Paul and Chantele's story begins decades ago.
"We started dating, we were 15 years old," said Paul and Chantele Montover, of Cedar Rapids, in an exclusive interview with WQAD News 8 in June, 2017.
Both 50 years old now, Paul and Chantele rekindled their high school relationship five years ago.
"We had both went through a divorce we met back with each other and history from there," said Paul, while holding his baby girl, who's name is being kept private, at the center of the surrogacy legal battle.
They both have children from previous marriages, but Paul and Chantele wanted to try again.
"Just something we could all love and our kids too," said Paul.
Their best option was surrogacy. Doctors would implant an embryo using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
"We had decided unfortunately not to use an agency at that time," said Chantele, "Our clinic had gave us several websites that we could utilize for people advertising to be surrogates and that's what we did, and she ended up contacting us," said Chantele, referring to the surrogate.
The Montover's and the surrogate entered a written Gestational Carrier Agreement, or Surrogacy Agreement. Paul and Chantele agreed to pay the surrogate $13,000 to carry their baby - money for the surrogate to have her own round of IVF down the road.
"We agreed because we thought well that would be nice to help somebody else out as well," said Chantele.
The surrogate became pregnant around Easter Sunday, 2016.
"Everything looked good, everything seemed to be perfect," said Chantele about their surrogacy experience up to that point. One baby maybe even twins were on the way - due December 11, 2016.
But beginning around May, 2016 the Montover's relationship with the surrogate broke down.
"She said she didn't trust us anymore, she changed her phone number, we couldn't get a hold of her on social media," said Paul about the surrogate.
Eventually, the Montover's became so concerned they say they contacted the police for help and even considered legal options. At the end of October, they found out the surrogate had given birth at the end of August to twins, born premature at 24-weeks, weighing less than 2 pounds.
"She went through surgeries, blood transfusions," explained Chantele looking at the baby, whose twin passed away eight days after birth, all unknown to Paul and Chantele.
"A couple days of suffering and us not being able to be there while she passed, very heartbreaking experience," said Chantele.
On top of the heartbreak, Paul and Chantele had to prove they were in fact the legal parents and force the surrogate to surrender custody of her to them.
"While they were waiting for the judge to make a ruling we could see her every other day for 2 hours," said Paul.
A judge granted Paul and Chantele temporary custody in December and then in February, a Linn County District Court Judge gave the final judgement in favor of the Montover's.
"We're very grateful that we have her, but the process to get there has been very expensive and very heartbreaking," said Chantele.
Now, the surrogate is appealing that district court decision to the Iowa Supreme Court, maintaining the legal argument she is the legal mother because she gave birth and that the surrogacy agreement is unenforceable.
"It doesn't seem like it ever ends, we just want to be able to move on and put all of this to an end," said Chantele.
Now Paul and Chantel are sharing their story because they don't want another family to go through this.
"Just let other intended parents know to be very careful, my suggestion would be to use an agency - it's very hard now to trust people. We have a trust issue now because of this," said Chantele.
Because the case is not over, the baby's name is being kept private.
On Wednesday, June 21 the surrogate's legal representation filed initial briefings of the appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.
WQAD News 8 requested a statement from the surrogate's legal representation - none was given at the time of publication.